Philadelphia Eagles' Quarterback Michael Vick
Even though the status of the 2011 NFL season is completely uncertain because of the ongoing lockout, the NFL released its 2011 regular season schedule today. This slideshow is, of course, written under the assumption that the lockout will be resolved prior to opening day.
In accordance with the standard NFL scheduling format, every team plays six games against the three teams in their own division, four games against a division in their own conference, four games against a division in the other conference and two additional in-conference games that are determined by how the team ranked in their division in the previous year.
Here is a look at the Eagles five biggest games of the 2011 season, excluding divisional games.
Last Meeting: September 7, 2008 (38-3 Eagles)
The Rams may have only been 7-9 last year, but they are a young, improving team that will be fighting for a playoff spot in 2011. Sam Bradford had an incredible rookie season, and should only be better in his second season in their offense.
While they are improving, the Rams don't really have any explosive playmakers on offense, which results in them struggling to stretch opposing defenses. It is yet to be seen if they do address this problem in the draft, but right now the Eagles have more talent than the rebuilding Rams do.
Last Meeting: October 17, 2010 (31-17 Eagles)
Last year, the Falcons had the best record in the NFC. This battle between defending Division Champions has the potential to be very important in playoff seeding, as both the Eagles and the Falcons should be in the playoff hunt once again next year.
There will also be the Michael Vick subplot going on for this game. Since Vick was injured and didn't play in the previous meeting between the two teams, this game figures to be his first start in Atlanta since the dogfighting incident. There will be quite a bit of emotion, and expect Vick to get a less than warm reception when he steps on the field.
With all of the drama, as well as two quality teams facing each other, this Sunday night game is a must-watch, regardless of who your favorite team is.
Last Meeting: November 28, 2010 (31-26 Bears)
Like the Falcons game, this is another game that could be important in playoff seeding. The Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and Lovie Smith runs the "Tampa 2" defense, which is designed for taking away the deep passing game.
If the Eagles can lean on their short passing game, and if LeSean McCoy has success against the Bears' defense, then the Eagles should be able to get a win. However, they can't let Jay Cutler shred their secondary like he did last year.
If the Eagles are serious about making a Super Bowl run, winning this game would go a long way toward that goal.
Last Meeting: November 25, 2007 (31-28 Patriots)
This game is the chance for the Eagles to make a splash. The Patriots were 14-2 last year and, barring any unforeseen circumstances, should be a Super Bowl contender yet again in 2011. Tom Brady is always among the best quarterbacks in the league, and containing him is much easier said than done.
The advantage the Eagles have is with their own passing offense against the Patriots' pass defense, that gave up the 30th most passing yards in the league last year.
Regardless of who wins, expect a shootout between two great offenses.
Last Meeting: October 14, 2007 (16-9 Eagles)
The Jets are one of the most boastful teams in the NFL, and have two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game to back that up. A win against the Jets would be a late season statement for an Eagles team that hopes to contend for a Super Bowl.
In order to beat the Jets, the Eagles need to improve blitz pickup, plain and simple. Late in the season, teams started blitzing Vick instead of staying back in zone coverage and the Eagles' blocking was simply horrible. Since Rex Ryan loves to blitz in almost any passing situation, the Eagles need to be ready for this attack.
Also, with Darrelle Revis locking down the outside, the Eagles need to figure out different ways to get the ball in the hands of DeSean Jackson; whether it be through reverses, screens, or sending Jackson in motion.