With Eagles training camp set to begin in less than two weeks, let's look ahead to the upcoming season. I'm going to spend the next couple of days breaking down Philadelphia's 2016 schedule into four quarters. As a reminder, click here for the entire 2016 Eagles schedule. We previewed Philadelphia's first four games on Monday. Now let's look at the next four.
6) at Washington Redskins (Oct. 16, 1:00 PM)
The Eagles are 0-3 in their last three games against Washington. You have to go all the way back to a stretch from 1985 through 1987 to find the last time the Eagles lost to Washington more than twice in a row. Washington's recent dominance of the Eagles is disheartening, but one can question how long it will last. Despite winning the NFC East last season, Washington wasn't really a great team. They didn't defeat a squad with a winning record all year. Their starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins, put together a good season but he has to prove it wasn't a one-year wonder. He also has to prove he can beat a winning team for once in his career; he's 0-6 to this point.
The good news for Cousins is that he has some nice offensive weapons to work with. When healthy, Jordan Reed is a dynamic threat at tight end. The trio of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, and rookie first round pick Josh Doctson could form to be one of the NFL's most dangerous wide receiver groups. Philadelphia's unsettled cornerback situation will be tested in this matchup.
Though it may seem like I try to discredit Washington, I don't think they're bad. It's just that I don't see them as a truly good team. They're beatable. This game marks Doug Pederson's first NFC East battle.
7) Minnesota Vikings (Oct. 23, 1:00 PM)
The 2015 Vikings have a little bit of the 2013 Eagles to them. It's not a perfect comparison, but my point is that the Vikings seemed to be able to take care of weaker competition last year while struggling against some of the better teams. Perhaps Minnesota will make the leap from "good" to "great" this year. In order for that to happen, the Vikes are going to need more production out of Teddy Bridgewater. The third-year quarterback wasn't all that impressive last season. Bridgewater threw only 14 touchdowns to nine interceptions. He ranked 17th in yards per attempt and 22nd in passer rating. Football Outsiders rated Bridgewater 21st in DYAR and 22nd in DVOA.
I don't think this is an easy win for the Vikings. Schwartz's defense will put Bridgewater to the test. The bigger concern for Philadelphia is how their offense will fare against Mike Zimmer's defense. I'll give Minnesota the benefit of the doubt for now, but I hardly think this is a sure loss for the Birds.
8) at Dallas Cowboys (Oct. 30, 8:30 PM)
Philadelphia's first game against Dallas this season takes place on Sunday Night Football. There's been a weird trend going on with the Eagles and Cowboys where they can only beat each other in the other team's stadium. The Eagles are 4-1 in their last five games in Dallas, with the one loss coming during Philadelphia's four-win 2012 campaign.
It's hard to predict how the Cowboys are going to do this year because a lot of their success depends on the health of Tony Romo. Romo is 36 and has dealt with a number of injury issues recently. Schwartz and the Eagles' pass rush will want to attack him often. Dallas will likely try to mitigate the number of Romo attempts by relying heavily on their ground game, not unlike their 2014 model. That strategy also aims to prevent their defense from getting exposed. Stopping the run will be key for the Eagles in this one. If the Birds can do that, which is easier said than done, a win is achievable.
9) at New York Giants (Nov. 6, 1:00 PM)
As I often point out, the Eagles own the Giants. The Birds are 13-3 in their last 16 against Big Blue. Maybe New York's losing streak will turn around now that Tom Coughlin is gone and the mighty Ben McAdoo is in place. Eli Manning has already said the Giants will "definitely" make the playoffs. Odell Beckham Jr. will likely put Eagles receivers, who merely struggle to catch the ball, to shame by comparison.
The Giants are not without their weaknesses, though. They don't have much of a ground game and their defense is still suspect despite New York's efforts to spend a lot of money on defensive players this offseason. It remains to be seen if defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo can oversee a defense that isn't a disaster.
I'll give this game to the G-Men for now. It's going to be hard for the Eagles to win two division games on the road, and two out of three in four weeks.
Is 3-1 possible?
Given the weakened state of the NFC East, I don't think it's impossible the Birds could get three wins by either sweeping the division or grabbing two out of three and upsetting the Vikings. I don't think it's the most realistic situation, though. I see the Eagles going 2-2 here. So I have the Eagles around 3-5 or 4-4 after the first half of the season.
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 second quarter?