In the NFL, the first thing a team needs to win is undoubtedly a good quarterback. The second thing a team needs to win is a great—not good—head coach.
Take, for instance, the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers were a team dancing on the brink of complete obscurity until Jim Harbaugh took over and instituted an entirely new culture. Since then, the team hasn’t looked back, and they have been one of the NFL’s most dominant forces. By the way, they’ve done so with a good quarterback in Alex Smith and a newcomer by the name of Colin Kaepernick.
The 49ers were a team with a good offensive line, a great running back and a bunch of pieces on defense.
We’ve seen what the right head coach can do.
The Philadelphia Eagles are not the pre-Harbaugh 49ers; however, the Birds have a lot in common with that team. For example, they have a great running back, a great offensive line (that will be healthy heading into the 2013 season), a good linebacker, two or three good receivers, a good defensive line and a quarterback whom it’s hard to put faith in. Sound familiar?
Assuming the Eagles front office does its homework, there is no reason to believe that they won’t hire the right football mind to come in and take the reins in the same way San Francisco did.
This prospective head coach will doubtlessly be able to work with Eagles GM Howie Roseman and draft a solid rookie class and release and acquire the right players to keep the team in contention in the weak NFC East.
If we make all of those reasonable assumptions, it’s not outrageous to expect the Eagles to make the playoffs next year with a 10-6 record.
Next year’s schedule has not been released. But, we do know who the Eagles will play. The following slideshow is a game-by-game breakdown of what to expect from the 2013 Philadelphia Eagles.
Will the Eagles make the playoffs? No one knows. After looking at this year’s team, the answer is no. However, the NFC East is so weak, and the right head coach makes so much of an impact that fans have every reason to expect the Birds to make it.
To start, let’s talk about the Eagles’ division games. What better way to kick off that discussion than with the Dallas Cowboys?
By the way, how bout dem’ Cowboys?
If you thought the Eagles were a complete disaster, there is no better way to feel better about your team’s situation than to take a look at the mismanaged, underachieving, overrated Cowboys.
Personally, I don’t see Romo bouncing back from this. And I also don’t see DeMarco Murray being healthy for the entire season.
Look for the Eagles to split their matchup against Dallas.
Prediction: 1-1 against the Cowboys
Now, let’s take a look at a New York Giants team that gets hot at the end of the season every few years and wins a Super Bowl.
Aside from one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Eli Manning (who wasn’t without his disappointments this year), the New York Giants took a huge step back in 2012.
That defensive front was nowhere near as dominant as it had been in years prior, and their secondary is so weak and depleted that they’re almost laughable.
Nonetheless, the Giants beat the Eagles and have two Super Bowls to their credit.
But their defensive regression coupled with the possibility of Manning slowing down, and a lack of a threatening ground attack make the Giants one of the less formidable opponents on the Birds’ schedule next year.
The Giants are going to stink.
Prediction: 2-0 against the New York Giants
Now, let’s have a look at the division’s rising powerhouse in the Washington Redskins.
They sure do have a couple of great young players in Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris.
However, can RG3 stay healthy? Can that Redskins defense play like it has? Does RG3 have the weapons to contend with a good secondary? Maybe.
But the next Eagles head coach will have the wherewithal to understand what the Redskins are doing with their cute little pistol formation, and he’ll also be able to understand that LeSean McCoy with the ball in his hands can beat the Redskins.
The Birds will probably lose their first game against Washington, learn their lesson, and then, come back and own them in the second meeting.
Prediction: 1-1 against the Washington Redskins
To start, that KC offense needs to run through the Jamaal Charles if it wants to be successful. If we’ve learned anything from Coach Reid, it’s that he doesn’t like to run the ball. A zebra can't change its stripes.
The Chiefs also don’t have anything figured out at the quarterback position. So, you can count on the Birds beating the Chiefs offense into the ground.
Can the Eagles offense, behind Nick Foles, beat the KC defense? Of course they can!
Perhaps, it’s wishful thinking, but I’m expecting the Eagles to wipe the floor with the Chiefs.
Prediction: Win against the Kansas City Chiefs
I don’t think any defensive genius could come to Philadelphia and prepare this team sufficiently enough to even think keeping Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense at bay would be a possibility.
Rodgers is going to have himself a field day throwing all over the Eagles defense. It will probably be an embarrassing blowout—especially considering the Eagles offense is going to have to run through LeSean McCoy.
With the amount of points Rodgers will probably put up, Shady running the ball will be able to do little more than delay the onslaught by keeping the ball out of Rodgers’ hands.
Prediction: Loss to Green Bay
Unfortunately, the Birds don’t match up against the Chicago Bears very well.
However, if there is a toss-up on the Eagles’ 2013 schedule, it’s against the Bears. But logic dictates that the Eagles secondary is too weak to hold up against Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Devin Hester.
But LeSean McCoy could go crazy—and the Eagles are always one breakaway DeSean Jackson catch from six points.
Nonetheless, the Eagles probably won’t win this game.
Prediction: Loss vs. Chicago
The Raiders need a lot of work—quite a lot of work.
This is a big matchup for the Eagles. The Birds can certainly decidedly come away from Oakland looking well against the lackluster Raiders.
To start, Darren McFadden probably won’t play, and Carson Palmer/Terrell Pryor do not have the ability or weapons to beat most teams in the air.
Defensively, the Raiders may give the Eagles a bit of a hard time. But the Birds should win in the end.
Prediction: Win vs. Oakland
Ndamukong Suh should not be the biggest problem in the world for a healthy Eagles offensive line.
Other than that, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have the ability to get open against the Lions and beat them—especially on the deep ball.
Furthermore, McCoy is who he is.
On the defensive side of the ball, the next Eagles coaching staff will probably be wise enough to draw up a game plan to stop Calvin Johnson, a backup plan in case that doesn’t work and another and another, etc.
Assuming the Eagles don’t want to take a $4 million cap hit and decide they elect to keep Nnamdi Asomugha, one of No. 24’s only decent performances during 2012 was against Megatron.
That’s not to say that Asomugha will shut Johnson down, but it is to say that he’s not the worst option. Also, you have to think the next coach is going to have a plan to stop Megatron.
Other than that, what’s so great about the Detroit Lions?
Prediction: Win vs. Detroit
Adrian Peterson is hands-down the best running back in the NFL by a mile.
The Eagles run defense has been a joke over the last few years, but there is no way they don’t address the linebacker position and make that situation more favorable.
Nonetheless, AP has proven that he can run all over anyone whenever he wants. He is going to be the difference-maker in that game. He’ll pick up yards on the ground and eat the clock.
The Eagles offense will put up points with the time it has, but in the end, everything will culminate to deliver a Vikings win.
All of this, of course, is assuming Joe Webb doesn't start and perform the way he did the last time he faced the Eagles.
Prediction: Loss vs. Minnesota
However, Rivers will probably still be a good NFL quarterback. Although he doesn’t have the pieces around him to put up a decent fight against his opponents, he does have enough to be competitive.
But the Eagles can’t go into 2013 without an upgrade at wideout. Also, LeSean McCoy will be too much for the Chargers defense to handle.
Shaun Phillips also may not be returning to San Diego next year, which makes them significantly weaker on defense.
The Birds probably won’t win by much, but they’ll come away from San Diego with the W.
Prediction: Win vs. San Diego
The Broncos are a great team, and they will be next year. The Eagles, on the other hand, will be a rebuilding franchise in a weak division with a decent schedule.
Peyton Manning will be returning, and the Denver defense is a lot to deal with. Sadly, the Eagles offense does not match up well with the Denver defense. And we all know Manning will probably pick the Eagles defense apart.
The Eagles may score a couple of touchdowns, but the threat Peyton Manning poses with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will prove to be too much for the Birds to stifle.
Prediction: Loss vs. Denver
Everyone thought the Cardinals were for real through the first four weeks of the season. They even beat the Eagles!
But then, they completely collapsed and showed what they really were: a weak team with no quarterback.
I’m expecting someone to start at QB for the Cardinals when they come to Philadelphia, but I’m not expecting this person to do very much damage—even with the great Larry Fitzgerald at his disposal.
Look for the Eagles to win this game by a lot.
It will probably be a low-scoring game in the first half, but the Eagles will turn it up and run the Cardinals out of town.
Prediction: Win vs. Arizona
This year’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was the only exciting effort the Eagles put forth.
It came down to the wire, and in the end, Nick Foles and Jeremy Maclin came up big when they needed to.
However, next year is a new year, and Nick Foles has his question marks. In all likelihood, he will be the starter for the Birds. But, despite the holes in his game, he has what it takes to replicate his performance against the Bucs.
I think Foles will throw for over 350 in a shootout that ultimately ends in the Birds’ favor. Although it may not come down to the last second and the last play, it will be close.
Prediction: Win vs. Tampa Bay
It’s difficult to pick games that are months away without a head coach and so many question marks on a team.
However, there is no reason to believe that the next Eagles head coach will not be able to get what it takes out of this current team and whatever additions he makes to win 10 games.
Next year will be a rebuilding year for the Birds, but it will be a rebuilding year in a weak NFC East with a decent schedule.
Who knows what will happen? But as it stands, the Birds should be playoff contenders with 10 wins by the end of 2013’s week 17.