Great anticipation accompanies the opening of Eagles camp this week. Will Carson Wentz take that giant step in his second season? Can LeGarrette Blount repeat in South Philly what he did in New England last year? Is Doug Pederson a playoff-caliber coach? Will Lane Johnson stay clean?
My early thoughts on those: Yes. No. I fear not. And absolutely – unless he’s the world’s dumbest human.
But those are just educated guesses. Predicting the future in the NFL is a fool’s errand, or the Atlanta Falcons wouldn’t have had an over/under of 7-1/2 wins going into last season.
So I can’t guarantee today the Eagles will win the NFC East for the first time since 2013. But I’ll promise you we’ll have clarity by Oct. 12.
That’s the date of their sixth game, and the finish of a hellish early schedule. Improved as the Eagles may be, a septet of tough contests threatens to bury their season before the leaves have turned.
Here is what the Birds face to open the year: At Washington, at Kansas City, home vs. the Giants, at the LA Chargers, home vs. Arizona, at Carolina.
There’s not a layup in the bunch. Other than the Giants game, there may not be one where the Eagles are favored, even if they are a vastly improved club.
The Eagles face three of their first four games on the road. Let’s examine those:
They open at Washington, where they’ve lost five straight. The Chiefs in Week 2 will be tough, with the likelihood that Andy Reid is stinging from a likely opening loss at New England. The relocated Chargers may not be a contender, but the Eagles are 2-7 on West Coast since 2009.
Oh, and that game in Carolina? It’s a Thursday night affair. Road teams went 6-12 on Thursday nights last season, and haven’t topped .500 since 2009.
Things finally lighten up after that, with three straight home games – Washington, the Niners and the Broncos.
I’m not here to whine about the schedule, and I doubt Doug Pederson will either. I'm just reporting that it’s a tough draw. By my figuring, the Eagles must start at 3-3 to remain contenders. Don’t expect the Cowboys or Giants to roll over.
Can they do it? Sure. Even if Washington has dominated the series recently, that franchise had a hideous off-season. So let’s project an opening victory for the good guys.
I’ll also pencil in a win against the Giants on Week 3. We’ve seen Bad Eli more than Good Eli in recent years – his QB rating has topped 82.0 just twice in the last eight matchups. Put Little Brother down for two costly INTs and say the Eagles win that one.
The third win? You pick it. Maybe at the Chargers. Maybe the Cards here in Philly. As I said at the top, it’s a hazy crystal ball that forecasts the future in the NFL.
But I’m fairly certain of this: If the Eagles are going to make the playoffs, they’ve got to survive those first six weeks. Come on, Doug, show us what you’ve got.