NFL Schedule 2011: Philadelphia Eagles and the 10 Biggest Upsets of the Season
The yearly NFL schedule is filled with dozens of big time matchups, the kind that get advertised for weeks on television as a showdown of superpowers.
This year, everybody will be watching when the Indianapolis Colts play the New England Patriots, and plenty of people expect the Philadelphia Eagles will run the table, or something very close to that.
This inevitably leads to less exciting, more predictable games being overlooked, the kind where it is just assumed that one team will beat the other.
These so-called one-sided games are never given much thought, despite the age old saying of "Any Given Sunday." If teams that are supposed to win always come out on top, why even play the games?
After all, nobody expected the Seattle Seahawks to take down the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs, just as nobody ever thought the Cleveland Browns would blow out the New England Patriots.
Here are 10 games on the 2011 schedule that are sure to surprise.
Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts: Week 2
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This is a game where the Indianapolis Colts will undeniably be heavily favored. The Cleveland Browns are still in rebuilding mode and aren't going to be much of a threat on anyone's radar. Having said that, this is a potential trap game for the Colts.
Coming off a game against the now very dangerous division rival Houston Texans, and going into Week 3 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Colts may find themselves unprepared for this game.
This is all without pointing out that Peyton Manning is likely to still be struggling with injury issues by this point, rendering him less effective or maybe even keeping him out of the game.
An important thing to consider is that the Browns greatest assets, their offensive line and Peyton Hillis, are likely to still be healthy in the second game of the season, making the team as dangerous as they'll ever be in 2011.
Look for the Browns to pull off a surprise win in Week 2, mirroring their shocking defeat of the New England Patriots in the 2010 regular season.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions: Week 5
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The Detroit Lions are coming off yet another losing season, so nobody pays them much mind. Don't be fooled though; the Detroit Lions are dangerous.
They have quietly built one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, and when Matt Stafford is healthy, he is one of the best young quarterbacks around.
The Lions are likely still playing with a chip on their shoulder about the Chicago Bears, especially given how they lost the last time they played them with Matt Stafford. For those who don't remember, Calvin Johnson caught the winning touchdown with no time left in their Week 1 game, but put the ball down as he stood up, causing the refs to rule the play an incomplete.
The Lions will roar in Week 5, as they come out victorious over the Bears.
Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Week 3
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed the playoffs last season, despite being 10-6 and having one of the youngest teams in football. Their missing of the playoffs was largely due to their inability to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in both of their divisional matchups.
The first game would have been theirs, but for a fourth down and short on which the Falcons stuffed LeGarrette Blount.
Their second game was particularly heartbreaking, as the Buccaneers appeared to have the game in hand before a special teams touchdown by Atlanta and a penalty on Josh Freeman sealed their fate.
This game snuffed out the Buccaneers' playoff hopes and left them with a bad taste in their mouths.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only gotten better in the offseason, and they will be playing for pride and revenge in their own house for this game. Also, despite the Falcons good offseason moves, they have failed to address their secondary adequately, so expect the ever-improving Josh Freeman to take advantage of that in the 4th quarter, where he has the NFL's best quarterback rating.
Look for them to upset the Falcons in Tampa Bay.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles: Week 3
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The Philadelphia Eagles have had the New York Giants' number for a few seasons now. The last time the Giants defeated them was the first regular season matchup between the two in 2008. Since then, the Giants have lost six straight games to the Eagles and are definitely looking for some payback.
That string of defeats includes possibly the most humiliating defeat in NFL history, which of course ended in Desean Jackson's walk off punt return after blowing a 21-point lead with seven minutes left. New York has some pride to restore.
There has been plenty of bad blood between the teams as well, such as the Twitter feud between LeSean McCoy and Osi Umenyiora, which will only serve to fuel the New York Giants' fire.
On top of all that, the Giants have a better record on the road than at home over the last seven seasons since Eli Manning was drafted.
This isn't just a regular season match between rivals, it is the New York Giants' chance to defeat the most hyped team in the NFL and finally get them out of their heads.
They won't miss that chance.
New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Week 6
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear again, and they will slay the New Orleans Saints in Tampa in 2011. They split the season series in 2010, and the Buccaneers have only gotten better.
The Saints remain one of the strongest clubs in the NFL, but the Buccaneers are one of the fastest rising teams in the league, and they are very hungry.
The Buccaneers narrowly missed the playoffs last season, and you can bet that they will be playing every single game like it's the Super Bowl.
I expect the Bucs to take the New Orleans Saints at home.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders: Week 10
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The Oakland Raiders won eight games last season, and six of those were against divisional rival opponents.
Having swept every team in the AFC West in 2010, the Oakland Raiders will at least be looking to win one game against each of them in 2011. The Chargers are consistent underachievers under Norv Turner's inept coaching, and the Raiders tend to be scrappy within their division, even if they don't play well at all outside of it.
It is also highly unlikely that either the San Diego Chargers or the Oakland Raiders will be playing for a playoff berth in the final game, giving the Raiders the advantage since the game will be played in the Black Hole.
New Orleans Saints at St. Louis Rams: Week 8
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The New Orleans Saints head into a trap game in Week 8, because the St. Louis Rams will be underrated and overlooked in 2011.
Sam Bradford is heading into his sophomore year, and this time he has a true No. 1 wide receiver in Mike Sims-Walker. Walker's addition provides a solid receiving threat where the Rams were weak last year; he'll need a big game, and I believe he'll come through.
By this point, their record will be deceptively poor, based on a tough schedule including the Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers. The Rams will also be two weeks removed from a bye and well rested.
The Saints, on the other hand, face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Weeks 6 and 9, the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7, the Atlanta Falcons in Week 10 and won't be getting their bye until Week 11.
It is easy to see how Sean Peyton and his team might overlook the Rams in Week 8, who will likely be below .500.
That is a mistake they will come to regret.
Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks: Week 13
The Seattle Seahawks upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles might seem out of left field, as nobody expects a Tavaris Jackson-led team to defeat the new Super Bowl favorites.
It is more plausible than you might think. If the Philadelphia Eagles play up to expectations, they will have locked up a playoff berth by now, and if they don't, then who knows who they'll lose to?
More importantly, the Eagles will be six weeks removed from their bye, and flying to the West Coast to play in possibly the toughest stadium in the NFL: Qwest Field, where big plays are known to cause earthquakes. (See above.)
Houston Texans vs. Indianapolis Colts: Weeks 1 and 16
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The Houston Texans have upset the Indianapolis Colts before, but in 2011 they will pull off the rivalry's greatest upset: They will sweep for the first time in team history.
Already equipped with one of the best offensive attacks headlined by Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Arian Foster, the Houston Texans now have a powerful defense.
Free-agent signings Johnathan Joseph and Danieal Manning join draft picks J.J Watt and Brooks Reed, to a solidify a defense anchored by Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing.
The Colts have been the Texans' greatest foe since they were founded in 2002. The Texans have never before made the playoffs, but 2011 will be the changing of the guard, where they become the team to beat in the AFC South.
Peyton Manning remains one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. Despite this, he IS starting to show his age a bit after last season, and the Indianapolis defense remains less than stellar.
Battles between these two teams have always been offensive showdowns with the Colts coming out on top. Now though, the Texans have the clearly superior running game, along with a MUCH improved defense, making them the more complete football club overall.
In 2011, not even Peyton Manning will be able to prevent the double upset as his Colts are dethroned.
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Week 12
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The Detroit Lions have been crushed by the Green Bay Packers on every Thanksgiving in recent memory. After years of being turned into Thanksgiving dinner on national television, the Detroit Lions are ready to upset the Packers.
Cursed by injury and shoddy play every year, the Lions have been unable to even make the holiday game worth watching past the first quarter. Now sporting one of the best front seven in recent NFL memory, the Lions will be looking to forge a path to the playoffs in Week 12.
Matthew Stafford has yet to play in the Thanksgiving game, though this year will be the year that he stays healthy, having already guaranteed that he will start 16 games. The Lions are a totally playoff-capable team with him under center, and they will be looking to break the curse.
Look for the Lions to roar on Thanksgiving. Ford Field will be a true holiday celebration, once they upset their bitter rivals.