Our 2014 season previews are now well into the second half of the Eagles schedule. The third quarter of the schedule features four November matchups, which may bode well for the Eagles, who finished last November undefeated, going 3-0 with a bye week. Can they repeat that success in 2014? Here are five things to watch in the third four-game stretch of the season ...
1. Winner Winner, Turkey Dinner
If the Eagles are to finish the month of November undefeated in 2014, it won’t come easy. The Panthers, Packers, Titans and Cowboys won a combined 35 games last season, the most combined 2013 wins of any quarter of the Eagles schedule. The Panthers and Packers both won their respective divisions, the Titans finished just a game under .500, and the Cowboys playoff hopes were taken away by the Boy-king. The second half of the season is where the Eagles thrived in 2013, going 7-1. Can they do it again in 2014?
2. Teams On The Prowl
Some fans will point to the Eagles’ matchups with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers as the two toughest and most anticipated games on the 2014 schedule, but don’t forget about the Panthers. Carolina finished 12-4 last season, including an impressive 9-3 record in conference. The Panthers defense was dominant last season, holding opponents to an average of 301.3 yards per game and 15.1 points per game. Both of those statistics ranked second in the NFL. The uber-talented Cam Newton leads the Panthers offense that also includes former Eagle Jason Avant.
The Eagles and Panthers are two playoff teams comprised of young and talented playmakers, and both teams will be looking to take another leap forward as they look to establish themselves as the new class of the NFC.
3. Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood
For the second consecutive season, the Eagles will be traveling to the hallowed confines of Lambeau Field for a November meeting with the Green Bay Packers. Unlike last season, Mr. Rodgers might be there to greet the Eagles at the door with a “Hello, neighbor.” No word as to whether or not he’ll be wearing a cardigan sweater.
Aaron Rodgers may very well be the best quarterback in the NFL, and just as is the case with any elite player, the Packers are a different team without Rodgers under center. The Eagles played a Rodgers-less Packers team in 2013, and they took full advantage, intercepting quarterback Scott Tolzien twice after knocking Seneca Wallace out of the game.
4. Finding Their Identity
The Tennessee Titans haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, but they haven’t been terrible since that time either. They’ve always managed to float around the 6-8 win mark, but they’ve been stuck in this football limbo for some time. In previous years, running back Chris Johnson was the face of the franchise, rushing for 2,006 yards in 2009, becoming only the sixth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. But Johnson has moved on, and the Titans are now looking for a new identity.
Quarterback Jake Locker looked good in 2013 when he was healthy, and the Titans added young pieces like tackle Taylor Lewan, running back Bishop Sankey and possible quarterback of the future Zach Mettenberger via the draft. Playmaker Dexter McCluster has also been added to the mix, and first year head coach Ken Whisenhunt could lead the team on a titanic rise in 2014.
5. Romo’s Back
The above title has more than one meaning. Dallas Cowboys quarterback figures to be back in the lineup against the Eagles in 2014 after missing the 2013 season finale, but it also asks the question as to if the veteran signal-caller’s back will be able to hold up in 2013.
Eagles fans can say what they want about the Cowboys quarterback, but the fact of the matter is that Romo has very good career numbers, throwing 208 touchdowns compared to just 101 interceptions. He’s 18 games over .500 in his career, and like Rodgers in Green Bay, Romo makes the Cowboys tick. Will December back surgery limit Romo’s mobility on Thanksgiving? Only time will tell.