Schedule leaves Eagles no margin for error | John Smallwood

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Doug Pederson (left) and Andy Reid will meet up in the second week of the season.

SOMETIMES the NFL schedule is set to where it becomes just as important when you play certain opponents as to who they are.

Last season when the Eagles decided that rookie quarterback Carson Wentz would be the starter from Game 1, the early part of the schedule played in the Birds' favor.

The Eagles opened at home against a hapless Cleveland Browns team that would go on to win only one game and then traveled to Chicago to play the Bears, who finished 3-13.

Poll

Now that the schedule is out, how will the Eagles finish this season?

Playing against inferior opponents eased the pressure on Wentz and allowed him to quickly settle into life as an NFL quarterback and piggyback that into a solid rookie season.

Coming off a 7-9 season, the Eagles already made some key changes to the roster. But change also means there will be an adjustment period when players have to get used to the tendencies and techniques of new teammates.

The Eagles had better get most of the kinks resolved in training camp and preseason games.

Let's just say the Birds need to have most things worked out before their 2017 season kicks off. Unlike a year ago, the NFL, which released the full league schedule Thursday night, did the Eagles no favors; they open the season at Washington on Sept. 10, then travel to Kansas City for what shapes up to be an emotional meeting between head coach Doug Pederson and his mentor, former longtime Eagles coach Andy Reid.

The Eagles finally play at Lincoln Financial Field against the Giants on Sept. 24.

You never want to call the first three games make-or-break for a 16-game schedule, but if the Eagles go winless in those three, it's hard to see them pulling it together to have a winning season.

Think about the citywide meltdown that would happen if Pederson, who was not a popular choice when hired in 2016, has his squad go belly-up against two NFC East rivals and Reid to start the season.

The Eagles would then have to go 4-1 just to get to a .500 record by the midway point.

That five-game stretch is at the Los Angeles Chargers, against Arizona, at Carolina, against Washington and San Fransico.

The biggest problem with the Eagles schedule is that when you break it down, they have no stretch where they can exhale.

The second half of the season features two games against NFC East rival Dallas and playoff teams Seattle, Oakland and the Giants.

It also has back-to-back games on the West Coast at Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams. The Eagles will likely stay out west between games.

The Eagles don't have much room for error the way this schedule sets up.

smallwj@phillynews.com

@SmallTerp

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