Philadelphia Eagles training camp begins in a little over two weeks. With nothing else better to do, let's look ahead to the upcoming season. I'm going to spend the next couple of days breaking down the team's 2015 schedule into four quarters. As a reminder, here's the entire 2015 Eagles schedule. We reviewed Philadelphia's first four games on Tuesday. Now let's look at the next four.
5) New Orleans Saints (Oct. 11, 1:00 PM)
From an outside perspective, the Saints' offseason is confusing. What's their plan? Trading away an established star tight end like Jimmy Graham seemed to signal a rebuild, but then the Saints also traded away a young talent like the 23-year-old Kenny Stills. The Saints drafted a potential quarterback of the future in Garrett Grayson, but for now Drew Brees is still very much around.
If the team is hoping to make another run with Brees, the defense has to be a lot better than it was last year. Rob Ryan's unit ranked second to last in DVOA in 2014. The Saints ranked as the worst run defense in the entire NFL. If that trend continues, the Saints are in big trouble when they play the Eagles. Philadelphia's run-heavy offense could make for a huge mismatch in favor of the Eagles.
The Saints just aren't as threatening on the road as they are in the Superdome. Then again, that's what everyone said back during the 2014 NFL Playoffs. The Eagles and Saints have gone through a great deal of change since that playoff game, however. Former New Orleans players Darren Sproles and Malcolm Jenkins happen to be very big contributors to Philadelphia now. There's no question the Saints missed them last year. This year, they could help their new team beat their old team. This is winnable for Philly.
6) New York Giants (Oct. 19, 8:30 PM)
It feels like it's been a long time since there was a good, even-matched Eagles-Giants game that actually mattered. The Eagles clobbered the G-Men in a shutout early last season before Mark Sanchez led the team to a victory in a meaningless Week 17 finale. In 2013, the first Eagles-Giants game was kind of close ... but Philadelphia scored 17 unanswered starting late in the third quarter to win 36-21. The other Eagles-Giants game that year was when an injured Michael Vick started and a rookie Matt Barkley had to play. And the G-Men only won by 8 points on a final score of 15-7. You really have to go back to the Eagles-Giants game in 2012 when Philadelphia retired Brian Dawkins' No. 20 jersey to find an even-sided affair.
The Eagles have dominated the Giants during the Chip Kelly era. Philadelphia has outscored the G-Men by a total of 104-62 over the past two seasons. The Giants haven't really made any changes to make me believe that trend will change, though defending Odell Beckham Jr. will obviously be a challenge.
7) @ Carolina Panthers (Oct. 25, 8:30 PM)
The Panthers somehow managed to be the least incompetent team in the utterly disgraceful NFC South last year. Carolina looked terrible when they came to play in Philadelphia. Mark Sanchez ripped the Panthers' (formerly) vaunted defense to shreds. Cam Newton got sacked a billion times and made some bad decisions with the ball. It wasn't pretty for the visiting team.
This time around the Eagles will be on the road. Road games can be tough, but I'm not overly impressed by the Panthers. I wasn't high on Carolina heading into 2014 and I haven't seen good reason to change my opinion on them since.
8) BYE Week
I'd argue the Eagles' bye week comes at a good time. It's about halfway through the season. Most importantly, it gives them time to rest up before a crucial game.
9) @ Dallas Cowboys (Oct. 19, 8:30 PM)
This one isn't all that far removed from the Eagles-Cowboys game set to take place in Week 2, so it's bound to be a great rematch. The Eagles probably won't have an easy time demolishing the Cowboys like they did on Thanksgiving last year. Chip Kelly is 2-0 at games in Jerry's World, but it won't be easy to reach 3-0. This will be Sam Bradford's (?) first big division road game test.
Is a 4-0 record possible?
No. The Eagles will lose at least one of these games, if not two. Considering we expect the Eagles to have a strong start, however, they still should be above .500 by the half mark. 6-2 or 5-3 looks realistic to me.
Tomorrow I'll preview the third quarter of the Eagles schedule. For now, what say you about these four games? Where will the Eagles stand after the first half of the season?