Losing to the Green Bay Packers in the opening round of the playoffs last season left a pretty sour taste in the mouths of everyone in the Philadelphia Eagles organization. The Eagles were so close, but yet so far away from beating the eventual Super Bowl champions.
This year, could the Eagles be last year's Packers? Green Bay had an average season where they just snuck into the postseason. They were the hottest team at the time, which is all you could ask for heading into the playoffs.
The Eagles have plenty of concerns heading into the 2011 season, but as long as the new group of talent gels by the playoffs, this could be a special season for the Birds. Here are my game-by-game predictions for the 2011 Eagles regular season.
The Eagles spent all kinds of money this offseason to bring in top-notch talent. They have Mike Vick and perhaps the best offense in the NFL. Chalk this one up as a win and let's go to Week 2, right?
Not so fast. This isn't your lowly Rams team from seasons past. St. Louis is a young and talented team that is only going to improve as long as Sam Bradford is at the helm. They still have Steven Jackson as well. Both their offense and defense have been majorly upgraded.
Sam Bradford now has two more weapons to target on the flanks in Mike Sims Walker and rookie Austin Pettis. St. Louis' secondary last year was a glaring weakness, but this year it could turn into their strength with the additions of former Eagles Quintin Mikell and Al Harris.
With the preseason not going as planned, the Eagles could be in for a wake-up call here in Week 1. The Eagles start out very slowly, but squeak by late in the second half to pull out the W by their sheer athletic talent.
Sheer talent won't get the Eagles a W in Week 2 when they have to travel into the Georgia Dome to face the NFC South champs from a year ago.
The Falcons have perhaps just as good an offense as they Eagles do, especially with their additions of Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers, who is going to be under the radar in his rookie year.
With the Eagles not on all cylinders yet, the Falcons take care of them pretty easily.
It is hard to feel bad for the Giants because they are a hated division rival, but the G-Men have taken severe blow after blow with all the injuries that they have had so far this season.
Their secondary is in shambles after their top pick, Prince Amukamara, will be out for the first half of the season and Terrell Thomas is out the entire year. Their second pick, Marvin Austin, looked like he was going to be the real deal and then he gets sidelined for the year as well.
It's tough to imagine the Giants doing anything this year. They have only taken a step backwards.
The Eagles destroy the G-Men in their home opener.
The 49ers are one of the teams in NFC West limbo. They do not seem like they are going anywhere. Of course, nowadays you don't have to do much to win their division.
San Francisco still has Alex Smith as their QB, and there lies the problem.
The only thing that scares me about the 49ers is having to face Frank Gore. This guy can just go off on a defense. He is a huge RB with a low center of gravity. He could very well eat up the young linebackers and just run them over.
Gore has a huge game, but that is about it.
Week 5 will be the secondary's coming-out party.
As we've seen in the preseason, all the new pieces have different roles and coverages are still being blown. Week 5 is where each member starts getting their confidence back and starts licking their chops seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Bills backfield.
Nnamdi and Co. get their first pick-six and the Eagles roll.
Will Mike Vick have another 300-yard, six-TD game in Washington? I highly doubt it, but there is no reason to see why he cannot have another great game against a weak Redskins defense.
The Redskins knocked Vick out in their first meeting last year, but I think Vick is over that. However, with the Eagles currently cruising in the NFC East, Washington might have to try to knock Vick out in order to compete. Let's face it, whenever Vick scrambles out of the pocket, teams are looking to take his head off.
As long as Vick stays in the game here, the Eagles get another W in the NFC East.
Tony Romo is healthy. That is usually never a good sign for the Eagles or any other team in the NFL.
Fans can look at how poorly the Cowboys played last year and easily predict another debacle in Dallas. However, this is a whole different team when Romo is healthy. Romo still has Pro Bowler Miles Austin and second-year man Dez Bryant to throw to, not to mention Pro Bowler Jason Witten as well.
As for the defense, Bob "Little Rex" Ryan is going to vastly improve the Cowboys defense. Remember just two years ago how dominant they were against the Eagles.
All this being said, the Eagles have the advantage playing on their home turf.
And now, let the roller coaster ride begin.
After an easy first half of the schedule, the second half begins and does not stop pumping out good competition for the Birds.
It starts with Chicago. Chicago was the game last year where Mike Vick had five turnovers, including four fumbles. That game no doubt will be in the back of Vick's mind.
This could be one of the Eagles' trap games this year. With the team looking ahead at a rematch from Week 3, the Cardinals and Kevin Kolb come strolling into town.
A lot of fans seem torn about the Kevin Kolb situation. Some wanted to give him a chance and some didn't see the point in keeping him.
Well let me tell you: This kid is going to come out with probably the biggest chip on his shoulder. Kolb is going to do his best to prove that he belonged to play in Philly. Nine weeks into the season, Kolb will feel comfortable enough with his O-line to stun the Eagles for a second straight week.
It seems as though Eli Manning either has a terrible game against the Eagles or a superb one. At home in the Meadowlands, I think Manning has a good one here.
This late in the season, the Giants season may already be over. So what do they play for? They play for pride and play to destroy their hated rival.
Also throw in that the G-Men are still pretty pissed off at blowing "that game" to the Eagles late last season.
Tom Brady, possibly the best QB ever to play the game, is coming back to Philly.
The Eagles are riding a three-game losing streak while the Pats are cruising in the AFC East.
After a torrid start, the Eagles get a little bit too cocky. The whole Dream Team talks surface again.
That's when Tom Brady and Co. come to town and put a little dose of reality in the Eagles' water coolers. The Eagles have a long way to go before becoming an elite team.
Check that. Make it a four-game losing streak.
After losing four straight, Andy Reid calls for a team meeting. He explains how much talent this team has and that everyone has to keep a level head.
Big Red called the meeting at the right time with the Birds amidst a four-game skid. The Eagles get a chance to take out their frustrations against another NFC West team.
After losing Matt Hasselbeck this offseason, the Seahawks QB situation is up in the air. Tarvaris Jackson may not even be the starter by Week 13.
From one messed-up QB situation to the next. The Dolphins are still content with letting Chad Henne roam around the backfield each week.
It's a shame because the Dolphins have a pretty darn good team, except for the most important position on a football team.
The Eagles get the ship back on track and put on a good showing down in Miami.
Ryan and the tough Jets defense will put pressure on Vick all day and make him throw the football in the pocket.
The Eagles defense will then struggle to stop the run against a very physical New York run game. The Eagles linebacker group will again surface to be an area of concern heading into postseason play.
Speaking of the weak Eagles linebackers, which one is going to cover Jason Witten? Unless the Birds bring out a third CB to cover the Pro Bowl TE, they are going to have trouble containing Witten on his home turf.
Witten and the Eagles are battling head to head for the NFC East title. A Cowboys win puts them deadlocked with one week to go.
By no means are the Eagles cruising into the postseason, but they do get there with a win over the Redskins in Week 17.
In what was a roller-coaster second half, the Birds battled through it and come out NFC East champions.
Michael Vick does not have nearly the same season as he did in 2010, but he did enough to get the team back to the playoffs for a third straight year.
9-7 (first place NFC East)