Now that the Eagles' 2014 schedule has been released, let's take a deeper look at their opponents.
Week 1: Jaguars at Eagles, September 7, 1:00PM
The Jaguars managed to win 4 games in 2013, but they were probably the least talented team in the NFL. The Jags were dead last in offensive TDs, with 23. By comparison, the Eagles had 51. The Broncos had 71.
The Redskins signed DeSean Jackson, and many have already begun to crown the them the front-runners in the NFC East.
Jackson is a game-breaking receiver, but perhaps predicting the Redskins to win the division is overreacting a tad? The Redskins gave up 30 points per game last season, despite staying clear of any major injuries on that side of the ball. The Skins signed Jason Hatcher, which will help a little, but we should probably just all take a deep breath and remember how awful the Redskins' defense is.
The real "X factor" is not DeSean Jackson. It's Robert Griffin III's knee. Will RG3 be back to something close to what we saw his rookie season? If so, the Redskins may once again have a potent offense. If not, they're in for another rough season.
Can the Redskins win the division? Sure. Teams can go from worst to first.
Is it dumb to predict the Redskins (of all teams) will do that because they signed the biggest name of the offseason? I think we've all seen how that typically plays out for Dan Snyder.
Week 4: Eagles at 49ers, September 28, 4:25PM
In the last 3 years, the 49ers have lost in the NFC Championship Game twice, and once in the Super Bowl. Lightweights. You'll have to lose 2 more NFC Championship Games to be on the Twenty-00's Eagles' frustration level of awfulness, San Fran fans.
The Niners have a punishing defense, and a punishing ground-driven offense, for that matter. If there was one team you would not want to be in your division (and thus have to face twice/season), simply because of their physical nature, it would probably be the Niners.
Since 2011, the 49ers are 36-11-1 (0.760). In the last 3 years, 14 teams have lost at least 11 games in one season.
And they have 11 draft picks this year, with 6 in the top 100. Sheesh.
This may be the toughest game on the Eagles' schedule.
Rams at Eagles, October 5, 1:00PM
The Rams are a tough team to figure out. Their defense is widely considered to be very good, largely because of their talented defensive line, which is led by DE Robert Quinn, who was 2nd in the NFL with a very impressive 19 sacks. The Rams as a team had 53 sacks, which was good for 3rd in the league. However, if they didn't get to the QB, bad things happened on the back end. The Rams were dead last in the league with 8.1 yards per attempt on pass plays in 2013. The Eagles, meanwhile, led the NFL with 8.7 yards per pass attempt last year. That seems like a favorable matchup.
One thing to note about the Rams is the insanely tough schedule they'll play this season.
They play the Seahawks twice, the Niners twice, the Cardinals twice, the Broncos, Chiefs, and Eagles. That would be 9 games against teams that had 10 or more wins last season. They certainly won't be intimidated by the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Week 6: Giants at Eagles, October 12, Sunday Night Football, 8:30PM
The Giants are an average team, and yet, they'll probably be the Eagles' stiffest competition in the NFC East this season. Last year, Eli Manning threw 27 INTs, although I wouldn't count on that happening again. Recent Giants seasons go as their turnover differential goes.
If Eli Manning can keep his "Manning Faces" under 20 this year, they'll have a chance to win the division. If not, they have no shot, and should probably start to think about replacing him. This is a pretty big season for Eli.
Eli aside, this Giants team won't look very familiar.
A list of players the Giants signed this offseason, in alphabetical order: DE Robert Ayers, CB Zach Bowman, OT Charles Brown, TE Kellen Davis, FS/KR Quintin Demps, KR Trindon Holiday, RB Rashad Jennings, OG John Jerry,WR Mario Manningham, ILB Jameel McClain, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, OG Geoff Schwartz, CB Walter Thurmond, and C J.D. Walton.
Gone are Justin Tuck, Hakeem Nicks, Linval Joseph, Andre Brown, and Kevin Boothe, among others.
Before the Cardinals played in Philly last season, head coach Bruce Arians took a not so subtle jab at Chip Kelly's offense, calling it a "great college offense." After the Eagles beat the Cardinals at the Linc, Arians cried about the officiating.
Even though the Eagles always saved their worst games for the Cardinals back in the days when the Cards played in the old NFC East, they never really felt like a rival. However, this is a team that is starting to feel like a legitimate NFC rival, as the Eagles will take on the Cards for the 4th consecutive year. This year it will be out in the desert.
Last season, the Eagles led the league in rushing offense, while the Cardinals led the league in rushing defense. Over the last few years, it has been hard to consider the Cardinals serious contenders, due to an awful offensive line. They've improved in that area this offseason, and should present a major challenge to the Eagles in 2014, like they did last season.
Week 9: Eagles at Texans, November 2, 1:00PM
QUICK! Without looking... Name the Texans' QB if the season started today.
OK, so I'm not even sure what the correct answer is, but the 3 QBs on their roster are Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, and TJ Yates.
There's a perception that the Texans can jump right back into contention after going 2-14 last year. Not without a QB they can't.
Week 10: Panthers at Eagles, November 10, Monday Night Football, 8:30PM
The Panthers hemorrhaged talented players this offseason. To name a few: Jordan Gross, Steve Smith, Mike Mitchell, Captain Munnerlyn, Brandon LaFell, Tedd Ginn, and others.
If the season started today, Carolina's starting WRs might just be Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. Yikes. On top of that, DeAngelo Williams turns 32 on Friday, Jonathan Stewart can't stay healthy, and the OL suddenly has severe holes. Cam Newton is going to be in a position to have to make a lot of plays on his own for the Panthers to win games.
However, that defense, particularly the front 7, is really good. Led by the unheralded Greg Hardy, the Panthers racked up 60 sacks last season, which was best in the NFL.
Great defense that beats on QBs, bad skill position players, and a multi-talented QB? Hmmm... Who does that sound like? The Panthers remind me a lot of a poor man's version of the Buddy-era Eagles.
Week 11: Eagles at Packers, November 16, 1:00PM
If Aaron Rodgers retired today, he would own the following all-time records:
• Highest career passer rating, career (min 1500 attempts): 104.9
• Highest completion percentage, career (min 2500 attempts): 65.8%
• Most TD passes per games started: 2.16
• Best TD:INT ratio, career: 3.62:1
• Best passing yards:INT ratio, career: 465:1
• Best completion:INT ratio: 37:1
• Lowest INT percentage, career (min 1500 passes): 1.76%
In 2013, the Packers were 6-2 in games Rodgers started and finished.
They were 2-5-1 in games he didn't.
Last season the Eagles were extremely fortunate to miss Rodgers when the Eagles traveled to Green Bay. This year, they'll likely see Rodgers, who in my opinion, is the best player in the game. The Packers will look completely different this time around.
Week 12: Titans at Eagles, November 23, 1:00PM
The 2013 Titans started their season very strong, as they didn't turn the ball over once in their first 4 games, and had a turnover differential of +9.
QB Jake Locker wasn't exactly lighting it up, but the Titans were playing good defense, and Locker was playing mistake-free football. They went 3-1 during that stretch.
He also had 98 rushing yards on 15 carries in those first 4 games. However, in the Jets game, Locker was injured, Ryan Fitzpatrick came in, and the Titans were never the same. Even when Locker returned to the lineup for 3 more games later in the season, he struggled.
The Titans had a -9 turnover differential the rest of the season, on their way to a 7-9 record in perhaps the worst division in football. This is a team the Eagles should handle if they are to be considered contenders.
Week 13: Eagles at Cowboys, November 27, Thanksgiving Day, 4:30PM
Turkey! Stuffing! Jerry Jones in the owner's box! OHHHHH!
I'll keep this short and sweet.
The Cowboys had the worst defense in the NFL last year by a mile, and they lost DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher because Jerry Jones and Company can't manage their salary cap.
Meanwhile, Tony Romo just turned 34, he's coming off of back surgery, and unless he retires, the Cowboys can't get rid of him until at least 2017.
The Cowboys have been perfectly mediocre over the last few years, but their decline into awfulness seems inevitable. Could it happen in 2014? We'll see.
In any case, Jerry Jones, please live to be 150.
Week 14: Seahawks at Eagles, December 7, 4:25PM
If these two teams are anything like what they were in 2013, this will be a matchup of strength on strength.
If this game hadn't been scheduled in Philly, the NFL might have considered having the Eagles square off against the champs in the Thursday night opener Week 1.
Week 15: Cowboys at Eagles, December 14, Sunday Night Football, 8:30PM
Two Eagles-Cowboys games in a three week span? Yes, please.
Note: We already previewed the Cowboys, Redskins, and Giants above, so in case you skipped those previews, scroll up.
Week 16: Eagles at Redskins, December 20, 4:30PM
Eagles-Redskins II is a Saturday game. Interesting.
Week 17: Eagles at Giants, December 28, 1:00PM
For my money, the Eagles and Giants are the two most likely teams to take the NFC East this year, and wouldn't you know... The NFL put them together Week 17.