Breaking Down the Philadelphia Eagles' 2013 Out-of-Conference Schedule
This short period for the Eagles could be a blessing in disguise, an opportunity to win over the fanbase early in the season.
Or, it could turn ugly fast. Kelly and company would prefer the former in that situation.
In NFC matchups—and specifically NFC East battles—you know what you are going to get. All games will be hard-nosed and passionate, as these guys see each other more often than they do teams in the AFC.
This isn't to say games with the AFC West this season will be a walk in the park and toned down at all, but intra-league games have an inevitable higher level of bragging rights, and thus, more physicality in most cases.
I decided to break down the Eagles' 2013 out-of-conference schedule because these are teams the Eagles and fans rarely see and don't know much about.
And apparently a prominent former head coach of the Eagles is coming back to town.
Also, as a side note, I am going to stay away from mentioning the Eagles' 2012 season at all. From here on out, it is a new era and time to look forward.
*All team stats from NFL.com
Week 2: vs. San Diego Chargers
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Date and time: September 15, 1 p.m. ET
Maybe we should just hand over the Vince Lombardi trophy to the San Diego Chargers now, instead of waiting until February 2014.
As you may have heard, the last four teams (New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens) to play the Eagles' at Lincoln Financial Field for their home opener have gone on to win the Super Bowl that year.
This trend has to come to an end sometime, right?
The Chargers come into the season off yet another disappointing 2012 campaign which saw them miss the playoffs for the third straight year. This result saw the firing of both head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith at season's end.
Somehow, some way, Philip Rivers, the perfect model of inconsistency, is slated to be the Chargers' starting quarterback. Rivers will look to new head coach Mike McCoy's offensive-minded brilliance to push Rivers over the hump into the top tier of NFL quarterbacks.
Seeing that this game comes in Week 2, both teams should be relatively healthy.
When healthy, the Chargers' starting running back, Ryan Mathews, can be a nightmare for opposing defenses, both rushing and catching the ball out of the backfield.
If the Chargers' offense is clicking, they can put up points in bunches. The Chargers' pass game runs through two oversized possession receivers in Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd, both whom are 6'5". Tight end Antonio Gates is always a constant threat in the middle of the field and is Rivers' favorite target.
It will be important for the Philadelphia Eagles' cornerbacks to jam the Chargers' wide receivers at the line of scrimmage, not allowing them to get a clean release and find pockets of space deep down the field. If they do so, it will allow the Eagles' pass-rushers to put pressure on Rivers—something he does not handle particularly well.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Eagles may have a tough time if they can't get LeSean McCoy going. The Chargers were ranked sixth in rushing yards allowed per game last season with an average of 96.4 yards.
The Chargers were middle of the pack in terms of passing yards allowed per game with an average of 230.1 yards.
Look for the Eagles' to run plenty of play-action and screens to keep the Chargers' defense off balance.
Week 3: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
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Date and time: September 19, 8:25 p.m. ET
In what is sure to be one of the most highly anticipated games of the season, Andy Reid makes his return to Philadelphia.
The boo birds will be out in full effect. How many remains to be seen, but let's get into the actual matchup.
The Kansas City Chiefs finished last season at 2-14 and shouldn't be much of a problem for the Eagles—key phrase: "shouldn't be."
The Chiefs will inevitably be in a rebuilding stage, and head coach Reid will still be trying to put the pieces in place in Week 3.
Alex Smith will be taking the snaps under center as the new quarterback for the Chiefs. Their offense isn't dreadful, as they have some playmakers.
Running back Jamaal Charles is as extremely crafty out of the backfield as a running back can be, and the Chiefs have a big-target wide receiver in Dwayne Bowe coupled with a speedy receiver in Dexter McCluster.
The Eagles' defense will have to limit big plays in this game. They will be able to survive with checkdowns and dumpoffs, but this game could be more interesting than it should be if the likes of Charles and McCluster find daylight in the open field and break off big gains.
The Chiefs' defense is the side of the ball that needs the most help. This defensive unit allowed the eighth-most points in the NFL last season with 425, an average of 26.6 per game.
Up front, they lack the ability to stop the rush, giving up an average of 135.7 rushing yards per game to opponents.
This has the makings of a field day for LeSean McCoy.
Not even the benefit of the first overall pick can save the Kansas City Chiefs in this game—or the whole season, for that matter.
Week 4: at Denver Broncos
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Date and time: September 29, 4:25 p.m. ET
This is undoubtedly the toughest out-of-conference matchup for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2013 season.
The Broncos ended last year's regular season on a 10-game win streak, but ended up losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.
While the Broncos come in with a future Hall of Famer under center in Manning, it is their defense which will be tough to crack, especially playing in Denver.
In the 2012 regular season, the Broncos ranked third in both rushing yards allowed per game (90.6) and passing yards allowed per game (199.6). This means the Eagles must be very meticulous in the way they attack.
The Eagles must take shots down the field—when the opportunity is there—to open up the defense. The Eagles may have the opportunity to attack corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who may be a tad overzealous and aggressive against his former team.
On the defensive side of the ball, the task is simple, get Manning to the ground. The Eagles have to not only rush Manning but breed physical results via sacks, knockdowns and throwaways. Anything to rattle a great quarterback in Manning will keep the Eagles in the game.
This game should be physical on both the offensive and defensive lines. Clogging up the Broncos' running game and making Manning predictable (easier said than done) will keep this one close.
Week 9: at Oakland Raiders
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Date and time: November 3, 4:05 ET
The Oakland Raiders, like the Kansas City Chiefs, will presumably be in rebuilding mode again this season.
Last season, the Raiders were 18th in both average offensive yards per game (344.0) and yards allowed per game (354.5).
They brought in Matt Flynn to step in as their new starting quarterback, not an exactly flashy choice, which may mean the drafting of Geno Smith with the third overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Raiders will come in with wide receivers that are flat-out speed demons in Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford. It will be important for the Eagles' defense to jam these guys at the line of scrimmage. If these receivers are able to get a full head of steam, they have the ability to run past any secondary.
In the backfield is Darren McFadden, whom this offense will run through, yet again. McFadden is a downhill runner which means a defensive line push on hand-offs as well as containment on the outsides will be vital to not allowing up-field cuts.
The Raiders will present a revamped defensive presence, but revamped doesn't necessarily mean improved.
The Philadelphia Eagles should be able to have their way if they play smart, efficient and turnover-free football. A good mix of pass and run plays will be enough to keep the Raiders on the heels and unable to handle the athleticism of the Eagles' offensive weapons.
The Eagles should wrap up their out-of-conference schedule in Oakland with a win if they take care of the ball and keep the Raiders' wide receivers in front of the safeties.