It’s officially fall in the minds of football fans. The summer battles from training camp and preseason are over. The rosters are set, and it’s time to finally get the 2012 regular season going.
The last time I took a look at the Philadelphia Eagles regular-season schedule, we were still sorting through the 2012 NFL Draft and free agency as we were heading into training camp. Now we know what the final rosters look like and who is starting over who.
The Eagles are primed for a big season. 2011 was a season of change, bringing in a new defensive line scheme and a new blocking scheme for the offensive line. The defense was also getting used to a new defensive coordinator in Juan Castillo. In fact, he was so new he had never been a defensive coordinator in any level above high school.
2012 is about learning from the mistakes of last season and executing better on the field. Turnovers, dumb penalties and confusion on the players' assignments lead to a rough 4-8 start last season.
Can the Eagles get back to being the playoff contender they have been in the past?
Here is a complete breakdown of the Eagles regular-season schedule.
Just like last season when the Eagles opened up against the St. Louis Rams, they get to play a very beatable team on the road to start up the regular season. The expectations will be high for the Eagles in this one.
The Browns will be starting rookie Brandon Weeden at quarterback and could be without Trent Richardson (knee) and Joe Haden (suspension). Richardson will probably be a game-time decision, while Haden is waiting to hear back from his appeal to his suspension.
If the Eagles win a squeaker against Cleveland, they won’t come out with much momentum. They should win this game by at least 10 points. They are the better team even if Cleveland has all its starters active.
This is a game they have to win—and win comfortably.
Eagles 30, Browns 10
The Eagles won’t have any problems with a team that is going nowhere fast. The Browns are a lousy offensive team and are a middle-of-the-road defense at best. It’s going to be a tough season for them.
The Eagles should run away with this game pretty early. They just have too many weapons for a down-and-out team like Cleveland to be able to contend with them for four quarters.
This is going to be the game of the week. I don’t have to look at the rest of the NFL schedule to know that.
The Baltimore Ravens are still an elite defense with some outstanding young weapons on offense. This is a potential Super Bowl matchup. It pits two elite teams that need their quarterbacks to take that next step before their teams can become champions.
The last time the these two teams faced off, the Ravens blew out the Eagles before we even got to halftime. It nearly ruined the Eagles 2008 season. Turnovers were the issue in that game. Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb combined for five turnovers.
You can’t beat the Ravens when you turn the ball over.
This time around, the Eagles need to focus on protecting the football and their quarterback. Everyone will expect the Ravens to send the house after Michael Vick. This will be the first big test for Vick in 2012. Can he handle the blitz, and can he protect himself from taking unnecessary shots?
Ravens 23, Eagles 20
This one is a toss-up. Both teams are in the upper echelon of the NFL. These type of games come down to red-zone possession and turnovers. That has been an Achilles' heel of the Eagles for a long time.
This will be the type of loss that the Eagles can learn from.
This is an Eagles team that will continue to grow over the course of the season. They are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and will need to learn how to win games like this one. The last two Super Bowl champions have a combined 19-13 record in the regular season. Those teams knew how to learn from early losses to get hot late in the season.
This could be a great learning experience for a young team poised for a deep playoff run.
The Week 3 matchup between the Eagles and Cardinals will be the worst matchup between an offensive line and a defensive line. Last season, the Cardinals offensive line gave up 54 sacks. Last season, the Eagles defense racked up 50 sacks. In 2012, the Cardinals offensive line is in complete shambles, while the Eagles defensive line is poised to put up even bigger sack numbers.
It doesn’t matter if Kevin Kolb or John Skelton gets the start. Actually it doesn’t matter if the Cardinals somehow acquire Drew Brees or Tom Brady. You can’t win if your offensive line can’t protect the quarterback.
Until the Cardinals fix their offensive line issues, there is no way they come out of this game with a victory.
Eagles 34, Cardinals 7
The Eagles will likely come out of this game with six sacks at the bare minimum. The earlier they get the lead, the easier this game will be. Jim Washburn will likely stamp his ticket to the Hall of Fame after this game.
The Eagles have dominated the New York Giants over the last four seasons. Despite the Giants recent success in the playoffs, the Eagles have beaten them seven out of the last eight games. The Giants did beat the Eagles in Philadelphia last year in Week 3, but Chris Canty knocking Michael Vick out of game late in the third quarter played a big part.
Vick knows he has to take care of himself this season. It’s not his running out of the pocket that is causing all of injuries; it’s the amount of time he holds onto the football in the pocket.
This will be another test to demonstrate Vick’s ability to protect himself in the face of a ferocious pass-rush.
Eages 31, Giants 16
You can’t ignore the injuries the Giants have in their secondary. They have lost Terrell Thomas and could be without Prince Amukamara, both cornerbacks. The Giants were in a similar situation last season and finished 29th against the pass. I don’t see that problem getting any better anytime soon.
Look for Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson to have a big day against a beat-up secondary.
It’s another potential Super Bowl matchup.
The Eagles and Steelers have been two of the most consistent NFL franchises in the last decade. These two teams met during the 2008 season. The Eagles made it to the NFC East title game that season, while the Steelers wound up winning the Super Bowl.
Now, four years later, both teams looked poised for a Super Bowl run once again.
Steelers 28, Eagles 24
The Steelers are tough to beat at home. They lost just one home game in 2011, a three-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
In order for the Eagles to win this game, they will have to dominate the red zone. They have to score touchdowns inside the 20 while preventing Pittsburgh from doing the same. I don’t think the Eagles will be ready to win a game like this on the road, but they could make it a close one.
If you could construct the perfect team for the Philadelphia Eagles to defeat, the Detroit Lions might just be that team. They don't run the ball effectively, finishing 29th in rushing yards last season, and their biggest strength in through the air, which is where the Eagles defense is at its best.
The Eagles led the league last season with 50 sacks. They are at their best when their defensive line can just focus on the pass rush. That usually doesn't happen until they either get a comfortable lead or get their opponent in obvious passing downs.
When the Eagles face the Lions, they don't have to focus so much on the running game. The Lions ran the ball fewer than any other NFL team outside of Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That plays right into the hands of the Eagles defense.
Eagles 38, Lions 14
That margin may seem high, but you have to understand the matchup.
The Eagles have a high-octane passing attack with a lot of weapons in the backfield. The Lions have a very weak passing defense. The Eagles' biggest weakness comes in their run defense, which finished 16th last season. The Lions' only real chance in this game is turnovers. If they don't create a lot of turnovers, they will get blown out on the road against a very tough matchup for them.
Andy Reid has never lost after a bye week. You give him a week to study his opponent, and it’s all she wrote. He knows how to study an opponent and find their weaknesses. He also knows how to manage his team’s week off and how to use their extra rest as an advantage for the following week.
The Atlanta Falcons are another bad matchup for the Eagles. They are a much better running team than the Lions, but their defense has been on the downslide for some time. They finished 18th in scoring defense last season, but they really took a turn for the worse late in the season. They gave up 69 points in the final two weeks. Matt Ryan has failed in the playoffs three times with the Falcons, and they'll continue to fail until this defense starts to improve.
Eagles 31, Falcons 21
I can’t predict an Andy Reid-lead Eagles team losing following a bye week until it actually happens. It is hard to bet against a 13-0 record in that scenario.
The New Orleans Saints are scary offensively. Drew Brees is deadly accurate; the receivers are quick; the backfield is deep, and Jimmy Graham may be the toughest player to cover one-on-one in the NFL. This is the reason Andy Reid decided to put together the best pass rush and the best secondary possible.
It was because of teams like the Saints and the Green Bay Packers.
The Saints are tough to beat at home. Their offense is fast enough, but you put them on their turf in their dome, and they get even faster. This will be a game the Eagles can’t afford to start out slow or turn the ball over in.
Saints 35, Eagles 30
Again, red-zone play will be huge here. I don’t know how anyone stops the Saints offense once they get inside the 20. They have speed; they have good quick backs, and they have Jimmy Graham.
The Eagles will have to find a way to hold this offense to more field goals than touchdowns in order to win this one. I don’t think they will be ready to do that in Week 9, but they might get another shot come January.
The Eagles dominated the Dallas Cowboys last season despite all their dysfunction. They outscored Dallas in two meetings 54-14, and the games weren’t even that close. Both Cowboys touchdowns came late in the games when their fate was long decided. The Eagles beat down the Cowboys twice last season despite DeMarcus Ware picking up six sacks in both games.
The Eagles seem to have found a formula for beating Dallas. They have a good pass rush, and they have the secondary to match up against the Cowboys weapons.
Nnamdi Asomugha was matched up against Jason Witten in the slot in both contests. Witten had just 52 yards in both games and zero touchdowns. It’s difficult for Tony Romo to have success when you take away his favorite target.
Eagles 27, Cowboys 13
These two teams will meet again in three weeks. It will be very difficult for the Eagles to sweep their hated division rivals in back-to-back seasons. This game will give us an idea of whether or not the Cowboys have closed the gap that was so wide between these two teams in 2011.
The Eagles get their first taste of Robert Griffin III in Week 11. With the way he has been hyped this summer, you would think he has already secured his spot in the Hall of Fame.
The hype stops here. It's time to see what he can actually do in the NFL.
Eagles 27, Redskins 3
The Redskins may have found their franchise quarterback, but they still have issues on both sides of the football. The secondary has to be rebuilt, and the offensive line is a Trent Williams injury away from being a train wreck. They took care of the most important position, and now they can start to build around him.
It’s progress, but that doesn’t mean they are ready to win right away.
This will be the biggest test for the Eagles linebackers in 2012. The Carolina Panthers led the NFL last season in yards per carry and total rushing touchdowns. Cam Newton was a big reason for that, but so were DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks will decide this game. If they stay disciplined and tackle well, the Eagles should win this game.
Eagles 30, Panthers 17
The Panthers are still a year away from being a playoff team. They have to fix that defense, and Cam Newton needs to learn how to win on a consistent basis. They aren’t far, but they still need to develop the players they have before they can take that next step.
The Cowboys will get their second shot at the Eagles in the house that Jerry built. At this point, the Cowboys are probably somewhere around 6-5 and in a must-win situation from here on out. You can’t lose to the same team twice in your division and expect to compete in that division.
This will be a huge game for a team that can’t seem to take that next step.
Eagles 31, Cowboys 10
The Cowboys have been a team that has fallen apart late in the year. The Cowboys have to win this game, but that doesn’t mean they will. Sometimes the will to win can’t overcome a team that is just flat-out better than you.
This is that situation.
The Cowboys were outscored by 40 points against the Eagles last season. Until they start to at least compete with the Eagles, I can’t project the Cowboys to beat them.
Tampa Bay was an interesting team last season. They started out at 4-2, but they dropped their final 10 games. They were undisciplined; they didn’t tackle well, and they turned the ball over at an alarming rate.
I don’t know what type of Tampa Bay team will show up this season. They have an entirely new coaching staff, but that usually leads to a pretty substantial learning curve.
Eagles 28, Bucs 10
Tampa Bay is on the right track. They drafted two impact players in Mark Barron and Doug Martin. They also purchased a big target in Vincent Jackson for quarterback Josh Freeman.
Eagles fans are well aware that a new coaching staff with a lot of new faces on both sides of the football takes time to develop. Like the Eagles of 2011, Tampa Bay will go through some growing pains. They could become a playoff-caliber team in 2013, but the Bucs will have to suffer with some bumps in the road in 2012.
Last year, the Eagles had to turn around after a Sunday game and travel to Seattle for a Thursday night game. The road team always gets hosed in these games. It’s a huge advantage to host these mid-week games. The road team loses a day to prepare because they need a day to travel.
This year, the Eagles are the benefactor of the Thursday night game. They host Cincinnati in a critical Week 15 showdown.
Eagles 27, Bengals 14
The Bengals will be one of a handful of teams that made the playoffs last season that will be watching them on the couch this season. The Bengals haven’t reached the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since the early 80s, and I don’t see that trend changing this season.
They surprised a lot of teams that thought a team lead by rookie Andy Dalton couldn’t win more than four or five games. Now, they have a target on their back as a playoff team from a year ago.
Eagles are easily the more talented team of the two, and they should take advantage of a Bengals team that doesn’t have a true No. 1 running back.
This is a trap game for the Eagles. At this point, I have them at 11-3 heading into this Week 16 matchup.
The Redskins have always given the Eagles fits late in the season. In 2008, the Redskins upset the Eagles in a Week 16 game and nearly cost them a trip to the playoffs. That was before the Redskins ever had a franchise quarterback they can get excited about.
If the Eagles look past this Redskins team that is all of the sudden a little more capable on offense, they will drop another one to the Redskins late in the season.
Eagles 20, Redskins 13
The Redskins will make this game really tough for the Eagles, but I just don't see RG3 knocking off the Eagles in his first season. He might have the biggest learning curve of any of the starting rookie quarterbacks. It doesn't help that he plays in a very tough division that loves to get after the signal-caller.
Something tells me that this won't be the final time these two teams play each other.
The Eagles and Giants have met in the playoffs three times since the turn of the century. The Giants beat the Eagles on their way to the Super Bowl in the 2000 season, while the Eagles got their revenge in the playoffs in 2006 and 2008. It would seem they are about due to face off in January once again.
I see the Eagles winning the NFC East, but the Giants will have a Wild Card spot to play for in Week 17.
Giants 31, Eagles 26
This may or may not set up for a Wild Card round playoff game, but I just have that funny feeling (sick feeling if your an Eagles fan) that these teams will faceoff three teams in the 2012 season. These teams aren't very far apart either, and these two teams know each other probably better than any other two teams in the NFL. This is why the Eagles were able to upset the Giants on the road last season with Vince Young as their starting quarterback.
This time around, I see the Giants upsetting the Eagles and preventing them from getting a first-round bye.
Is this the year the Eagles finally get over that giant hump and win a Super Bowl? If it's not, they will fall just short, but will set themselves up as a serious contender for at least the next three or four seasons. There is talent and depth everywhere, and they have one of the best coaching staffs in football.
Week 1: Eagles 30, Browns 10
Week 2: Ravens 23, Eagles 20
Week 3: Eagles 34, Cardinals 7
Week 4: Eagles 31, Giants 16
Week 5: Steelers 28, Eagles 24
Week 6: Eagles 38, Lions 14
Week 8: Eagles 31, Falcons 21
Week 9: Saints 35, Eagles 30
Week 10: Eagles 27, Cowboys 13
Week 11: Eagles 27, Redskins 3
Week 12: Eagles 30, Panthers 17
Week 13: Eagles 31, Cowboys 10
Week 14: Eagles 28, Bucs 10
Week 15: Eagles 27, Bengals 14
Week 16: Eagles 20, Redskins 13
Week 17: Giants 31, Eagles 26
Final Record: 12-4