The best sign that the NFL owns the sports world is the day the regular-season schedule is released. ESPN has a three-hour show discussing the schedule and the biggest games of the season. The NHL struggles to get people across the country to watch a playoff game that is no longer than two and a half hours but ESPN can get millions of people to watch a three-hour show just about the NFL schedule.
The Philadelphia Eagles lucked out by finishing second in the NFC East. They miss out on the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears who seem to have the Eagles number lately. Instead the Eagles NFC opponents will be the entire NFC South along with the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals.
The Eagles AFC opponents, all from the North, are the Baltimore Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns. The last time the Eagles played the AFC North, in 2008, they beat the Steelers, got blown out by the Ravens, edged the Browns and tied the Bengals.
This time around the North division is even stronger. Three of the four teams made the playoffs last season with the Browns the lone team to miss the playoffs, who have two first-round picks to get better this year.
The Eagles are in prime position to win 12 or 13 games this season. That may sound insane for most teams that missed the playoffs last season, but the Eagles showed in the final four weeks just how good they are capable of playing.
DeSean Jackson is happy, Micheal Vick is healthy and the offensive line should be even better this season with a full year under Howard Mudd. Even without Jason Peters, this should be an elite group. The defense should also be better with an elite middle linebacker, DeMeco Ryans, and a more experienced Juan Castillo.
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
Last season the Eagles opened up on the road against the lowly St. Louis Rams. Sure the Rams were one win away in 2010 from making the playoffs, but most people believed the Eagles got a very winnable opponent on the road to open the season.
The Browns will have two first-round picks, but neither will be expected to be a star in their first game of their career. Colt McCoy will be the starter come Week 1. Even if the Browns spend a first-round pick on a quarterback, they won't have enough time to develop into a starting quarterback this early.
The Browns offense was as dull as any in the history of the NFL last season. They finished 24th in passing and 28th in rushing. This will be a good early test for defensive coordinator Juan Castillo. If his defense struggles in this contest, it will be another long season.
The Browns should be a much-improved team in 2012, but it will take some time. The offense made the switch to the West Coast in 2011 and the defense switched to a 4-3 defense as well. This is a team still in a major rebuilding mode. These are the type of teams you want to play on the road very early in the season. You have to play eight road games. If you can get some young, rebuilding teams early in the year on the road it is a much better draw than say the New England Patriots on the road late in the season.
Eagles 34, Browns 17
1:00 p.m. ET CBS
The Ravens were a Lee Evans drop away from being the AFC champions. They have an elite defense, an elite running back and a young quarterback who is starting to make the jump from quality starter to elite starter. This is a really good team.
This will be the toughest home game on the Eagles schedule. The last time these two teams played, Donovan McNabb was pulled at halftime and Kevin Kolb was nearly scarred for life by interception after interception.
This will be a great early test for the Eagles. If they are a Super Bowl contender, then this should at the very least, be a close game. Maybe a Super Bowl preview?
The real winners in this game will be viewers who aren't fans of either team. They will get to witness two of the best backs in the league in the Eagles LeSean McCoy and the Ravens Ray Rice. The Eagles also have one of the most explosive offenses in the league while the Ravens have one of the most feared defenses in the league.
The difference in this game won't be the Eagles offense or the Ravens defense. Actually, the other way around. It will come down to Joe Flacco finished off drives for the Ravens and how the Eagles defend Ray Rice.
This is the type of game that the loser could very well get revenge in, let's say, early February.
Ravens 24, Eagles 16
4:05 p.m. ET Fox
Last season's Eagles/Cardinals matchup was supposed to give Kevin Kolb a chance to prove to Andy Reid that he picked the wrong quarterback. Instead it was John Skelton's clutch fourth quarter that was the story of the game.
This time around. maybe Kevin Kolb will get his shot. The Cardinals failed to win the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, so it's back to Kolb as the franchise quarterback. It's probably his last chance to prove to the Cardinals that he should be the starting quarterback. He will be much easier to release next season and the incoming quarterback class in 2013 is loaded.
After a tough home game against the Ravens, and an upcoming showdown with the Giants this is about as much as a must-win game is it can get in Week 3. The Eagles could be 1-3 if they can't pull out this one. They are the better team but that didn't seem to matter last season.
I like the Eagles in this one. They will have revenge on their mind and a poor Cardinals line could get feasted on.
Eagles 27, Cardinals 10
8:20 p.m. ET NBC
One of the biggest rivalries in the NFC also pits two of the best teams in the NFC. It's always a great showdown when these two teams meet. The powers that be at NBC are very aware of this and that's why these two teams usually meet once in prime time Sunday night.
The Giants and Eagles will most likely win the NFC East. The Eagles won it in 2010 thanks to a walk-off punt return touchdown. The Giants won it in 2011 thanks to two big wins against the Jets in Week 16 and the Cowboys in Week 17.
In 2012, these teams are easily the class of the NFC East. They have two of the best defensive lines and passing attacks in the NFL. Both of their matchups will be key in deciding the NFC East. This is the first of two huge NFC East showdowns between these two teams.
These games always come down to the fourth quarter. That's not exactly the most deep football statement in history, but it's true to this series. These teams know each other and the games are always close. Last season, Michael Vick was knocked out from the entire fourth quarter and the Giants took advantage by outscoring the Eagles 15-0 in the fourth quarter in a 29-16 Giants victory. In the second matchup, the Vick-less Eagles upset the Giants on the road in a defensive dominated game, 17-10. It took a late defensive stand for the Eagles to hold on to the victory.
This one will be a toss-up. A turnover here or a dumb penalty there will decide this game. Predicting this game is like flipping a coin. These teams are evenly matched and each coaching staff knows the other like the back of their hand. There are no surprises in this rivalry.
Eagles 24, Giants 23
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
The Ravens, Giants and Steelers in the first five weeks of the season? This will be the ultimate test to see if Michael Vick has learned how to protect himself. It will also be a good test to see if Demetress Bell is able to hold down the left tackle spot this season.
The Steelers are another elite team on the Eagles schedule in the first half of the season. It's a brutal first half and a winnable second half. An easy second half of the schedule doesn't mean much if you don't win some games in the first half of your schedule.
The last two times these two teams have faced off, the loser has gone on to play in the Super Bowl. In 2004, the Eagles got stomped in their only meaningful loss of the regular season but still went on to win the NFC. In 2008, the Eagles edged the Steelers only to watch their in-state rival win the Super Bowl.
The Steelers are one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. This game should come down to the pressure on the quarterback. Michael Vick could be knocked out of this game early. The Steelers offensive line is very vulnerable against the pass rush. Sacks and quarterback hits could be the biggest factor in this one.
I believe the Steelers aren't as good as they have been in the past. They are aging and will be without Rashard Mendenhall this season as well. I like the Eagles in a big road win and a confidence builder.
Eagles 31, Steelers 27
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
Another playoff team from last year makes it three in a row against teams that made the postseason in 2011. This one won't be as tough as the last two, on paper at least.
The Lions boast a very tough pass rush and a dominant passing attack. Lucky for the Eagles they have a very good offensive line and loaded secondary. They won't shut down the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson, but they should be able to hold them off enough to come out on top at home.
A loaded Eagles offense should be able to feast on the Lions weak secondary. If the Eagles add another solid receiver in the draft, the Lions will have to play "pick your poison" with the Eagles receiving corps. Michael Vick could have a very big day.
Eagles 37, Lions 28
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
The Falcons have a loaded offense with Matt Ryan handing the ball off to Michael Turner and throwing to Julio Jones and Roddy White. The defense is steadily improving as well. Matt Ryan will enter the 2012 season looking for his first playoff win. He has failed in three previous attempts.
The Falcons are one of the better teams in the league. They could be the NFC Pro Bowl team, but nobody beats Andy Reid after a bye week which is what the Falcons will be facing.
Andy Reid uses an extra week of preparation better than any other coach in the NFL. He is 13-0 in the week after a bye week. Every year I fully expect his streak to end but he continues to amaze after the bye week.
The Eagles have had pretty good success against the Falcons in recent years. They lost a close one last season but the way they turned the ball over and struggled against the run, it's amazing the didn't lose by 30. I don't see any other outcome other than Andy Reid winning another game after the bye week. And 14-0 here we come.
Eagles 30, Falcons 17
8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
It's the last of five straight games against playoff teams from 2011. This one could be the easiest of the five. It could be the hardest. It all depends on how the Saints respond without Sean Payton, who was suspended for the 2012 season.
The Saints could lose a few players to suspensions stemming from "Bountygate," but nothing is for certain. Drew Brees is also in the middle of contract negotiations and Eagles fans know that a player isn't the same if he isn't taken care of long-term.
This is the year to play the Saints at the Superdome. They are usually unbeatable in their house, but this could be a rough year without their head coach. Even without Payton they still have an elite offense that is rarely held under 20 to 30 points.
Nobody knows how the Saints are going to respond this season. They haven't won a playoff game the past two seasons and their defense has been on the decline. Their pass rush has been fading and they still give up big plays like they are going out of style.
I expect a shootout in this one, as do most. What most people won't expect is the Saints defense falling apart in 2012. It will take time before Steve Spagnuolo can turn this defense into a good defense. No draft picks until the third round really hurts this year.
Eagles 38, Saints 27
4:15 p.m. ET Fox
The Eagles really had the Cowboys number last season. It was almost Flyers-Penguins-esque, minus the violence and hair pulling of course. The Cowboys should put up more of a fight this season, but the Eagles defense just matches up so well against the Cowboys offense.
The Cowboys are starting to fade a bit in the NFC East. Another year watching the Eagles or Giants win the division and Jerry Jones will be making some major changes. Maybe Jason Garrett gets canned, maybe Jones drafts a quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft.
The Eagles dominated the Cowboys last season, winning both games by a combined score of 54-14 while only allowing two garbage-time touchdowns.
This one should be closer than the 34-7 result last year in Philadelphia. The Cowboys will have a lot to prove this season with a lot of coaches and players' jobs on the line.
Eagles 24, Cowboys 21
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
This will be the Eagles first matchup against Robert Griffin III. Assuming the world doesn't either end or Mike Shanahan thinks more of Ryan Tannehill. RG III in a Redskins uniform seems as likely as Tom Brady in a Patriots one.
The Redskins will finally have their franchise quarterback but they still lack talent in the backfield, offensive line and the secondary. They will need a lot more help around RG III before they can contend in the NFC East, but at least they won't have to rely on Rex Grossman anymore.
The Eagles should win this one, but this is a game they would like to see on their schedule earlier. You always want to face a rookie quarterback as early in the season as possible, although it won't matter if the Redskins secondary is as bad as most people think it will be.
Eagles 27, Redskins 9
8:30 p.m. ET ESPN
The Eagles front seven will be worn out after Week 11. The defense will be recovering from chasing around Robert Griffin III for four quarters only to turn around and have to chase around Cam Newton the following week.
Honestly, they should be used to it. They practice against Michael Vick. The Eagles match up well against the Panthers. They have the speed on defense to contain Cam Newton similar to the way Tampa Bay used to contain Vick back when he was a Falcon.
Carolina is going to be a really good team with Newton going forward. Right now they still need a lot of help on defense and another target for Newton to throw to opposite of Steve Smith. This is a fast rising team, but I don't know if they are a playoff team quite yet.
Having said that, the Panthers still have a lot of weapons and will be upset-minded on national TV. I haven't had the Eagles losing a game since Week 2 against the Ravens. They are due to lose eventually and this is the type of game for them to lose, right before a big showdown in Dallas next week.
Panthers 28, Eagles 23
8:20 p.m. ET NBC
The Cowboys are on the verge of losing their fourth straight to the Eagles. This will be a tough one for the Eagles to win on the road. DeMarcus Ware has had great success against the Eagles in the past. He had six sacks in two games against Philly in 2011.
Even with the success of Ware, the Cowboys couldn't touch the Eagles last season. Tony Romo has to figure out how to beat the Eagles' talented secondary and the secondary has to make plays to stay in the game.
Sometimes a team just matches up really well against another. The Bears have had the Eagles number but luckily for Andy Reid, they aren't on the schedule this time around. Eagles win their fourth straight against their hated divisional rival and pull ahead in the NFC East just in time for another December run.
Eagles 31, Cowboys 21
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a very busy offseason, signing two of the biggest free-agency prizes in Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks. Both players should give quarterback Josh Freeman a lot more help than he had last season.
The Bucs also have a new head coach in Greg Schiano. Schiano hasn't coached in the NFL since 1998 when he was the Chicago Bears defensive backs coach. It's always difficult for college coaches to make the transition to the NFL, especially when they have little to no experience in the NFL.
It's hard to predict how good the Bucs will be this season. They were beyond awful in the second half of the season last season so I don't see how they don't improve. Having said that, I don't think the Bucs will be a playoff team quite yet. With the fifth overall pick in the draft and some good free-agent pickups they are well on their way but the NFC is too deep for the Bucs to sneak into the playoffs quite yet.
Eagles 28, Bucs 16
8:20 p.m. ET NFL Network
The Eagles get another Thursday night prime-time game on NFL Network. Two years ago they came back in the fourth quarter and beat the Houston Texans. Last year they traveled across the country and got throttled by the Seattle Seahawks. This time around they are at home and face a very unpredictable Cincinnati Bengals.
We have seen the Bengals get to the playoffs in the past but fail to make it back the next season. In fact the last time the Bengals made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons was 1982. I see that trend continuing. They have a nice young nucleus, but they don't stack up as well talent-wise with the rest of the AFC.
They were able to sneak into the playoffs last season as the San Diego Chargers the New York Jets, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts all had surprisingly bad seasons. All but the Colts should be much better this season.
The Eagles have the advantage of being at home on a Thursday night. That is a huge advantage. It's tough to win on the road in a short week and the Eagles should be able to take full advantage of that against an inferior team.
Eagles 24, Bengals 10
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
The Redskins get another shot in the Eagles home finale. Robert Griffin should be miles ahead of where he was back when these two teams met in Week 11 but the defense could look a lot different if the coaching staff didn't like the results earlier in the season.
I predict the Redskins will struggle on defense this season. They don't have the depth needed in the secondary to compete in a pass-happy NFC. We have seen the Eagles blow games late in the season against the Redskins before.
If the Redskins lose this game, it would give Mike Shanahan five straight losses against Andy Reid. That will not sit well with Dan Snyder.
Eagles 38, Redskins 20
1:00 p.m. ET Fox
This one could decide the NFC East. The NFL is very smart about how they schedule the final week of the season. We have seen many NFC East division titles being decided in the final week of the season in the same game. Last year we saw the Giants beat the Cowboys in what was the NFC East championship game. This year's matchup could be more of the same.
In this schedule preview, I have the Eagles at 13-2 at this point with the only losses coming to the Ravens and Panthers at home. This one will be the third loss for the Eagles in 2012. It will be because the Giants are too tough to beat twice in one season, but more so because I believe the Eagles will have this division wrapped up and maybe even home-field advantage.
This probably won't be the last time these two teams meet. I believe that both teams will be in the playoffs and a Divisional Round playoff matchup or even an NFC Championship game is very possible .
Giants 24, Eagles 20
It's probably really arrogant for a writer of a team that was 8-8 last season to predict them at 13-3. They turn the ball over too much. Michael Vick can't stay healthy. They can't score in the red zone. Juan Castillo is a horrible defensive coordinator, blah blah blah.
I believe this team is right on the cusp of greatness. The Eagles lost eight games, but you can credit that to bad luck, a offensive line in transition, a lack of a middle linebacker and a bad contract situation for DeSean Jackson.
This time around the Eagles should have better luck. Jeremy Maclin had a very unclutch drop against the Falcons and costly fumble against the 49ers. The offensive line looks set right now. They have four of the five starters last season that went 5-1 while playing in front of Michael Vick. Jason Peters may be gone, but he won't make or break this team. Demetress Bell has a world of potential and a great work ethic.
The Eagles also brought in an elite 4-3 middle linebacker. If his Achilles tendon is even at 75 percent, he is a Pro Bowl player on this defense. They also took care of DeSean Jackson in the offseason. A happy DeSean is a dangerous DeSean. Look for him to have a career season.
We should also see breakout seasons from strong safety Jaiquawn Jarrett and Brandon Graham. Graham is fully healed from a torn ACL and Jarrett was robbed last season with a very brief offseason to get ready for his rookie season. He has the potential to be a very good strong safety in this league.
This team is loaded with talent, experience and elite coaching. There is no reason as to why this team will miss the playoffs. Last season's failures only motivated this team for a deep playoff run this season.