Well, well, well…here we are again. Another football season is upon us as the Philadelphia Eagles begin training camp today just a couple blocks from their home field.
As the Eagles embark on Year 2 of the Chip Kelly era, expectations, as they have been for many years here, are sky high. In Kelly’s first year, he helped guide the revamped Birds to a 10-6 record and an NFC East championship. Although the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, at home to the New Orleans Saints, it appears Kelly’s Eagles are built for the long term.
Last season, the Eagles finished with the NFL’s second-ranked offense. The speed demons who challenged the play clock averaged 417.2 yards per game (2nd) and scored an average of 27.6 points per game (4th). LeSean McCoy led a vaunted running attack that was the NFL’s best, as the team ran for 160.4 yards per contest and McCoy himself led the league in rushing with 1,607 yards and nine touchdowns. Nick Foles led a passing attack that ranked ninth in the NFL with 256.9 yards per game. Foles’ personal numbers were also outstanding, as the Arizona product threw for 2,891 yards, 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions, while starting just 10 contests.
Defensively, however, the Eagles were amongst the worst in the NFL. The prevention unit ranked 29th overall, giving up an average of 394 yards and just shy of 24 points per game. Against the pass, the Birds ranked dead last in the league, giving up 289.8 yards per game and a whopping 25 touchdowns. The front line was much better versus the run, allowing just 104.2 yards per game, which ranked the unit 10th out of 32.
With that, it is time to take an in depth look at the 2014 schedule to make a bold (and most likely inaccurate) prediction of how the Eagles will finish without the benefit of seeing a single practice.
Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars (September 7)
After watching the mockery of football that Jacksonville played last year, many pundits would be quick to write this game up as a win for the Eagles. What many may not notice was how competitive the Jaguars were over the final eight games of the season, winning four of those games and losing two by seven points or less.
Despite the work that Jags head coach (and Eagles target) Gus Bradley did in his first year, the Eagles will start the season 1-0 at home behind a renovated and excited Lincoln Financial Field crowd.
Prediction: Eagles 27 – Jaguars 13 (1-0)
Week 2: at Indianapolis Colts (September 15)
The Birds travel to Lucas Oil Stadium for a Monday night showdown against Saint Andrew of Luck and the Colts. Last season, the Colts sported a 6-2 at home record with wins over both Super Bowl entrants, Seattle and Denver. Although Kelly always has his teams prepared, this time Eagles will fall on the road.
Prediction: Colts 34 – Eagles 30 (1-1)
Week 3: Washington Redskins (September 21)
In a game that will be completely overhyped thanks in part to the return of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the main story will be the return to prominence of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III. There is no doubt that Jackson will help the Team with the Nickname that Shall not be Spoken, but if the ‘Skins want any chance to compete with the Eagles, it will be a healthy Griffin leading the way.
In the final analysis of DeSean Bowl I, it will be the play of the Eagles defense that steals the show. Jackson will put up big (albeit hollow) numbers, as the Eagles improve to 2-1 on the season and 1-0 in the NFC East.
Prediction: Eagles 30 – Washington 17 (2-1)
Week 4: at San Francisco 49ers (September 28)
A cross-country road trip following an emotional divisional game sets the Eagles up for a let down. The game will be dependent on how well the Birds defense can keep 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in the pocket. Expect no Hulk-out from Jim Harbaugh on this Sunday afternoon.
Prediction: 49ers 23 – Eagles 16 (2-2)
Week 5: St. Louis Rams (October 5)
If this game were in St. Louis, I would have the Eagles bookmarked for a loss. The Rams are an underrated team with a very strong defense. The key for the Rams success will come with the health of quarterback Sam Bradford.
This game has all the makings of an early-season trap, but I think the Eagles will pull out a hard fought defensive battle. No word on whether Tony Dungy will have a comment on Michael Sam’s actual performance by this point.
Prediction: Eagles 24 – Rams 20 (3-2)
Week 6: New York Giants (Sunday Night Football – October 12)
Chip Kelly’s teams tend to show up and put on special performances on national television. In what will be another heated division battle, Kelly’s Birds will remain undefeated in the division. The Giants recently lost offensive lineman Chris Snee to retirement. The loss of Snee is a huge hit to an already unstable offensive line. I expect the Eagles to have their first big win of the season and be the first team to officially pave the way for Tom Coughlin’s retirement.
Prediction: Eagles 38 – Giants 24 (4-2)
Week 7: BYE (October 19)
Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals (October 26)
The Eagles entered the bye with a 4-2 record and two weeks to prepare for a talented Cardinals team. Arizona boasts one of the league’s best defensive units, which includes perhaps the best defensive back in the league in Patrick Peterson. Arizona will be without standout linebacker Daryl Washington, who was suspended for the year following another substance violation.
Arizona, playing in the “Toaster,” finished with a 6-2 record at home last season, and will display little reason for anyone to think they will not continue to be strong at home in 2014.
Prediction: Cardinals 27 – Eagles 17 (4-3)
Week 9: at Houston Texans (November 2)
Bill O’Brien is a good coach. He will do very good things with the Texans. The one thing he does not have to worry about in Houston will be the defensive. All-pro JJ Watt will be teamed with first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. Houston will not be nearly as bad as they were last year, but I do not see the Eagles falling for the trap game after a loss to Arizona the week before.
Prediction: Eagles 20 – Texans 13 (5-3)
Week 10: Carolina Panthers (Sunday Night Football – November 10)
Ron Rivera did a tremendous job to turn downtrodden Carolina into the NFC South division winners last season. Quarterback Cam Newton may be the most dangerous signal caller in the league with his dual throwing and running abilities. Last time Newton played in Philadelphia, he led the Panthers to a victory, while throwing and running for a combined four touchdowns.
This year’s Panthers team will not be nearly as dominant as last seasons. Carolina lost some key defensive pieces as well as former receiving stalwart Steve Smith and will be facing the requisite tougher schedule. The Panthers will be offensively challenged and that will affect the result of the game.
Prediction: Eagles 24 – Panthers 20 (6-3)
Week 11: at Green Bay Packers (November 16)
I’m going to go ahead and assume that Aaron Rodgers will be healthy. That’s all that needs to be said. Lambeau Leaps aplenty for the other squad sporting green.
Prediction: Packers 38 – Eagles 27 (6-4)
Week 12: Tennessee Titans (November 23)
I don’t believe in Titans quarterback and former Washington Huskies QB Jake Locker. Tennessee also finds itself in rebuild mode, as it jettisoned former franchise running back Chris Johnson in the offseason. A long season is in the making for the ex-Oilers, which will include a bad loss on the road to the Eagles. LeSean’s running performance will underscore Johnson’s absence on the other side.
Prediction: Eagles 33 – Titans 17 (7-4)
Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving – November 27)
It’s not December yet, and Tony Romo tends to put up amazing numbers during the Thanksgiving game. As much as it pains me, the Cowboys will come away with the win following a short week for the Birds. No Bounty Bowl III here folks, just good, clean Texas football with “America’s Team” winning.
Prediction: Cowboys 27 – 21 (7-5)
Week 14: Seattle Seahawks (December 7)
Something just feels fishy about this game. The Super Bowl champions traveling cross-country to Philadelphia in December. Seattle, traditionally not the best road team, faces an Eagles club that has improved while playing at the Linc. Seattle, like Philadelphia, has this game sandwich between a division rival (San Francisco for Seattle, Dallas for Philadelphia).
This game has a feeling of a Philadelphia miracle. Somewhere in the distance, Freddie Mitchell’s ears will perk up.
Prediction: Eagles 17 – Seattle 16 (8-5)
Week 15: Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Night Football – December 14)
The Eagles will not lose to the Cowboys twice. Plus, it’s another national broadcast. Foles will avenge his poor performance against Dallas at home from the 2013 season. Plus, like Reggie Jackson in October, so shall Romo be in December.
Prediction: Eagles 33 – Cowboys 17
Week 16: at Washington Redskins (December 20)
DeSean Bowl II will go to the home team, but it will not be because of the fleet feet and elegant hands of the former Eagles wide receiver. While the Birds secondary tries to double team Jackson, it will be Washington’s tight end Jordan Reed who will lead the Future Potatoes to a victory, and an outside shot at dethroning the Eagles as NFC East champions.
Prediction: Redskins 27 – Eagles 20 (9-6)
Week 17: at New York Giants (December 28)
Just like last season — when the NFC East crown was on the line during the last regular-season matchup — the Eagles will prevail against a division rival in hostile territory. As it has been many times during the Andy Reid era, playing in the Meadowlands becomes an advantage when the pressure is on. Coughlin rides into the sunset an angry man.
Prediction: Eagles 27 – Giants 14
So there you have it. Your Philadelphia Eagles will finish the 2014 regular season with a 10-6 record and will repeat as NFC East division champions – the first time the club has gone back-to-back since winning four in a row from 2001-04.