The good news is that the Eagles will open Chip Kelly's first season as head coach in primetime. The bad news is that you'll have to wait an extra day to watch it. The Eagles' 2013 season opener will also take on added meaning as the NFC East schedule opens from the get-go for the Eagles as they take the short trip down to FedEx Field for a Monday Night showdown with the Washington Redskins.
So much intrigue will precede this opening matchup on both sides. What exactly will Chip Kelly's offense look like in the regular season? For that matter, what will the defense look like? Who will be the Eagles' quarterback? Meanwhile, for the Redskins, the big question will surround the health of Robert Griffin III. After suffering a torn ACL in the team's playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin has been hard at work rehabbing and the public expectation is that he'll be ready for Week 1. But nine months is awfully soon to expect a full recovery from that sort of injury, so there will be all sorts of curiosity regarding Griffin's early season health. Of course, if Griffin isn't quite 100 percent the Eagles won't exactly complain.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming success of the Redskins offense last season serves as hope that the Eagles too can implement a new style effectively. In Griffin's first season and under a revamped offense, the Redskins led the NFL in yards per play and rushing yards per game. Credit for that goes beyond Griffin and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as rookie running back Alfred Morris was a revelation, rushing for 1,613 yards, a mark topped only by Adrian Peterson. Morris will no doubt pose a challenge for the Eagles whether Griffin is ready or not. Meanwhile, wide receiver Pierre Garcon was bugged by injuries throughout his first season in Washington but, when healthy, poses a serious threat of his own.
Defensively, the Redskins did their best to overcome a spate of injuries in 2012 as both Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo were lost to injuries early in the season. A dynamic pass rusher when healthy, Orakpo will pose a threat to the Eagles, as will his pass-rushing mate Ryan Kerrigan. Long-time stalwart London Fletcher will man the middle for Washington, and may just do so in perpetuity. There may be opportunities to take advantage of the Redskins secondary though, as DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson form an adequate if unspectacular pair of cornerbacks.
As for the Eagles, there will be no shortage of fascination with what the team will look like in Kelly's debut. Rest assured that the team won't give too much away in the preseason, so the unveiling will take place in prime time. Which brings up the final note: the ongoing quarterback competition is a long time away from being decided, but in the event that Michael Vick comes out the victor there will certainly be pleasant flashbacks. The last time the Eagles played at FedEx Field on a Monday night was Vick's legendary 2010 performance in which he torched the Redskins to the tune of 59 points and six touchdowns.
Expect Lincoln Financial Field to be rocking for head coach Chip Kelly's first regular season home game when the Eagles take on the Chargers in a Week 2 matchup. It's the dawn of a new era in both San Diego and Philadelphia, as both teams' head coaches will match wits in their first seasons in charge of an NFL franchise.
Offensively, quarterback Philip Rivers is still the captain of the San Diego squad and is the straw the stirs the drink. After throwing for at least 4,000 yards and 27 touchdowns each year between 2008 and 2011, last season was something of a down year for Rivers. He threw for 3,606 yards, 26 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Of course, those numbers are nothing to dismiss, and the Eagles defense will need to make sure they can get to Rivers early and often. And they should have their opportunities – the Chargers' offensive line allowed Rivers to be sacked a career-high 49 times last season.
The Chargers have a shaky all-around defense, as the unit was ranked 24th in yards per game. And while their pass defense numbers are solid (the Chargers were ranked 15th in passing yards per game last season), their real strength comes against the run. Last season, San Diego was sixth against the run, averaging 96.4 yards per game on the ground.
In this contest, running backs LeSean McCoy and Bryce Brown will certainly have their hands full. It's going to take a full team effort to pick up Kelly's first career win at home.
The winningest head coach in Philadelphia Eagles' history returns to Lincoln Financial Field, but will patrol the visiting team sidelines for the first time.
It's a matchup that is perfectly fitting for prime time as the Eagles will host the Kansas City Chiefs on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football in Week 3.
Andy Reid is in his first year as head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs after 14 seasons in charge of the Eagles. Reid has been part of the visiting team in the past, but it wasn't since he was a largely unknown quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers in 1997.
Reid takes over a 2-14 team that earned the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft. On paper, however, Reid and new general manager John Dorsey have put together a team that could contend for a playoff spot in 2013.
The first spot that Reid addressed was quarterback where the Chiefs dealt this year's second-round pick and a conditional pick in 2014 for Alex Smith, who went 19-5-1 in the past two seasons with the 49ers before losing his starting job to Colin Kaepernick. In the past two seasons, the Chiefs quartet of quarterbacks have combined for 21 touchdown passes against 38 interceptions. Smith has tossed 30 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions in that same time span. The Chiefs ranked dead last in the NFL in passing offense, but were actually fifth in rushing.
Reid inherits a talented group of skill position players including running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who was signed to a long-term contract extension. The Chiefs already had Tony Moeaki at tight end and signed Anthony Fasano in free agency. Up front, the Chiefs franchised left tackle Branden Albert and are in position to use the No. 1 overall pick on another tackle, possibly Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel.
With Reid's track record of success, the Chiefs offense will be much more competitive in 2013.
Even though the numbers weren't impressive, the Chiefs also have a foundation in place on defense. Reid decided to keep the 3-4 alignment. Up front, the Chiefs signed defensive end Mike DeVito away from the Jets and have last year's first-round pick Dontari Poe at the nose. At linebacker, the Chiefs have Tamba Hali to attack the quarterback from the edge. Hali has 35.5 sacks in the past three seasons. Derrick Johnson is a playmaker at inside linebacker. Last season, Johnson had 125 tackles, 2.0 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Kansas City strengthened its secondary in the offseason adding cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson to join talented corner Brandon Flowers. The Chiefs also have 2010 first-round pick Eric Berry, who bounced back in 2012 after tearing his ACL in the 2011 season opener.
The Chiefs will head into 2013 under the radar after a dismal 2012 along with the consensus that the Denver Broncos will be one of the league's elite teams. But with a foundation in place, along with a veteran quarterback, the Chiefs could benefit from their fourth-place schedule and contend for a playoff spot in 2013.
The Eagles close out September by flying out to Denver to take on the defending AFC West champions in the first of three consecutive road games. Peyton Manning and the Broncos had a more than impressive 2012 season, going 13-3 and earning the top seed in the AFC, but the season ended in bitter disappointment with a heartbreaking overtime loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
To help take the next step, the Broncos made a few key offseason moves, most notably importing Tom Brady's old friend Wes Welker. Manning's cupboard of toys on offense is now stocked with Welker, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, a trio that might form the best triumvirate of receivers in the league. It's an embarrassment of riches for Manning, as all three topped 1,000 yards receiving last season. Plus, with a second offseason for the team and Manning to adjust to one another, every expectation is that the Broncos will have one of the league's best offenses so the Eagles defense will have its work cut out for them, especially since it's notoriously difficult to get pressure on Manning. In fact, the Broncos allowed the fewest sacks per pass play last year (3.57 percent), so the Eagles' new-look secondary will no doubt be tested.
On the other side of the ball, there are likely two new starters in nose tackle Terrance Knighton, signed as a free agent from the Jaguars, and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, with whom the Eagles are certainly quite familiar. After two seasons of working against Rodgers-Cromartie in practice, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin will surely look forward to the opportunity to take on Rodgers-Cromartie when it counts. And who knows, they might also tell coach Kelly and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to run the ball in Rodgers-Cromartie's direction a few times.
The star of the Broncos defense, though, is 2011 first-round pick Von Miller, who came into the league and immediately became a premier pass rusher. Though Miller is a linebacker in the Broncos' 4-3 defense, the overwhelming majority of his snaps are spent rushing the passer, and rightly so. Miller had 18.5 sacks last season, ranking in third in the league. Luckily, the Eagles should have the services of All-Pro left tackle Jason Peters to help thwart Miller's advances.
Playing in the altitude at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, this game should also serve as a good test for the fitness of the Eagles. LeSean McCoy has already predicted that the Eagles will the "in the best shape in the league," because of Kelly's up-tempo practice and off-the-field regimen, so this Week 4 tilt will be a good opportunity to put that strength to use.