The Philadelphia Eagles’ season is set to begin this week with a road game against the St. Louis Rams. After looking at their schedule this year, the Eagles have plenty of tough games ahead.
Every coach will tell you that there is no such thing as an easy game in the NFL. Every win in this league is hard-earned.
While this is true in a philosophical sense, we as fans are free to talk about what games may be easier and which ones are tougher because we don’t have to worry about disrespecting an opponent.
Division games are usually always the toughest games of the season for most teams, especially for the Eagles since they play in the NFC East. Every game against the Cowboys, Giants and Redskins will be tough (yes, even the Redskins).
In picking out the five toughest games, I could easily say that at least three of four of them would be against division rivals. But that’s a little boring since we all know that’s pretty much a given.
Therefore, I’m only going to choose the one division game that I think will be the hardest and then focus the other four on the Eagles’ toughest non-division opponents this season.
Eagles @ Falcons, September 18th
- DeSean surely remembers how tough the Falcons are
The Eagles have beaten the Falcons the last four times they have played each other. Maybe the Eagles have their number? I wouldn’t go that far just yet.
I’m sure the Falcons will feel like they have something to prove against Philadelphia.
The Falcons were the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs last year when they rolled through the regular season with a 13-3 record (one of those losses was against Philly). Then they were promptly blown-out in the divisional round by the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers.
Talk about ruffled feathers! The Falcons must have felt they needed a little bit more of an explosive offense to hang with a team like the Packers.
This is why they gave up the farm in a draft day trade with Cleveland in order to move up into the top 10 to select WR Julio Jones.
With Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner, Tony Gonzalez and now Jones, the Falcons offense will be a force to be reckoned with.
However, the biggest reason I think this will be one the Eagles’ toughest games is because it takes place in just the second week of the season.
I feel that the Eagles will still be ironing some things out with all their new additions and scheme changes and may not be ready for an early season test against a well built team.
Eagles vs. Giants, September 25th
- This play has been eating at the Giants all offseason
This is my pick for the toughest division game this year. As stated earlier, all division games are difficult so it wouldn’t be hard to argue that any of the others wouldn’t be just as hard if not harder.
However, I chose this one because, much like my reasoning for the Falcons game, it comes early in the season. Will this new-and-improved Eagles team be cohesive enough by this time?
That is my biggest question for the Eagles as we head into the 2011 season. How long will it take the offensive line to gel? Will the new defensive scheme and personnel come together quickly?
Not only are those valid reasons that will make for a very difficult early division game against New York, but the Giants will be fired up and motivated to beat the Eagles.
The Eagles have beaten the Giants six times in a row, including a playoff win in 2008. When does the streak end?
The Giants have sustained a rash of injuries during the preseason and training camp. They were also a little miffed that the Eagles snatched WR Steve Smith out from under them.
One could argue that the Giants are a little weaker than they were last season.
But I don’t think that’s the case. They are a well-coached team and still have a nicely balanced offense and a good defense. Until Dallas shows they’re better than last year, the Giants are the Eagles’ main competition for the division title.
You can also never discount the rivalry here.
New York and Philadelphia do not like each other one bit. And with the taste of six straight losses in their mouths, the Giants will surely be ready to redeem themselves and may catch the Eagles at a vulnerable stage of the season.
Eagles vs. Bears, November 7th
- I still can’t believe the Eagles let this guy come back on them!
Da Bears? One of their toughest games? Yessir. For whatever reason, the Eagles seem to always have a tough time against this team.
The Eagles are 1-3 in their last four games against the Bears. Each game has been decided by five or fewer points.
At the time they played last season, the two teams were trying to position themselves for the playoffs. The winner would have the edge in a tie-breaking scenario for a possible second-seed and a first-round bye.
The Eagles just couldn’t quite get it done and lost a tough game, 31-26.
But that isn’t even the worst one. If you recall their 2007 match-up, the Eagles lost a heart-breaker when they allowed the Bears to come back in the final two minutes to win the game.
They let a weak Bears offense, led by QB Brian Griese (Brian Griese for crying out loud!), to drive down the field and score a touchdown to win the game, 19-16. That was inconceivable at the time.
Jay Cutler and the Bears will be visiting Philly again this season and it’s sure to be another hard-fought game that will likely be decided by one score.
Eagles vs. Patriots, November 27th
This one is kind of obvious. The Patriots are a perennial top team in the NFL. Led by two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady and their master-scheming head coach Bill Belichick, the Pats are a tough opponent for everyone.
The Eagles have never beaten Tom Brady, losing the only three times they’ve ever played him. The last time the Eagles beat the Patriots was way back in 1999, Andy Reid’s first season as head coach.
This game is in week 12 of the NFL season, which typically begins the stretch run for the playoffs. It will likely be an important game for both teams as they’ll surely be in a tight divisional race.
Even though inter-conference games have much less impact on playoff tie-breakers, every win counts. The Eagles may find themselves in a position to where they can’t afford too many more losses.
Eagles vs. Jets, December 18th
- Maybe the Eagles can distract Rex by playing in bare feet
The Eagles get to have three games against New York teams this year. The Jets will be every bit as tough as the Giants.
The Eagles and Jets don’t have much history together as far as regular season games. Though it seems they play each other every year in the preseason, they’ve only met four times in the regular season in the past 18 years.
The Eagles won all four times.
However, this is a Jets team that is set to challenge for it’s first Super Bowl birth since the year Joe Namath guaranteed a victory in Super Bowl III. Rex Ryan has built a team that plays great defense and solid offense.
I believe their addition of Plaxico Burress to the offense will make a distinct difference for them this season and as Eagles fans know all to well, Burress loves to terrorize the Eagles.
This is also another late season game when wins and losses are that much more critical.