The Eagles come into the 2009-2010 season with high expectations. They are strong at every position, return a top-5 defense and a top-10 offense, and have added some big players over the offseason. The offensive line has been revamped and should be stronger in both pass protection and in running the football. The running game, ranked 22nd last year, should be a lot stronger with the addition of a true fullback in Leonard Weaver, Lesean McCoy to spell Brian Westbrook, and the move of Shawn Andrews out to right tackle. The defense returns 10 of 11 starters, and whoever wins the free safety job between Sean Jones and Quintin Demps will have earned it. With that in mind, let's look at the games of the 2009-2010 season.
Week 1: @Carolina. A playoff team from a year ago that returns 21 of 22 starters, Carolina comes off a regular season in which they were undefeated at home. Unfortunately for them, Larry Fitzgerald and the Arizona Cardinals stomped all over this mark to the tune of a blowout victory in the playoffs.
As far as matchups are concerned, I like the Eagles. Carolina's secondary was exploited at times last year (Chris Gamble is good, but beyond that Carolina has had problems), especially by the Cardinals. I think the Eagles' receivers will have success, and while I think Julius Peppers will make some plays, Jason Peters will prevent him from taking over the game. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' run defense (ranked 3rd a year ago) will be better this year (the Linebackers are more experienced), and I expect rough sledding for Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams. Furthermore, I think the battle between Steve Smith and Asante Samuel will be interesting as well. I think Steve Smith will make a couple of plays and will get a touchdown, but will not have an outstanding performance (something like 4-6 catches for 60-80 yards and a touchdown) and will not get much help from the other receivers. I think the Eagles defense will win them this one. 31-21 Eagles. 1-0.
Week 2: New Orleans. New Orleans returns the best offense from a year ago, which put up an astounding 411 yards a game last year. The addition of cornerback Jabari Greer and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will help the defense, but I don't think it will be enough. Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush will complement a solid passing attack featuring Drew Brees throwing to Marques Colston and Lance Moore, among others. This should be a shootout.
I think home-field advantage and a better defense will sway this one for the Eagles, who will make a big defensive stand at the end to seal the victory. 35-31 Eagles. 2-0
Week 3: Kansas City. There is no way the Eagles should lose this game. Kansas City is on the right track, with a young quarterback in Matt Cassel, a true number one receiver in Dwayne Bowe, and formidable thunder and lightning combination at running back in Larry Johnson and Jamaal Charles. The offensive line is also good. However, Matt Cassel had a tendency to hold onto the ball too long at times last year, and the loss of Tony Gonzalez will hurt. I think the Eagles can get ahead early, force the Chiefs to throw, and seal the game with their pass rush. 28-17 Eagles. 3-0
Week 4: Bye. At 3-0, confidence will be surging.
Week 5: Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers' strength will be their running game, with Earnest Graham and Derrick Ward posing a formidable duo. The Eagles had problems with Ward last year. However, the Bucs will likely be starting a rookie quarterback, and the defense is aging and not what it once was. Kellen Winslow should have a good game, but I don't expect the Bucs to consistently move the ball against the Eagles. Expect the loss of Defensive Coordinator Raheem Morris to hurt. The game may be close into the third quarter, but I expect the Eagles to win comfortably. 27-13 Eagles. 4-0.
Week 6: @Oakland. Oakland has improved between last year and this one. I expect Jamarcus Russell to have a good year, and if he doesn't step up, they have Jeff Garcia, who Eagles fans are quite familiar with. The running attack should also be formidable, with a three-headed monster of Michael Bush, Justin Fargas, and Darren McFadden wreaking havok on other teams. The Raiders will lose this game in the trenches. Their secondary will slow down the Eagles receivers. Expect Nnamdi Asomougha to blanket Desean Jackson. However, I believe the Eagles backs, tight ends, and other receivers such as Kevin Curtis, Jeremy Maclin, and Jason Avant will have success. In addition, the Eagles should be able to run the ball effectively and put pressure on Russell and the Raiders' ground game on the other side.
In the end, I think the Eagles will win convincingly, 31-14. 5-0.
Week 7: @ Washington. I'm not predicting a perfect season. This will be the Eagles first loss. In a defensive struggle, the homefield advantage and a key defensive hold will push Washington over the top. The Eagles should be able to get to Jason Campbell. Chris Samuels is aging, and Washington is weak at right tackle. However, their secondary has had success against the Eagles, and I expect that trend to continue in this game. The Eagles will have a tough time moving the Ball, and I expect the Redskins to have at least one big play (probably from Santana Moss). Eventually, I think Clinton Portis will wear down the Eagles' defense, and while he won't have a great statistical day, he will make the difference in the fourth quarter. 20-13 Redskins. 5-1.
Week 8: New York. Coming off a tough loss, the Eagles will get up for this game against their chief rival. More likely than not, I expect first place in the NFC East (at that point in the season) to be decided by this game. At home, the crowd will be a factor early and often. The Giants will have some success throwing the football, maybe to the tune of a touchdown drive. But I don't think the Eagles will get scared into double-teaming the receivers. This will be a chess match. The Eagles will rotate Sean Jones and Quintin Demps at safety, and throw the Giants many different looks on passing and running downs. The Giants will try to free up their running backs by spreading the Eagles out with 3 and 4 wide receiver sets. In doing so, however, they will lose Kevin Boss and/or Madison Hedgecock. The Giants' offense vs. the Eagles' defense will be a very interesting matchup. I think the Giants will put up 17 points, but Brandon Jacobs will not exceed 100 yards (though he'll come close).
On the other side, the Eagles will also have their hands full. The Giants' secondary is young, and I expect them to be a lot better than last year. However, I think Desean Jackson can stretch the field, allowing the Eagles to control the ball with short passes. This is not a game where Brian Westbrook will rush for 100 yards (and maybe not even 70). However, I expect the Eagles to use Lesean McCoy, Brent Celek, Westbrook, and Jason Avant to keep the chains moving. The Eagles will pull out a close one, 23-17. 6-1
Week 9: Dallas. Another rivalry game. Do not expect the Eagles to let up after an emotional victory against the Giants. They need to hold serve at home in the NFC East, and I think they will. The Cowboys will have to run the ball more in 2009-2010. Roy Williams is good, but the Cowboys' real strength is their stable of running backs. However, the Eagles neutralized Marion Barber last year, and without the threat of TO, I think they will be able to keep the Cowboys' running game in check again. Jason Witten will not run roughshod again. The Eagles have improved their secondary and Akeem Jordan is better in coverage than Omar Gaither. The Cowboys will have a couple of successful drives, but I think the Eagles will stop them just enough to pull out a high-scoring affair. 34-24 Eagles. 7-1.
Week 10: @San Diego. The Eagles are in a bad position, with their third straight game against a playoff contender. This time, they will have to travel out west (you saw what happened in the NFC Championship), and I don't think they will play their best game. San Diego has a plethora of weapons on offense, and I think Antonio Gates will have a big game. This should open up opportunities for LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles, and eventually, the Eagles' defense will have to tighten up, which will lead to a big play from Vincent Jackson. The Eagles' worst defensive performance will do them in, and their offense won't be great either. Shawne Merriman will be effective in pressuring McNabb, and the Chargers will limit Brian Westbrook just enough to sustain a great performance from their offense. 35-24 Chargers. 7-2.
Week 11: @Chicago. There is just something I don't like about this matchup. Every year, it seems like we should beat the Bears, and every year, we come up short. The Bears have a new quarterback in Jay Cutler, and their running attack is strong behind Matt Forte. Devin Hester beat Asante Samuel last year, and Greg Olsen also had a pretty good game. I think the Bears will come away with a close game in Chicago, 28-24. 7-3.
Week 12: Washington. They won't lose this one. Coming off two straight losses in a brutal 4-game stretch, the Eagles once again face a playoff contender. However, they will have made adjustments from the first game. The Eagles will stack the box, forcing the Redskins receivers to make plays. Asante Samuel will do just enough to prevent Santana Moss from demanding double coverage, and the Eagles' run defense will return to form in smothering Clinton Portis.
Meanwhile, the Eagles wide receivers will have confidence at home, and improve their play against Washington's secondary. Jeremy Maclin will be a new man, and I expect him to break out against Fred Smoot. The eagles will score three touchdowns, and that will be enough. 24-14 Eagles. 8-3.
Week 13: @Atlanta. Another tough NFC South home team, this is a matchup I think the Eagles will lose. Matt Ryan will use a tough home crowd to his advantage, finding Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Harry Douglas, and Jerious Norwood to open things up for Michael Turner. The Falcons will test this tough Eagles defense.
On the other side, I also expect Donovan McNabb and company to have a good game. This isn't a game where the offense will perform poorly. Against a weak front seven, Jason Peters will neutralize John Abraham, and McNabb will exploit the Falcons' secondary. However, I think the Falcons will control the ball in the fourth quarter with Michael Turner, and a late field goal will pull them through. 34-31 Falcons. 8-4.
Week 14: @New York. Both teams will need a win to get position in the NFC East. Another windy game in the Meadowlands, another classic. Big plays will be made on both sides, with McNabb and Eli Manning trading interceptions. The Eagles will hold onto a 17-14 lead for much of the second half, and extend it to 20-14 in the fourth quarter. However, Eli Manning will come up big in the two-minute drill, buoyed by the raucous home crown, and make a couple of plays to unheralded receivers. A late touchdown will put the Giants ahead, and the Eagles lose another heartbreaker 21-20 to the Giants. 8-5
Week 15: San Francisco. 8-5 down the stretch, a playoff berth on the line. This is where McNabb shines. At home against an improved 49er team, McNabb will perform efficiently, making short passes, drilling 15-yard outs, and waiting for the big play, which should come on a play action pass to Desean Jackson or Jeremy Maclin. The 49ers defense will be loosened up by the deep threat, and I expect a vintage Brian Westbrook performance. Patrick Willis can only do so much, and I expect the Eagles to exploit matchups all over the field, especially when they put Westbrook and McCoy on the field together. On the other side, the Eagles will harass the 49ers quarterbacks all day, perhaps causing a couple of turnovers. It won't be a blowout, but people will see that this is still a playoff team despite recent struggles. 30-17 Eagles. 9-5
Week 16: Denver. This game will be anticipated for Brian Dawkins homecoming. Once he gets his welcome, the game won't hold much suspense. The Eagles will dominate the Broncos defense to the tune of a season-high 35 points. While I expect Kyle Orton to have success, especially with better receivers than he had in Chicago, I also expect a turnover, and I don't see the Broncos running the ball very effectively. 35-21 Eagles. 10-5.
Week 17: @Dallas. Playoff berths and/or division titles could be hanging in the balance today. Unfortunatly the Eagles will be on the road. Despite all this, I think Donovan McNabb will outshine Tony Romo. McNabb will once again have a good game, and Brian Westbrook will keep the defense honest. Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson will force Dallas to pick its poison, and Mike Jenkins and Terrence Newman will have to respect the deep threat. This should open up things for Kevin Curtis and Jason Avant on intermediate routes. Once again, the Eagles' offense, which has been rolling for a few weeks now, will put up over thirty points. An Asante Samuel pick late will seal the deal. Eagles win 35-28. 11-5.
At 11-5, I expect the Eagles to edge out a 10-6 Giants squad for the division title.
Here is what I expect the seeds to look like.
1. Green Bay
5. New York
6. New Orleans
Philadelphia will face Arizona at home in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship. This time, we will get them. The defense will adjust, having Sheldon Brown play up on Larry Fitzgerald and press him at the line. The offense will come to play for the entire game and pull out an offensive duel. This time, McNabb will outshine Kurt Warner. 30-24 Eagles.
In the NFC Championship, the Eagles will travel to storied Lambeau Field to face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Despite the history and the Packers' solid 13-3 regular season, the Eagles will pull the upset. Aaron Rodgers will be harried by a hungry Philadelphia pass rush, and will turn the ball over twice to a pick-happy secondary. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb will manage the game against a talented secondary and allow Brian Westbrook and Lesean McCoy to pick apart the linebackers in Green Bay's 3-4 with short screens. This will be a close game, but the Eagles will hold a small lead for most of the game and finally put the Packers away with a late touchdown drive. 23-13 Eagles.
In the Super Bowl, I expect the Eagles to face the New England Patriots. Before the game, we will hear all about Tom Brady's clutch past, and the fact that McNabb is a "choke artist". By the end of the game, McNabb will be clutching his first Super Bowl MVP trophy. The Eagles will exploit New England's secondary and will also run effectively. On the other side, Randy Moss will have success (you simply can't defend him), but Tom Brady will take some sacks, too. The Eagles will make one more stop than the Patriot when it counts, and take home a 28-21 NFL Championship.