As we wait an unnecessarily long time for the NFL Draft to begin, I’ll at least attempt to ease your anticipation with this complete breakdown of the Eagles’ 2014 regular-season schedule. The Birds have a few tough matchups against the NFC West, but they also face teams like the Redskins twice, Jaguars, and Texans. If the Eagles live up to the expectations of winning at least 4 games in the NFC East and take down either the 49ers or Seahawks, they can not only win their division, they also have a realistic chance of getting the first-round bye that they sorely needed in the playoffs last season. I believe they can do this and they will, ending the season with a 12-4 record and the #2 seed in the NFC, behind only Seattle.
Week 1: Jacksonville Jaguars
Facing the Jaguars at home to kick off the season is the perfect way to build momentum for the tough road ahead. The Jaguars are a bad team and a new quarterback, or even Jadeveon Clowney if they go that route, won’t turn them around overnight. This game will be a blowout and the Eagles will have a ton of momentum on their side as they win in a blowout to kick off the season 1-0.
Week 2: at Indianapolis Colts
This matchup will be a lot tougher than the Jaguars beatdown, but it won’t keep Nick Foles from putting up ridiculous stats. Both of these teams are similar, with a young franchise quarterback and a defense that has potential but still needs work. The run game will be the difference maker, as LeSean McCoy is strictly better than the Colts’ pair of first round busts Donald Brown and Trent Richardson. This will be a high scoring game for both teams but Philadelphia’s superior run game will push them over the edge as they win to go 2-0.
Week 3: Washington Redskins
It’s the game everyone is waiting for. The Birds’ first game against DeSean Jackson’s Redskins. While adding Jackson obviously made the Redskins better, but they are still only the third best team in the division. Jackson will give us a headache just like he had for the rest of the division for the last 6 seasons, but that far from guarantees the Redskins a win. The Eagles will be pumped for this game as it is also the first NFC East game of the season. Eagles win and continue their streak to 3-0.
Week 4: at San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are the 2nd best team in football, and they would be perennial division winners if the Seahawks weren’t also in the NFC West. This will be among the most challenging matchups for the Eagles this season, since not only is it against one of the NFL’s other elite teams, it is a road game on the west coast. Visiting teams often perform poorly when traveling to the other coast for some reason. Coming off an emotional division rival victory, the Eagles keep it close but let it slip away near the end, losing as they go to 3-1.
Week 5: St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams are one of those teams that always looks good before preseason but falls short once the action starts. The Eagles are back home and ready to put San Francisco behind them and win another game at home, something the fans didn’t get to see a lot of until midway through last season. This is simply a case of an inferior team being overmatched on the road by a playoff contender. Eagles win and improve to 4-1.
Week 6: New York Giants
This is always a fun rivalry to watch. Since the rest of the NFC East is weak, the Eagles will probably win this one, and they will train hard for it because they are at home on primetime. The Giants, though, will be tougher to beat in the division than the Cowboys and Redskins. Eli Manning will throw multiple interceptions in a game that won’t be a complete blowout but won’t be close either. Eagles win and enter the bye week 5-1.
Week 7: Bye
Week 8: at Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals are going to be one of the surprise teams to contend for the playoffs, as they were mathematically less than one game away in 2013. They have been a thorn in the Eagles’ side for quite some time regardless of how either team is doing at the time. Larry Fitzgerald will be too much for the mediocre secondary to handle as the Cardinals take this one and the Eagles fall to 5-2.
Week 9: at Houston Texans
The Texans were the worst team in the NFL last season, and they will have a new quarterback for 2014. This rookie quarterback will likely struggle as will the rest of the team. The second half of the Eagles’ post-bye road trip will turn out much better than the first, as the Texans have holes all over their roster. Eagles win this easily and improve to 6-2.
Week 10: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers were another team among the top of the NFC last season, winning their division and taking the 4th seed in the playoffs. The Eagles would have probably beaten them had the Saints won the division and the Panthers forced to play them in Philly. Things won’t change, as the Panthers proved to be a team that just got hot at the right time last year but you can never count out Cam Newton’s offense and Luke Kuechly’s defense. They are still a very good team and the game will be a struggle, but the Eagles will win a close one here and advance to 7-2.
Week 11: at Green Bay Packers
The Eagles travel back to the Frozen Tundra for a rematch against the Packers, where last season Nick Foles ended the game with a 9-minute long drive that didn’t let the Packers defense off the field. The Packers were understandably angry and they will want revenge. The Eagles, in turn, will be elated coming off the close Monday Night win against the Panthers and drop this one, and go to 7-3.
Week 12: Tennessee Titans
The Titans have been in a constant state of flux for a few years now. They aren’t a very good team at home, and even worse on the road. An injury-prone quarterback, a sluggish, complacent running back, and holes in the defense all add up to humiliation on the road at the talons of the Eagles. The Birds take this one easily and advance to 8-3.
Week 13: at Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles travel to the House that Jerry Built for the first game in this heated division rivalry. The Eagles are a young team on its way up, and the Cowboys are a stagnant team getting older every year. The Eagles shouldn’t underestimate them though, as they always put in extra effort against division rivals. Many experts are predicting the Cowboys to finish last in the division. It’s a no-brainer here. Eagles win and clinch a winning season as they go 9-3.
Week 14: Seattle Seahawks
This will be the game that will be the biggest test for the Eagles as a team. The defending Super Bowl champions are the toughest team in the league to beat, and I think they will go undefeated at home. But this game will be a trap for them. They are on the road, on the opposite coast, and it’s quite possible that they will have already clinched the division or even a first-round bye at this point. They won’t bring their “A game” and the Eagles will take advantage of it. They clinch the division, and with it, a home playoff game, here. 10-3.
Week 15: Dallas Cowboys
The Eagles face the Cowboys for the second time in 3 weeks, this time at home. Nothing will have significantly in those two weeks, and the Cowboys will be just as bad as ever. The Eagles are the only good team in the NFC East and it shows, as they will advance to 4-0 in the division and 11-3 overall.
Week 16: at Washington Redskins
The Redskins, like the Giants and Cowboys, are predicted to struggle in 2014 despite the addition of DeSean Jackson. He will certainly give the the Eagles the same problems he gave the Redskins throughout his time in Philly. However, a more complete offense and a far superior (to the Redskins, at least) defense will lead the Eagles to clinch the #2 seed with their 12th win of the season.
Week 17: at New York Giants
With the #2 seed clinched, the Eagles are unable to move up or down in playoff seeding, the Eagles rest their starters. The Giants win this one playing against backups and the Eagles finish the regular season 12-4, with a first round bye in the playoffs.