Here it is: the official predictions thread. Saw some of you folks were getting a jump on them in yesterday's season preview, but if you want them to count, you better re-post them here!
After the jump, we go game-by-game for the season ahead in our most extensive Eagles predictions to date, and as always, we want to hear from all the Birds loyalists.
For the record, I don't often pat myself on the back, but as long as I've been posting these predictions on The700Level, I've been extremely accurate. In '08, I predicted an NFC Championship appearance, in '09 I correctly predicted the Division Championship would come down to Week 17 against Dallas, and last season I had the Eagles winning 10 games and making their surprise playoff appearance. Let's make it four-for-four this year.
Week 1 @ St. Louis
The Eagles are not the only team in flux to start the season. QB Sam Bradford will playing in his second offensive system in as many seasons, and had just 38 days to get it down. He isn't exactly working with a plethora of weapons in the passing game either, so the transition could be slow and painful. Head coach Steve Spagnuolo will bring a tough defense to the party, but the Birds have enough playmakers to survive. Look for LeSean McCoy to be a big factor here. W
Week 2 @ Atlanta
Back-to-back road games might be a bit much to kick off the season, especially one at the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons have been practically unbeatable in recent years. The Eagles' defensive line and linebackers will be tested by a power running game featuring RB Michael Turner, which gets the better of them in the end. Michael Vick's homecoming on Monday Night Football is spoiled when Atlanta wins the time of possession battle, thus continuing their recent trend of losing to playoff teams. L
Week 3 v New York Giants
The Giants will eventually get their defense sorted out after being absolutely decimated by injuries this summer, but it won't happen this fast. Even several of the players who will return this season won't be back by Week 3. Meanwhile, the Gmen have allowed 150 points against the Eagles in their last four meetings, and have lost a grand total of six straight to the Birds. After Week 3, it will be seven. W
Week 4 v San Francisco
The Birds draw the 49ers for the fourth consecutive season, and are the winners in the first three, though every contest has been relatively hard fought. Once again, San Fran just doesn't have the horses to keep up for 60 minutes, but it could be another close one. TE Vernon Davis will be all Jamar Chaney can handle, while RB Frank Gore will make the Eagles' smaller linebackers work. Alex Smith is still the QB however, and that only takes a team so far. W
Week 5 @ Buffalo
Could this be one of those infamous trap games, like the Raiders in Week 5 of '09? Maybe, but the Bills offense will play right into the Eagles' strengths. According to Football Outsdiers Almanac, no team went empty backfield more often than Buffalo, a whopping 15% of the time, and no offense, but QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the gunslinger we envision solving this secondary. Whether their defense is improved will be the X-factor, but c'mon, this isn't a cross country trip to Oakland or anything. W
Week 6 @ Washington
Believe it or not, there are actually people out there who think the Redskins will be good, maybe even win the division! We won't weigh in here, but no matter how bad things are in D.C., they always seem to take at least one off the Birds. This could be a look-ahead game (to the bye week) for a team that's starting to get a little over-confident. RB Tim Hightower gives the defense fits, and Vick has a tough outing against a defense desperately seeking redemption after 2010's 59-21 embarrassment. L
Week 7 Bye
Week 8 v Dallas
If there has been one constant during the Andy Reid era, it's the Birds will win coming out of the bye. Doesn't seem to matter who the opponent is, and the Cowboys, while a quality team, are not exactly a superpower this year. W
Week 9 v Chicago
After three consecutive appearances at Soldier Field (1-2 record), the Eagles will finally welcome the Bears back to the friendly confines of Lincoln Financial. As is the theme with the familiar foes in the early parts of the schedule, these are always close games, and we know what to expect from the Bears--average offense, solid defense. That defense matches up well against the likes of Vick, with great athletes like DE Julius Peppers and MLB Brian Urlacher. In their traditional fashion, Chitown finds a way to just barely edge the Birds. L
Week 10 v Arizona
The Cardinals are a difficult team to get a read on, in part because despite spending four seasons here, we don't really know what to think of Kevin Kolb yet. What we do know is Arizona's offensive line has protection problems, and Kolb struggled when the pressure got to him. This has Jim Washburn-impact game written all over it. The Cards are also thin in the secondary after trading Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie and losing Greg Toler to injury, so DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should find room to work. W
Week 11 @ New York Giants
After Week 3, the streak is up to seven, and we don't see it ending this season. Under Tom Coughlin and defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, we expect the defense to steadily improve as some guys come back, and they find answers in other areas, but not enough to run with the Eagles. It's just not their year, but the winning streak is starting to remind me of the one the Giants had over the Birds early last decade. They will eventually snap out of it, just not yet. W
Week 12 v New England
This could very well be the NFL's game of the year. Whether or not you think the Eagles can beat the Patriots depends on how good you think either team is. Bill Belichick is a brilliant coach who will find a way to get his offense moving no matter what defense it is, and the Patriots defense is questionable enough to assume they will give up some big plays. I am going with a New England loss for two reasons: 1. I think Andy Reid is due against Belichick, and 2. the Eagles play some of their best football in November. W
Week 13 @ Seattle
Scheduling gods, be damned! After hosting perhaps the best opponent on their slate, the Eagles must fly cross country to Seattle for a Thursday night game against the Seahawks. It doesn't matter how good or bad they are, that situation has loss written all over it. Qwest Field is a hard enough place to play as it is, but on three days rest after a brutal showdown against one of the NFL's best... L
Week 14 @ Miami
And then the rebound game. There really isn't much that stands out for the Dolphins. Their offense is underwhelming in basically every possible way, and
the defense is solid, but features few game-changers. With 10 days off between games, the Eagles will be extra fresh for this game, and unless Miami can find a way to come up with some big plays, the Birds should pull away. W
Week 15 v New York Jets
The number one thing with the Jets is their defense is not quite as great as its reputation. They were flat out dominant in '09, but came back to earth last season. They still have a scary secondary, headlined by CB Darrelle Revis, but they are a little soft up front after DT Kris Jenkins' retirement, and lacking a dangerous pass rush specialist. Offensively, they'll have success on the ground, but Mark Sanchez is their quarterback. Unless he drastically improves, it could be a big day for Philly defensive backs. W
Week 16 @ Dallas
With the Giants and Redskins looking very much like they will be out of the picture by, oh, let's say November, the Cowboys could step up and become the number one competition to the Eagles in the NFC East. And with Philly potentially in the mix for a post-season bye, and Dallas reaching for a playoff spot of their own, look for them to pull out all the stops in this one. New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will do his best to confuse Vick, who at this point is still prone to laying the occasional egg, and Big D gets a much needed win to stay alive. L
Week 17 v Washington
Whether this game matters to the Eagles or not... doesn't matter. By this time, the Mike Shanahan experiment will be on the way out, as the Redskins will have nothing to play for but pride. And at many positions, the Birds are so deep, their backups could probably beat a lot of the lesser teams out there... like Washington! Eagles roll no matter what it means in the standings. W
Ever since the Eagles' shopping spree this off-season, people have been approaching me to ask whether I think they will win the Super Bowl. If you've been reading long enough, you know I don't think things work that way.
Too much can happen between now and the playoffs, in a sport where the final score can be determined by one unlucky bounce, or one great individual effort. Part of winning a championship, obviously, is having a quality team. The other parts are being fortunate and timely.
My answer is, they will be there at the end. Maybe not the Super Bowl, maybe not even the NFC Championship, depending on who they draw. They are certainly a team to put on the watch-list though, one that the rest of the NFC will not want to see along the road to Indianapolis.
When the games are kicking off in September, 11-5 and a true contender are all you can ask. How do you see them finishing this season?