The roster is now final and the stage set for the opening of the NFL season. For the Eagles, the most impactful decision was the correct one. Trent Edwards played his way onto the roster and Mike Kafka was released. Once Foles solidified himself as the young QB waiting in the wings, there was no need to keep Kafka, whose prospects as a starting NFL QB were dubious anyway. It made more sense to keep the veteran Edwards on the roster.
Now that the start of the season is just four days away, fans begin to really salivate. As much as fans rabidly follow “their team”, the great thing about the NFL is that out-of-town matchups are almost as enjoyable, especially when they involve teams from the same division as “your team.”
For Eagles fans, the season opener will provide an opportunity to see their two biggest rivals in the division, the Giants and the Cowboys, as the Redskins take up residence in the NFC East basement as usual.
New York Giants
The Giants are defending champions somehow, so they have to be given a modicum of respect. However, they are not the perennial powerhouses most defending champions are. Aside from their two improbable runs to the Super Bowl, they have not won a playoff game in Tom Coughlin’s eight years as coach.
Not to discredit the success they have had; any fan would take it, but in terms of predicting future success, it is not a given as it would be for most defending champions. They were not the best team in the NFL either year they won the Lombardi Trophy. Not that it matters looking back, but looking forward, it does.
Eli Manning has managed to win big games and escape Peyton’s shadow. He has not eclipsed his brother as a QB as some foolishly suggest, but he has proven himself more clutch. The Giants receiving corps is strong with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz returning.
Their weakness on offense would seem to be their running game. Ahmad Bradshaw seems to always be injured and has only once played a full season (2010) as the primary back in an offense. The Giants have always managed Bradshaw’s fragility in the past because they had quality backups. Now, they will turn to untested rookie David Wilson when Bradshaw can’t go—which may be the case in week one. This has to be a concern for the Giants.
The Giants defense turned it on in the playoffs after being shredded for most of the regular season. They ranked 27th in the NFL in defense last season. Their front seven is formidable, with the almost unstoppable Jason Pierre Paul leading the way. However, he was there last year and because their defensive backfield is suspect, the Giants regular season defense was still weak. They will improve this year, but not by leaps and bounds.
Overall, the Giants will once again be a strong team and look to be the Eagles toughest NFC opponent.
With all due respect to King, it seems he overvalues the Cowboys. They were a .500 team last year and it does not seem likely they will finish much better this year.
Tony Romo is an enigma. He is talented and puts up solid numbers, but has displayed an inability to perform in the clutch. Until he shows he can lead a team to success, one has to assume that he is unable to do so.
They are banking on Demarco Murray to carry their running game. Murray seemingly came out of nowhere to rush for 253 yards in week seven. The rest of the way, he had only two one yard rushing performances and was only able to carry the ball seventeen times over the past two weeks when the Cowboys needed him most. He has never carried the load for an entire season and until he does, it is a shaky proposition to believe he can.
Their receiving corps is comprised of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant primarily. Austin is coming off a subpar year and though only 28, seems to be on the down side. A bounce-back year is still possible though.
Bryant is supremely talented, but has too much baggage to be counted on. The Cowboys have assigned 24-hour monitoring of Bryant and forbidden him from staying out after midnight, going to strip clubs or drinking alcohol. Football is littered with very talented players too immature and lacking in discipline to succeed in the NFL. Bryant has a strong chance of joining that group.
The Cowboys defense was ranked fourteenth last season. They added some talent, but do not appear to be a top ten defense, or offense for that matter.
The Redskins might be slightly more interesting to watch with RG3 running the show. In reality, they will simply compile their annual six wins in a more interesting manner than usual this year.
The Eagles preview has been covered previously. However, it is interesting to note that Eagles fans like to complain about the Eagles preseason defense… which was ranked number one in the entire NFL this preseason. These stats mean little, but it is intriguing to examine the difference between perception and reality. The numbers tell the story that Eagles fans just like to complain, perhaps endearingly.
With no bold predictions to offer, I am of the opinion that the Eagles and Giants will battle for the NFC East division title and that two teams from the NFC East will make the playoffs.
I look forward to offering my firsthand account of the Eagles season opener in Cleveland next week. Since this is primarily read by fellow Eagles fans… Go BIRDS!