Fearless Football Forecast by Jeff Lyons
It says here the Philadelphia Eagles will win at least 12 games this year. With a favorable early schedule and a healthy Donovan McNabb, the Birds should easily win the NFC's Eastern Division. I really like the signing of wide receiver Kevin Curtis. He's going to the main target for McNabb, with Reggie Brown and Hank Baskett getting lots of throws their way as well. Rookie tight end Brent Celek could be the offense's most pleasant surprise this season. Brian Westbrook should have another good year, especially if the Eagles decide to run the ball as much they did last season. And I absolutely love Tony Hunt as the short-yardage back. Look for him to score five or six touchdowns even with limited playing time.
The defense is a bit of a question mark. Brodrick Bunkley has played well in preseason and there is a lot of depth on the line. Linebacker could be a cause for concern, but Takeo Spikes will be the leader, now that Jeremiah Trotter has been released. Rookie Stewart Bradley will get more playing time as the season progresses. The secondary is strong and I wouldn't be surprised to see Quentin Mikell replace Sean Considine at starting safety. David Akers is as good as kickers get.
The Eagles open the season on Sunday, Sept. 9 in Green Bay and should have no problem with an aging Brett Favre and the Packers. Favre isn't getting any younger and his best days are clearly behind him. Donald Driver, Green Bay's best receiver, is questionable with a bad foot. 24-10, Eagles.
The Redskins, the opponent in Week 2, stink. Two members of their receiving corps include Eagles castoffs James Thrash and Todd Pinkston. Quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Clinton Portis have knee issues. I look for the Eagles to win big in their home opener on Monday Night Football by the count of 31-7.
A short week follows with the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Sept. 23. The Lions, like the Redskins, also stink. They have some nice receivers, but nobody to throw them the ball. Make it 28-3 Eagles.
The Eagles close out September with a trip up the New Jersey Turnpike and a visit with the New York Giants on Sunday, Sept. 30. I'm not an Eli Manning fan and without Tiki Barber to terrorize the Eagles defense, I look for Philadelphia to finish the month 4-0 with a 17-10 win.
Following a bye week, it's back to the Meadowlands, this time with the New York Jets as the opponents. Does Jets QB Chad Pennington strike fear in anyone's heart? Add in the lack of a running game from the New Yorkers, and the Eagles leave North Jersey for the second time in three weeks with a 17-10 win.
On Oct. 21, the NFC champion Chicago Bears visit Philadelphia in what figures to be the Eagles first big test of the season. The Bears feature a bruising defense and an inconsistent offense. Look for a close game with the Bears edging the Eagles, 16-14.
Former Eagles assistant coach Brad Childress is now the head man in Minnesota, where he'll be directing his Vikings against the Eagles on Oct. 28. The Vikings have explosive rookie running back Adrian Peterson and not much else. McNabb should be able to pick apart the Vikings defense and the Eagles will win, 27-13.
The hated Dallas Cowboys make their annual appearance in Philadelphia on Nov. 4 for a nationally televised Sunday night game. Bill Parcells is gone, replaced by Wade Phillips. The Cowboys will miss Parcells and his discipline and I'm willing to bet Terrell Owens will have done something by this point in the season to make everyone in Texas wonder if he was worth the aggravation. The Eagles take this one, in front of a raucous home crowd, 33-17.
Pencil in another win against Washington on Nov. 11, this time on the road at FedEx Field. I'm expecting the Eagles to have a difficult time with Miami on Nov. 18, only because they'll be looking ahead to the following week's game with New England. But the Eagles will beat the Dolphins, but it won't be pretty.
Then come the Patriots. Thanksgiving Weekend ends with the Eagles on the road in Massachusetts against perennial powerhouse New England on national television. This one has loss written all over it.
The Eagles return home on Dec. 2 to host the Seahawks, another tough matchup. Running back Shaun Alexander is one of the best in the league and their wide receivers are very talented. Seattle has a deep defensive line and looks to be the best team in the NFC West. But the Eagles will be a very determined team, looking to show that they are one of the NFL's elite squads. The Eagles win, by a late David Akers field goal, 24-21.
The Giants visit Philadelphia on Dec. 9 and the Eagles must win this game to solidify their playoff standing, especially with road games the next two weeks in Dallas and New Orleans. Look for a win against the Giants and losses to the Cowboys and Saints. The hand-wringing reaches a crescendo as the Eagles close out the regular season by pounding Buffalo.
If, and that's a really, really, REALLY big if, all the Eagles key players stay healthy for the year, this team should win 12 games. That should be good enough for a first-round playoff bye and a trip to the NFC Championship game.
Jeff Lyons, senior managing editor of the Philadelphia Bar Reporter and Bar Reporter Online, thinks he knows a lot more about football than he really does. He should really stick to writing about baseball.