Looking at all the premature projections and silly simulations for the upcoming NFL season, the one thing that really concerns me is the Eagles have a tough opening schedule format. This is how it shapes up:
Three out of our first four games are AWAY. I know, some NFL head coaches prefer their opening game to be AWAY, since it means more pre-game time closed away from the possible distractions of HOME media and fan attention. More focus time for the players basically locked inside the hotel…
But three AWAY games out of the first 4 games? And the 4th game of the season entails a cross-country flight to San Diego?
Brutal. But the good news is the next 4 out of 5 games after that are played at HOME. The only road game in the mix is a relatively short trip to North Carolina. Then and only then do we have to travel to Dallas to take on the current defending champs of the NFC East.
So what’s my point?
Here it is— we need a good start over the first 10 games. I define “good start” as 5-5 or better. This team cannot afford to come out hot at 3-0 then go 2-8 immediately thereafter like last year. That’s the kiss of death from Mr. Goldfinger…or “Fools-Gold”-Finger…
It’s not going to be easy to establish that kind of consistency early, but it is the key to sniffing a divisional title at either 9-7 or 10-6. And I think with all due respect to the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins, that kind of win total could be good enough to win the NFC East this year—assuming the four ancient divisional rivals take turns beating each other up.
Yeah, I don’t usually care that much about the opponent rating “strength of schedule”…for as the ancient prophet Brizer once said, it’s not whom you play so much as when you play ’em. And he’s right— remember last season when we dismantled the Pittsburgh Steelers in a complete rout in September? Then jump forward to January—Steelers win the AFC North, we go through growing pains and finish last in the NFC East.
I just look at the first ten games or so of the 2017 schedule as requiring the Eagles’ ability to get down in the dirt, swallow some dirt and somehow come out clean after 10 games with at least a 5-5… or we are going to be looking at a genuine rebuilding year the rest of the way.
The season opener at Washington is ominous. You know that crowd is going to be super fired-up, especially with the Kirk Cousins drama at an all-time high. In case you haven’t noticed, the ‘Skins have been handling their business against us in a nasty fashion over the past few seasons.
Then you follow that game up with a trip to Kansas City. Andy Reid would love to beat us and you know it. That KC crowd will be dripping with red which of course symbolizes the blood of their opponents.
That’s not an easy start to a season which has to go right for a 2nd year coach like Dougie. They don’t wait much longer than 2 years anymore for a 2nd-year head coach to find his way. Not in Philadelphia, anyway—maybe in Jacksonville you get a little more slack.
The other thing about the early part of the schedule is there is going to be inevitable collateral damage, but there is only a maximum break in the schedule of 11 days between the Thursday night game against the Panthers (October 12) and our second game of the season against the Redskins on October 23. I’d feel a whole lot better about things if we had been given a BYE Week prior to that second Redskins game. That’s just an intuitive thing I have about the combined effects of excessive travel and related stress injuries. I feel our older players need that BYE week earlier rather than later. Just a hunch…
Anyway, like Admiral Palmy in Sarasota says, to be the best you’ve got to beat the best under the worst of circumstances—or sumlin like that.
Another concern is how relatively unsure I am about the validity of the PFF ratings for the Eagles offensive line. So is veteran poster SENHOR COOK:
“The BEST teams have the best O-LINE’s. I know the Eagles were lauded by Pro Football Focus as having the best O-line in the league recently. Say what? An aging, although I love him, Jason Peters is a shell of what he used to be and did not deserve the Pro Bowl nod he got last year. Left Guard seems to be a revolving and leaky door. Kelce is a very athletic center, but he struggled with penalties and being overmatched often last year. Brooks was too often unavailable. Johnson is fantastic, when he is there. He is one PED test away from being gone permanently guys. The backups are exactly that, backups.”
PHILLY ROD looks past my worries:
“Let’s see, last year, … 36 drops and 6 games lost by one score . LJ gone 10 games, and very mediocre run game. Everyone keeps saying “will Carson make the leap?” …simple answer, he doesn’t have that far to leap, and with the new toys at his disposal, at the end of the year, people will say “wow! , Carson had a great year!”, when the reality is, he simply got more reliable receivers, and a hammer for short yardage. Yes I think he has some things to clean up, but he was really pretty darn good last year.
The Defense got better too, CB’s are looking better, but I will hold judgment on them for now. D-line should be very strong, I am hoping they dominate at the line of scrimmage. Second year with new coaches and scheme, I am always a little biased, but I think the Eagles have a good shot at taking the division.”
STINE tries to put it all in balance:
“Think we all know what our strengths and weaknesses are by now. LOL, we have been looking at this team under a microscope for the past month! CB may be the weakest part of the team, but we are better (at least on paper) on the D-Line and are strong at safety, so we may be able to deal with an average CB crew. Plus as many have mentioned, Aaron Grymes has made major strides this year.
On offense we are fairly set and should be able to move the ball on anyone. I would be shocked if we did not average 22 points a game. We should be close to 24…. So we go back to our Defense…. Can we keep opponents from scoring 20 per game? I say we can, especially if we get ahead early to force them to throw the ball…. ST’s should still be a strong point with Fipp here….”
The AWAY opener is just about only two months away. Isn’t that an amazing testament to the relative quickness of the passing of time? I know you can’t wait for it, but you’ve already waited 5 months just to get to here. Seems like yesterday to me…