Let us pretend the NFL will get its act together and actually have a 2011 season, because one of the great sports fan exercises is taking the recently released NFL schedules, and projecting a team's ending record.
The NFL estimates the Eagles will have to travel 13,276 miles during the 2011 regular season (assuming there is one). For the Eagles to make a return appearance in the playoffs, it figures to have some bumpy moments.
Getting off to a strong start every season is key, but the NFL did Michael Vick and company no favors with 4 of the 6 games before the bye being played away from Lincoln Financial Field in St. Louis, Atlanta, Buffalo, and Washington.
The only game that would stick out immediately is Michael Vick returning home to Atlanta, in a nationally televised Sunday night game.
The Eagles last opened with the Rams in 2008, at home, and won 38-3. It could be a swing game this time though, because dealing with the dangerous NFC South champions with a 0-1 record could be a recipe for a 0-2 start, which rarely leads to playoff appearances.
Two home games follow that start, including the Giants' annual trip to the Linc. If the Eagles can get through the San Francisco game 3-1, one would have to think they're in pretty good shape going into the Buffalo and Washington trips. 4-2 would be an excellent start to the campaign, especially with all the road games, but 3-3 would be a more logical guess.
After the bye, the Eagles get 3 games at home, including Dallas' trip to test Andy Reid's stellar post-break record, with the Bears and Cardinals also heading east. I'll say they go 2-1 in this stretch, putting them at 5-4.
Next up, a super tough, three-game stretch including a trip to the Giants, a home game with the Patriots, and then the Seahawks. Yes, the Seahawks.
Wait, you say how could I include the NFC West champions in that trio? Simple, the NFL made that trip to Seattle much tougher than it would seem. The Eagles/Patriots game is currently scheduled to be at 4:15, and NBC could very well flex the game to 8:20 if the Eagles are good. The game in Seattle is the following Thursday night, a tough, even on a luxury jet, 5-hour flight across the country.
Combine the travel factor with the other two games, 1-2 might be what the Eagles are looking at here. That pushes them to 6-6 with 4 games remaining.
The good news, the last 4 games are absolutely winnable. First there is a trip to Miami to take on the Dolphins, who may still be trying to figure out their quarterback situation. Rex Ryan and the Jets come to Philadelphia in Week 14, in what should be an interesting study to see how Eagles fans handle the son of Buddy. This very well could be the swing game of the whole season. If it was in New York, I might think otherwise, but I will give the Eagles the edge at home.
Christmas Eve will send the Eagles to Dallas, and then the New Year is rung in at home against Washington. Divisional games are always tough to call, but if the Eagles have playoff aspirations at this point, which I think they will, they find a way to win both.
So in my very early projection, this does look like a bumpy 10-6 record, the type of playoff push that makes you nervous relying on a 4-game winning streak on the end. This much is for certain, there are not a lot of breathers for the Eagles this year, can they overcome?
(That's the sound of me holding my breath that this season will actually be played.)
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