The 5 Games That Will Determine Philadelphia Eagles' Fate in 2013
Heading into the 2013 season, nobody really knows what to expect from the Philadelphia Eagles. The general consensus is that this team will be improved from 2012 but that's really not that hard to do, considering the eight-game losing streak that plagued last year's squad.
The NFC East is considered one of the weaker divisions in the league, so it wouldn't be a shock to see the Eagles finish first (especially if RGIII doesn't fully recover from last year's knee injury).
After all, the Eagles are adjusting to a new coach and they still don't know who their quarterback will be.
Keeping that in mind, the following five slides will highlight the season's most important games, in chronological order.
1. Week 1: At Washington
Talk about entering the league with a bang.
Rookie head coach Chip Kelly will face the Washington Redskins and their explosive quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was named last year's Offensive Rookie of the Year after throwing for 20 touchdowns and rushing for 815 yards and seven more scores.
Even though RGIII suffered a major knee injury in last year's wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks, it's becoming more and more obvious that the 22-year-old will be able to play in week one. After all, he's already doing sprinting drills.
The Eagles need to win this game to set a tone that they can become a force in the division. If they lose, they're going to be hosting the San Diego Chargers in their home opener while trying to not look ahead on the schedule to Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs in week three.
Week 6: At Tampa Bay
The beginning of the 2013 schedule is not kind to the Eagles, who are one of just two teams (Tennessee Titans are the other) to play three straight road games at any point in the season.
Not one of those three games will be easy.
But with the Buccaneers likely in the wild-card hunt this season, thanks to an improving group of young stars that includes Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy and Mark Barron (and the addition of shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis), the Eagles can't afford a head-to-head loss.
Week 8: New York Giants
The New York Giants will be the first of the three divisional teams that the Eagles will have faced twice in the 2013 season.
How Kelly, new defensive coordinator Billy Davis and the rest of the team adjust to seeing an opponent for the second time will be vital to the team's playoff hunt, especially since the schedule indicates a potentially rough start for the Eagles next season.
Andy Reid has made a living of manhandling the Giants, especially the second time the two teams faced (we'll just pretend the final game of the 2012 season never happened). How will Kelly fare?
Week 16: Chicago Bears
This game could easily have playoff implications for both the Eagles and the Chicago Bears.
Each team is adjusting to a new head coach in 2013, but the Bears are in much better shape, having won 10 games despite missing the playoffs in 2012.
The Bears won four out of five contests against the Eagles from 2007 to 2011, all one-score games. In both 2007 and 2011, the Eagles could have made the postseason had they won the game (and prevented the Giants from winning the Super Bowl both times).
With almost a full season already played under Kelly, the goal is for the team's offense (and defense) to be clicking on all cylinders as they compete for a postseason berth.
5. Week 17: At Dallas
This is the game that could very easily make or break Chip Kelly's rookie season.
For the fourth time in the last six years, the Eagles will close the season against the hated Dallas Cowboys. In 2008, the results were absolutely glorious, as 41 points in a 21-minute span in the second and third quarters led to a 44-6 rout. But the Eagles were embarrassed, 24-0, with the division title on the line in the 2009 finale. (The 2010 finale does not count, as the Eagles rested their starters in preparation for the postseason.)
No one really knows what to expect from Dallas, ever. And no one really knows what to expect from the Eagles in 2013. This could be a playoff game for both, one or none of these teams.