While the Philadelphia Eagles are expected to easily beat their Week 1 opponent, the Cleveland Browns, much of the first half of their schedule will be an uphill battle.
How tough are we talking? Six of Philadelphia’s first eight opponents reached the playoffs in 2011. That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.
When Mike Vick said that the Eagles need to come out this season and win early, he had to have the difficulty of the first portion of Philadelphia’s schedule in mind.
The Birds home opener will be against the Ravens, who are always a formidable opponent. Philadelphia then faces the Cardinals on the road and the mighty John Skelton (please note the sarcasm), another game Philadelphia should easily win. But then the Eagles enter into the toughest part of their schedule with no room to breath until after their Bye Week , which comes theweek of October 21.
On September 30, the Birds have their first divisional game at the Linc against the Super Bowl winning Giants (it never gets any easier writing that phrase). The Eagles have had Big Blue’s number in recent history and the genuine dislike of New York by the Birds, coupled with the desire to put the “champs” in their place can fuel the Eagles to victory. But it won’t be easy.
The following week Philadelphia goes on the road to face the Steelers, always a challenging opponent in a tough place to play. Week 6 sees the Eagles face a surging Lions team with significant threats on both sides of the ball.
Following the game against Detroit, Philadelphia has its Bye Week and will therefore get a chance to rest. This fact will help the Birds with their Week 8 opponent, the Falcons. Andy Reid is an incredible 13-0 coming out of the Bye. When Philadelphia last met with Atlanta in 2011, it squandered one of the team’s many leads in the fourth quarter was squandered and Mike Vick saw an early departure from the game due to injury. Better focus and that extraordinary record coming off the Bye should help to avoid a similar scenario this year.
There will be no benefit of the Bye Week Bounce in Week 9 when the Birds face the Saints. Sure, New Orleans has the biggest scandal in the League this offseason with Bountygate and is down head coach Sean Payton and defensive leader Jonathan Vilma. But those realities don’t take away that they are still loaded with talent and that Drew Brees is the team’s quarterback. And NOLA will be steaming mad all season about the punishment New Orleans has faced.
Can the Eagles survive the first half of the season with a winning record? Absolutely. But there is no room for error. Mike Vick needs to find his rhythm with the offense quickly and the defense must avoid the miscues that were hallmarks of the start of the season and beginning of the Juan Castillo era at defensive coordinator.
The second half of the Eagles schedule will be far from a cake walk (more on that tomorrow). There are no guarantees in the National Football League. But if the Birds can gain strong footing against some of the toughest teams in the league, they will be in good position to finish the season strong and make the playoff run that is expected out of this team.