NFL 2011: Philadelphia Eagles Season Outlook

John ViewContributor IIMarch 24, 2011

NFL 2011: Philadelphia Eagles Season Outlook

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 06:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles leads the team onto the field to face the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 6, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    With the NFL lockout nearing its second full week, the possibility of a 2011 season remains in jeopardy.

    Rest assured, there will be football played next season. There is too much money on the line, not only presently but also in the future, and both the players and the owners know this. But being the optimistic (and handsome, had to let it be known) gentleman I am, we will continue as if nothing has ever happened and get an early, early jumpstart to next season’s outlook for the Philadelphia Eagles.

    In 2002, the NFL implemented a scheduling formula that guaranteed all teams played each other on a regular rotating basis. Each team is guaranteed to play six games (three home, three away) versus its division rivals, four games versus an AFC division, four games versus a NFC division, and two conference games based on the team’s previous year’s final standings.

    So while the exactly time and dates of the 2011 season are still unknown to us until the NFL releases the schedule later this spring, we do know who and where each team will play this upcoming season.

Home NFC East Games

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Dimitri Patterson #23, Sean Lee #50, Colt Anderson #30, and Mike Patterson #98 of the Philadelphia Eagles take the field to play against the Dallas Cowboys on January 2, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Penn
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    As we all know, the Cowboys have a stacked team on paper, but, for America's team, having a solid depth chart heading into the season does not always translate into wins on the field.

    Some experts say last season was a down year for the 'Boys and they will be looking to bounce back under the guidance of Jason Garrett and newly acquired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Ryan should improve an already stellar defense that ranked 10th overall last season.

    With the return of Tony Romo and a full season under the belt of sensational rookie Dez Bryant, the offense should see an improvement as well.

    Let it be known, the Cowboys will be a handful next year and if the play of the Eagles' offensive line does not improve, expect DeMarcus Ware and their defense to have a field day at the Linc.

    Winner: Dallas Cowboys

    2011 Season Record: 0-1

Home NFC East Games

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    LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: A Philadelphia fan holds up a sign during the game between the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Washington Redskins vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    At the start of the season last year, the Washington Redskins' future looked bright with the acquisitions of a Super Bowl-winning coach and a franchise quarterback and the playoffs looked to be an attainable goal

    Redskins owner Daniel Snyder relinquished  decade-long control of player personnel to Mike Shanahan by also naming him Vice President of Football Operations. But even with all of their improvements last year and the team seemingly heading in the right direction, the Redskins did not disappoint and still remained the same Redskins we've grown to know and love.

    Heading into the 2011 season, the Redskins' list of negatives far outweigh its positives.

    Their franchise quarterback is listed as the third-string QB on their depth chart, their revered coach is stuck with a $100 million player who refuses to play to his ability unless it is a contract year and they are returning an offense that ranked 25th last year. 

    With Rex Grossman slated as their starting quarterback and no major improvements on either side of the ball, the Eagles should try to duplicate their 59-28 Monday night win.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 1-1

Home NFC East Games

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    PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates after converting on a two point conversion in the fourth quarter as Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants looks on at Lincoln Financial Field on November 21, 2010 in Phila
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    New York Giants vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    The Eagles swept the Giants last season but only by the skin of their teeth.

    During the miraculous Week 15 comeback victory versus the Giants, the Eagles looked terrible for three quarters of play. Through the will and skill of players like Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, the Eagles fought back for the win and the NFC East division title.

    The Giants return an offense that ranked fifth in the league last year despite a career-high 25 interceptions from quarterback Eli Manning, and a ferocious defensive-line combo of Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora that know Vick well. Be sure to note that the Giants will be looking for revenge next season and are fully capable of defeating the Eagles.

    Winner:  New York Giants

    2011 Season Record: 1-2

Away AFC Conference Games

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 05:  Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills walks from the field after throwing an interception against the Minnesota Vikings at the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on December 5, 2010 in Minneapolis
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Buffalo Bills

    The Bills finished 4-12 last season and despite their low number in the wins column, they are a young team building for the future.

    With the ninth pick in last year's draft, the Bills acquired C.J. Spiller from Clemson who underachieved and was regulated to a backup role behind Fred Jackson. The Bills planned to have Spiller as the feature back in their offense but were thoroughly disappointed.

    Surprisingly, wide receiver Steve Johnson emerged. He recorded 1,073 yards and 10 touchdowns last season with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. An expected upgrade at quarterback via the third choice in this year's draft should ensure the continued success of Johnson and possibly a breakout season from Spiller.

    Remember, this is the same Buffalo Bills team that lost by three points in overtime to Baltimore, Kansas City and Pittsburgh, so they have proved they are capable of hanging in there against some of the league's tougher opponents.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record:  2-2

Away AFC Conference Games

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 26:  Fans attend the Miami Dolphins against the Detroit Lions at Sun Life Stadium on December 26, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Lions defeated the Dolphins 34-27.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Miami Dolphins

    Last season, the Miami Dolphins aimed to make a push for the playoffs and improve upon a wildcat offense, that caught many teams off-guard, with the acquisition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall from the Denver Broncos. The addition of the talented Marshall combined with a backfield featuring both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams was engineered to offset the average play of quarterback Chad Henne.

    However the Dolphins failed to live up to expectations, finishing with a 7-9 record last season. Marshall underachieved, only recording three receiving touchdowns compared to 10 in the prior season with the Broncos.

    This offseason, Brown and Williams will become free agents and most likely walk from Miami, leaving a gaping hole in their running game as they accounted for 1,407 yards of the Dolphins' 1,643 rushing yards.

    Their replacement will come through the draft in the form of Mark Ingram with the 15th pick. But even with the former Heisman winner on board, the Dolphins still have a lot of gaping holes to address to be considered a playoff contender.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 3-2

Home AFC Conference Games

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 23:  Santonio Holmes #10 of the New York Jets celebrates with teammates Braylon Edwards #17 and Dustin Keller #81 after he scored a third quarter touchdown against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 2011 AFC Championship game at H
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    New York Jets vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    Are the New York Jets this decade's Philadelphia Eagles? It sure seems like they're aiming to be. With two consecutive losses in the AFC Championship Game, the Jets have proved they're an elite team, just one that cannot get over the hump.

    The backbone of the Jets is their defense and their headstrong coach Rex Ryan. Ryan has remade this team in his image and as a result the Jets had the league's third-ranked defense and limited opponents to 19 points per game.

    The offense is still growing behind young quarterback Mark Sanchez and has solid skill players with names like LaDainian Tomlinson, Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Shonn Greene.

    This team has the feel of the 2007 New York Giants that won the Super Bowl by defeating an unbeaten New England Patriots team. Both the 2011 Giants and the Jets have a superb defense that can anchor the offense, a young, inconsistent, but improving quarterback, a solid ground game and the city of New York behind them.

    When a high-powered offense meets a stout defense, the defense usually prevails. But in the case of the Jets versus the Eagles, the Eagles have too many weapons to be accounted for by the Jets. Also with Antonio Cromartie becoming a free agent this offseason, this becomes a major concern for the team.

    A DeSean Jackson versus Darrelle Revis matchup could be one for the ages but if All-Pro cornerback Revis cannot play, due to injury or some unforeseen circumstance, it leaves the secondary in a very weak position, one that the Eagles would be glad to take advantage of.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 4-2

Home AFC Conference Games

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    FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16:  Quarterback Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots stands on the field during their 2011 AFC divisional playoff game against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa
    Elsa/Getty Images

    New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    The New England Patriots have consistently proven to be one of the league's top three teams year in and year out. Coach Bill Belichick's approach and management of the game is legendary. He has an Hall of Fame quarterback as his on-field general and the team is always confident they will be contenders.

    The Patriots' aforementioned potential Hall of Fame quarterback, Tom Brady, had an epic year last season, throwing for 3,900 yards while recording 36 touchdowns at a 65.9 percent completion rate, good for a 111.0 passer rating. Brady's phenomenal season earned him the 2010 NFL MVP in an unanimous decision over Philadelphia's superstar Michael Vick.

    Vick and the Eagles will be looking to prove Vick had a rightful claim to the league's MVP title against Brady and the Patriots.

    History is not on the side of the Eagles, with their last two meetings (2004 Super Bowl and during the Patriots' 2007 16-0 regular season) resulting in losses for the Eagles. This has the makings to be an amazing game, but the combination of Brady and Belichick may, once again, be too much to handle for the Birds.

    Winner: New England Patriots

    2011: Season Record: 4-3

Away NFC Conference Games

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    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Seattle Seahawks

    In his first season as head coach, Pete Carroll did an admirable job taking the Seahawks to the playoffs and a wild card win over the New Orleans Saints.

    Despite his immediate success, Carroll has plenty to worry about pertaining to next season.

    He has an aging quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck that posted his lowest career quarterback rating since 2001 (when playing 10 or more games), and despite their postseason fortune, the Seahawks finished the regular season with a 7-9 record.

    Carroll may look to the draft for his future quarterback and groom him this upcoming season behind Hasselbeck—if they decide to bring him back. The future looks bright for the Seahawks, but presently they are just an average team that occasionally overachieves.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 5-3

Away NFC Conference Games

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    PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 17:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles scores a touchdown in the first quarter as Christopher Owens #21 of the Atlanta Falcons defends during their game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 17, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pen
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Atlanta Falcons

    Many fans and observers were let down last postseason, expecting a matchup of Michael Vick against his former team.

    Vick has expressed a desire to play against the Falcons, so expect not only Vick to be pumped but the whole city of Atlanta, as well. Despite a 13-3 record last season, the Falcons were manhandled in the playoffs by the Green Bay Packers and have yet to show the ability to consistently win against the elite of the NFC. 

    In my opinion, "Matty Ice" has performed in pressure situations thus he is deserving of his nickname, but he has not performed in the pressure situations that actually matter. Trent Dilfer and Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith have opined that Matt Ryan is one of the league's elite quarterbacks and is ready handle more control of the offense.

    Don't get me wrong, Ryan is a good quarterback, a very good quarterback at that, but not elite status and I do not think he will ever be. He has the luxury of Michael Turner and Roddy White within a "safe" offense that is anchored by a defense that limited opponents to 18 points per game, good for fifth best in the league.

    Ryan and the Falcons still have a lot to prove, especially to the Eagles, a team that may have their number after a 31-17 thrashing last season. Look for the Eagles to repeat last year's performance and further expose a defense that has no answers for the Eagles' offensive weapons.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 6-3 

Away NFC Conference Games

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 05:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the St. Louis Rams runs out onto the field before the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 5, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona. The Rams defeated the C
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. St. Louis Rams

    The fortunes of a team, that once called themselves the Greatest Show on Turf, have almost had a sudden reversal with the arrival of rookie quarterback Sam Bradford last season.

    Bradford is special. His growth not only as a football player, but also a leader, was remarkable as the season progressed and he had the Rams on the brink of the playoffs. He is a smart quarterback who can make all the necessary throws while still reading the defense.

    The Rams are looking to add another weapon for Bradford through the draft, which might come in the form of wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will be the big, strong No. 1 receiver that Bradford needs to continue his progress.

    I have noticed the Eagles have a penchant for losing at least one regular season game that they already won on paper, but it's like the old saying: "that's why the game is played on the field, not on paper." Bradford and Co. more than qualify as a team that is capable of doing such that and a solid ground game behind Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson will only further ensure that if Bradford cannot get it done through the air.

    Winner: St. Louis Rams

    2011 Season Record: 6-4

Home NFC Conference Games

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 2:  Tim Hightower #34 of the Arizona Cardinals is tackled by Nate Clements #22 and Shawntae Spencer #36 of the San Francisco 49ers  during an NFL game at Candlestick Park on January 2, 2011 in San Francisco, California.(Photo b
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    San Francisco 49ers vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    As we all know, the 49ers are one of the teams in the unheralded NFC West, and, other than the Rams, the division's teams are looking for a change of scenery at the quarterback position. The Eagles' current backup quarterback Kevin Kolb could very well end up on one the this division's teams and be playing against his former team next season.

    The 49ers have hit the restart button and are looking to improve upon last season with the hiring former Standford coach Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh would like nothing more than to start his NFL coaching career with a quarterback of his choice and groom him accordingly.

    He has a defense, already loaded with solid players like Patrick Willis, Nate Clements and rookie Taylor Mays, that just needs direction and guidance on the field to realize their potential.

    His offense isn't too shabby either, outside of quarterback.

    San Francisco is already a solid team and with Harbaugh running the ship they could make a push for the playoffs in the weak NFC West, but just as I said they are a marginal playoff team while the Eagles are Super Bowl contenders.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 7-4

Home NFC Conference Games

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    CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 28: Devin Hester #23 of the Chicago Bears breaks for a first down run of 39 yards after a catch pursued by Stewart Bradley #55 and Dimitri Patterson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on November 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illino
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Chicago Bears vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    During the last meeting between these two teams, the Bears were rolling on all cylinders on both sides of the ball and easily defeated the Eagles 31-26.

    Let's recap: Bears' running back Matt Forte posted 117 rushing yards (most by any any back against the Eagles to that point in the season), quarterback Jay Cutler threw for four touchdowns and posted a 146.2 QB rating, Vick threw his first interception of the season, and Vick's perfect record as an Eagles' starter became marred with a loss. B

    Keep in mind that despite the negatives, the Eagles were without Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuels and cornerback Ellis Hobbs, leaving a depleted secondary without an answer for Cutler.

    The Bears showed the league how to limit Vick, and the Eagles did not recover, so next season I would like to think "Da Bears" are on the Eagles' target list.

    The problems the Bears exploited, mainly the secondary and on the offensive side, should be addressed this offseason either through the draft or free agency. Major upgrades in those areas, and the fact that the game is being played at the Linc and Vick is most likely using the offseason to learn and adjust to defenses like the Bears, should spell success for the Birds.

    Andy Reid and Vick should make it their personal vendetta to show the Bears that there is no way to limit Vick and that the Eagles deserve to be mentioned among the NFC's elite.

    WINNER: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 8-4

Home NFC Conference Games

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    GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 25:  (L-R) Paris Lenon #51, O'Brien Schofield #50, Deuce Lutui #76, Tim Hightower #34 and Beanie Wells #26 of the Arizona Cardinals walk off the field following warm ups to the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    The Arizona Cardinals were abysmal last season at generating any kind of offense, which resulted in the league's worst rushing offense and second-worst passing offense.

    Remember this is the team that defeated the Eagles in the 2008 NFC Championship Game—boy how the mighty have fallen.

    The Cardinals are another team that could be looking to acquire the services of Eagles' backup quarterback Kevin Kolb.

    There have been reports that Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald wants Kolb in Glendale and usually when you have a player of Fitzgerald's caliber requesting a quarterback, you go get him. With starting quarterback Derek Anderson last year, Fitzgerald had his worst season since his 2004 rookie year  (disregard his injury-riddled 2006 season), yet recorded 90 catches and 1,000-plus receiving yards. 

    The Cardinals have the fifth pick in this year's draft and many draft pundits speculate them taking either Texas A&M's outside linebacker Von Miller or Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.

    Regardless of what direction they choose, the Cardinals have a little more leg room than most teams and are in a good position to build for the future. If the lockout allows the Cardinals adequate time for their new quarterback to learn the offense, the Cardinals could easily make a return to the playoffs.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 9-4

Away NFC East Games

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    LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 15: Dimitri Patterson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a tackle against  the Washington Redskins on November 15, 2010 at FedExField in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Washington Redskins

    The Eagles and Redskins split their season series last season, each team winning on the other's home field.

    During their first meeting in Philadelphia, the Redskins tried to dictate the pace of the game by only throwing 19 passes and focusing on the ground game. The pace was meant to counter the Eagles' high-octane offense, but Michael Vick being viciously sandwiched by Redskin Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall and safety Kareem Moore did the trick.

    After Vick left the game with a rib injury, the Eagles offense sputtered with Kevin Kolb running the show, only managing to score 12 points.

    When the Eagles and the Redskins met for a second time in Landover, the Eagles...well we all know how that went.

    The main difference between the Eagles five-point loss and their 31-point win is the presence of Vick.

    The Redskins' defense is just simply not built to stop an offense like Philadelphia's. The Redskins' secondary is unable to match the speed of the Eagles' skill players and if the Albert Haynesworth situation still lingers from last season, then the Redskins have no viable option on their defensive line that can put pressure on Vick. If Vick can stay healthy when he plays the Redskins, the Eagles should have no problem sweeping the series next season.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 10-4

Away NFC East Games

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    EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 19:  DeSean Jackson #10 of the Philadelphia Eagles eludes Matt Dodge #6 of the New York Giants and returns a punt for the winning touchdown as time runs out defeating the Giants 38-31 during their game on December 19, 2010 a
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. New York Giants

    Since the Giants acquired quarterback Eli Manning in 2004, the Eagles have had their number, going 10-6, including key playoff victories in 2006 and 2008. The storied battles of Donovan McNabb vs. Michael Strahan have transformed to Michael Vick vs. Justin Tuck and both have proved to be exciting tug of wars, but the one constant in the equation is the coaching, Andy Reid vs. Tom Coughlin.

    Coughlin arrived the same year as Manning from the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars after leading them to two AFC Championships in their first eight years of existence. An impressive feat coupled with the fact that he won the NFL Coach of the Year award in 1999 after leading the Jaguars to a 14-2 record.

    Coughlin also has the privilege of wearing a Super Bowl ring and defeating the 2007 Patriots when it mattered, but Reid has the advantage in their head-to-head battles.

    Say what you want about Reid and his in-game management, but Coughlin has yet to create a viable solution to Reid's West Coast offense.

    We all know the games are played on the field and history can be only used to speculate and form opinions, but you cannot deny the history of the two most stable—heading coaching-wise—franchises, in the NFC East. The last time the Eagles were swept by the Giants in a season series was in 2007, so expect Reid to find a way to grind out a win and, cross my fingers, a Miracle in the Meadowlands III.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 11-4

Away NFC East Games

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    ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 12:  Quarterback Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 12, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

    For the past three seasons, the Eagles and the Cowboys have clashed in the last game of the regular season, the last a 14-13 loss for the Birds, but with no impact on the postseason.

    The 2009 Week 17 meeting meant more for both teams and Dallas looked to avenge its devastating 44-6 loss in the previous year's final regular season game.

    With the NFC East title at stake and home field advantage during the Wild Card Round of the playoffs tied in with the title, the Eagles failed to take advantage of their opportunity and were abused 24-0 by the Cowboys. The following week during the Wild Card playoffs, the Eagles met Dallas for a third time that season and were once again defeated 34-14.

    Some say those three losses are what pushed the franchise to trade its star quarterback Donovan McNabb and start anew with Kevin Kolb. Regardless if that was the reason or not, the Eagles have struggled in recent years against the Cowboys but look for them to split next season's series as neither franchise has a notable advantage over the other.

    Hopefully this is the start of a trend and the NFL schedules the Eagles and Cowboys as a season- ending game again because it has produced nothing but the kind of excitement and drama I'm sure the league would love to capitalize on.

    Winner: Philadelphia Eagles

    2011 Season Record: 12-4


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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 09:  The color guard presents a full field flag for the national anthem before the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2011 NFC wild card playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 9, 20
    Michael Heiman/Getty Images

    The Eagles managed to win 10 games last year and capture the NFC East division title, and that's after an offseason of Michael Vick taking snaps as the second-string quarterback.

    Even if the lockout lasts throughout the whole offseason, Reid, Vick, and the Eagles will be prepared to have Vick as their starting quarterback next season, so an improvement upon their 10-6 record should be expected by the franchise.

    If the lockout/court ruling permits, upgrades on defense—namely the secondary—and the offensive line should also come. With high hopes entering next season, the Eagles are going to be viewed as one of the NFL's elite teams, and with their 2011 schedule they have the chance to show the league they can live up to their billing and possibly make some noise in the playoffs.