The Eagles face the Manning brothers in consecutive weeks after their Thursday night game with the Chiefs.
Chip Kelly said it’s just another game. It isn’t -– not really, but not for the reasons you probably think.
Forget about Andy Reid for a moment. That’s the main storyline this week, the triumphant return of the not-always triumphant former head coach, but that’s not why Thursday’s clash is so critical for the Eagles. There are only 16 games in the NFL regular season. All of them are important –- and yet not all stretches on the schedule are equal or equally difficult.
The matchup against Kansas City will be the Eagles’ third game in 11 days. That’s tough stuff. This is tougher: After facing the Chiefs, the Birds will play three straight road games –- at the Broncos, at the Giants, at the Buccaneers. If the Eagles beat Kansas City, they’ll be 2-1 as they head west to Denver, then back east to New York, then south to Tampa. If not ... well, the challenge of what’s in front of them is obvious and daunting.
“It’s really critical,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said about beating the Chiefs in advance of three-straight road games. “This being our final home game, basically, for the month. It’s really important to get a win. Definitely going on the road, when you talk about Denver, super solid team right now. Then against the Giants in New York. You don’t want to start out 1-4 or 1-5 or whatever. Just trying to get the games where you feel like you have a little bit of an advantage with being at home with the fans, that’s important.
“With such a short week, all we can do is focus on Thursday. But everyone knows how important it is to get that win and get that momentum and get back on the winning side of things.”
Following Thursday’s game, the Eagles won’t play at Lincoln Financial Field until Oct. 20. And while they’re away, they’ll face two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks –- both of whom have the same name.
“The quarterbacks we play against, they’re going to test you,” linebacker Brandon Graham said. “We’ve got Alex Smith, then right after that we have Peyton [Manning]. Then Eli [Manning]. Both Mannings back-to-back. It’s definitely not easy.”
At present, the Chiefs and Broncos are both undefeated. The Giants and Buccaneers have yet to win a game. Maybe, on the surface, the New York and Tampa games look easier, but none of the Eagles would ever say so, even if they believed it –- which they probably don’t. When asked about the upcoming schedule, many of the Birds acknowledged what a long, difficult slog they face. Many of them, but not all.
If there are players who see what’s ahead and think about it, there are others who employ the tunnel-vision approach as a matter of necessity.
“You guys are great at analyzing things,” wide receiver Jason Avant said. “Football players are like ‘Thursday we play. Far, down the road, we have the Broncos.’ We’re just trying to win Thursday. Giants on the road. I didn’t even know we play the Giants then. We just try to kind of focus on what’s next.”
What’s next is a big game -- and then three more, on the road, to follow.