Predicting the Eagles' Most Important Games of the 2014 Season
Obviously, it's too early to predict how the Philadelphia Eagles' season will turn out since there is turnover every year. Teams such as the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons, who were proclaimed 2013 Super Bowl favorites, were among the worst teams in the league. Who will rise and fall in 2014?
It's impossible to tell as of now, but if the schedule is based off last season's performances, it's frightful. The Eagles will face six playoff teams and eight teams that finished with eight wins or better. The NFL features just 16 games per team, every matchup could have lasting postseason repercussions.
Below are the five of the likely most crucial games of the 2014 season.
Week 2: Eagles at Colts (Sunday Night Football)
The Eagles will have a big challenge early on in the season, facing off against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts on national television. Luck, arguably already one of the best quarterbacks in football, will look to feast on a pass defense that was dead last in 2013.
But with the addition of Malcolm Jenkins, Nolan Carroll, and possibly a high draft pick, the Eagles defense should be much-improved. It will be tested in front of the world in Week 2.
The Colts, possessing a franchise player at signal-caller, are likely to remain in the playoff hunt for years to come. But while the Colts won't be an easy foe, they are certainly beatable, with huge weaknesses on the offensive line and several skill positions. Philly's matchup with them could be an early litmus test for the Birds and their playoff hopes.
Week 3: Redskins at Eagles
Chip Kelly made the most shocking move of the offseason by releasing Jackson for no compensation and allowing him to join a divisional rival. Jackson has stated that he expects his game against Philly to be "special" when they face off in 2014. Was Kelly a genius, or was it a monumental blunder? Eagles fans will find out during Week 3.
Jackson has been criticized throughout his career for his inability to run every route and being exclusively a deep threat. On the other hand, he is coming off a career season where he hauled in 82 catches for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. Will the Eagles know how to stop him? Or will Philly's once-secret weapon get his revenge?
Week 8: Eagles at Cardinals (Following Bye Week)
After the bye, the Eagles' schedule gets rough. Their upcoming opponents include the Carolina Panthers, the Green Bay Packers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks. How they perform in that stretch could determine their seeding or even their postseason chances.
It will all start with Arizona, who is no pushover. The Arizona Cardinals finished 10-6 in 2013 and have a fearsome defense. Arizona often gives Philly fits, nearly coming back last season in the fourth quarter and humiliating the Birds in 2012 27-6.
With an extra week of preparation, this game will be the perfect opportunity to build confidence and momentum going into the second half of the season. A loss here would severely demoralize the locker room.
Week 11: Eagles at Packers
Barring injury to Aaron Rodgers, the Eagles will have their hands full against one of the league's finest quarterbacks. But the Packers don't have strength just in QB play. Eddie Lacy is emerging as one of the most bruising backs in the game, and Mike McCarthy is excellent at getting the most out of offensive skill players.
It's possible that the Eagles will be a 12-win team in 2014, but it is more likely they will be within the 10- to 11-win range. In that case, the Packers could very well be one of the teams they contend with for seeding or even a postseason berth.
Last year the Eagles made short work of the Packers, who had no choice but to pit Scott Tolzien against the Birds. With a healthy Rodgers and playing at Lambeau Field, this could turn into a shootout, with a much-needed NFC win on the line.
Week 15: Cowboys at Eagles
Despite all the additions made to the Redskins offense, it is still Dallas that is the biggest threat to the Eagles in 2014. Say what you will about Tony Romo, but he is a playmaker. Dez Bryant is possibly the league's second-most dominant wide receiver.
While Philly appears to be the superior team as of now, Dallas is still capable of contending for the NFC East. The Eagles split the season series with the Cowboys last year; they will need to sweep Dallas next year to prove they are an elite team.
Besides, no matter what either team's record is, Eagles-Cowboys games are always high intensity matchups. There's plenty of bad blood between these two teams, and no Eagles season is complete without a victory over the Cowboys.
Follow Yueh Ho on Twitter @YuehHo_BR
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