Week #1 – Eagles vs. Redskins

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year….

While the 1963 Andy Williams hit is a popular staple during the Christmas season, and also part of a humorous advertisement by an office supplies store, it will also apply to this coming Sunday as far as I’m concerned.

On that day, I won’t walk downstairs to the kitchen but “PRANCE” (and prance is not a word I would often use unless referring to Fred Astaire).  On that day, the eggs for breakfast will taste just a little better. The sun will be shining no matter how dreary the forecast may look outside.  Even the sound of the neighbor’s dog barking won’t sound as annoying.

The start of football season, 2013 edition in Philadelphia represents an “out with the old and in with the new” philosophy.  Gone are the Nnamdi’s, the DRC’s, the Jim Washburn’s, the wide-nine, the Howard Mudd’s, and most importantly, the head coach, Andy Reid.

In is Chip Kelly, who brings a new way of thinking, and a brand new coaching staff to boot.  Like an old dishwasher that just can’t do the job any more, the Eagles of the past have been discarded and replaced with a 2013 model with all the fancy bells, whistles, and latest gadgetry.   Of course, while the packaging looks pretty and shiny from the outside, only time will tell if it actually works properly.

Most Eagles fans will unfortunately have to enjoy the Week #1 Sunday slate of games merely as an “appetizer”, since the main course, their beloved Birds vs. the Washington Redskins, won’t get underway till Monday night at approximately 7:10 PM.   But what’s an extra day when we’ve waited a whole offseason?

The 2012 edition of the Washington Redskins, like the Eagles, were both 3-6 and going nowhere fast when the two teams met on Nov. 18, 2012.  But the Redskins won that game and never looked back, winning seven straight en route to a 10-6 record and their first NFC East divisional title since 1999.

The 2013 success of the Redskins will hinge on the health of Robert Griffin, III (RG3), who tore his ACL in the wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks back in January.  Griffin has been cleared to play and will most likely start, though there is always the chance he could be quite rusty coming off such a serious injury.  If he falters, backup Kirk Cousins showed last year that he can step in and lead the team to victory.

The Eagles would do well to get a steady pass rush on RG3, which might rattle him and also help to disguise the lack of playmakers the team has in the secondary.

On the offensive side, the Eagles have the playmakers to move the ball and score, but what happens now that other teams will actually be game planning for Chip Kelly’s offense?

This will be one of only two primetime games the Eagles will have this season, (with the other coming in week #3 against the Kansas City Chiefs).  Considering that every team gets at least one primetime game (if you’re REALLY bad, the NFL Network will still put you on their Thursday night schedule at least once), a team like the Eagles that was accustomed to playing before the national spotlight multiple times every season will have to prove to the network executives that they are deserving of reclaiming that stature.

Of course, if the Eagles get off to a good start and are in playoff contention late in the season, one of their last six games could always be “flexed” (moved) to the Sunday night NBC primetime game.  But what is the likelihood of that happening?

If the Eagles finish the season at 7-9 or 8-8, it would be a noble improvement and give their fans hope for the future.

9-7 would be a pleasant surprise and a record that many fans would probably sell their soul to achieve.

Not sure what 6-10 would mean, but anything less than six wins and the offseason would be spent questioning if the Chip Kelly hire was a wise one.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the ride of the 2013 football season.  Anything’s better than watching reruns of 1980’s sitcoms…or the Phillies.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless otherwise noted):

Ravens at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC (Thurs) – This game is a rematch of last year’s Divisional playoff, which the Broncos had all but wrapped up until the “Nightmare at Mile High” took place and Jacoby Jones slipped past two Denver defenders to snag a game-tying touchdown with 31 seconds left, eventually leading to a Ravens victory in the 2nd overtime.

This was traditionally supposed to be a home game for the Super Bowl champions and a chance for the hometown fans to revel in the team’s prior year success. Instead, with baseball’s Baltimore Orioles and the football Baltimore Ravens having a scheduling conflict, the Ravens were forced to start their season on the road.

My prediction – NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Orioles owner Peter Angelos won’t be meeting for crabs and beer in Fells Point anytime soon.

Bengals at Bears  1:00 PM CBS – The Bengals made it to the 1st round of the playoffs the last two years and are hoping to take the next step this year.  The Bears started strong the last two years but faltered in the 2nd half, missing the playoffs both years.   Being early September, at least wind should not be a major factor in the “Windy City”.

Packers at 49ers 4:25 PM FOX – An intriguing matchup pitting one veteran quarterback (Packers QB Aaron Rodgers) against another who seemed to arrive last year in 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.  But can Kaepernick deliver in 2013 now that there are actually EXPECTATIONS for him to do so?

Geographically, this game also represents the “Valley of the Wines” against the “Land of the Cheeses”.  Strange – and all this time I was told by the wine connoisseurs that wine and cheese go TOGETHER??

Giants at Cowboys 8:30 PM NBC If it seems like the Cowboys are always on Sunday night during week #1 of the NFL season, you are right…they areThis year will make it three out of the last four, and when they weren’t on Sunday night last year, they still faced off against the Giants in the traditional 1st game of the season on NBC (for reference, see Ravens vs. Broncos above).

Guess that’s the exposure you get when you are labeled “America’s Team”.  But are you really still America’s Team when you keep choking in the final game of the regular season?  Or when you’ve only won one playoff game in the last sixteen seasons?

The Giants are getting older but still have a reliable Eli Manning at quarterback.  And these games are usually close contests so should be a good one.

Let the NFL season commence!

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