Everybody loves the Eagles.
"They're one of the teams out there that has a real shot," says SI.com's Ross Tucker.
"They have so much depth, you have to like them," says Sirius/XM Radio's Adam Caplan.
Those are the general sentiments about a team that had a roller-coaster off-season and one that lines up on paper as good as any team in the league.
The last time the Eagles had this many positive previews was 2004, when the off-season yielded Terrell Owens, Jevon Kearse, Dhani Jones and first-round draft pick Shawn Andrews. The Eagles responded by winning 13 of their first 14 games and overwhelming the rest of the NFC on the way to the Super Bowl.
This year? Great question. How will the Eagles handle all of these high hopes and the adoration of the national media? This team has not exactly burst out of the gates in recent years -- 4-2 in 2005 before a collapse, 4-1 in 2006 before a three-game losing streak, 1-3 in the up-and-down 2007 and 2-3 last year before three straight wins kinda sorta put the Eagles in the right direction -- when many pundits didn't have a lot of belief in the overall quality of the team.
Now that the Eagles are a team that most of the analysts seem to like very much, well, they are going to be expected to have that winner's swagger right out of the gate. No messing around. No "finding their stride." Go out and win right away.
So it calls into question the leadership and the ability of this team to carry forth the momentum from the late-season run in 2008 and the off-season successes. Are the Eagles ready to be "the team" of 2009, as they were in 2004? You remember how that season went, of course. The Eagles opened at home, smoked the Giants and they were off and running. Not until Game 8 when the Eagles were ambushed in Pittsburgh did the team slow down, and that loss to the Steelers was followed by six consecutive victories.
Thirteen and one, and no doubt the Eagles were the class of the conference. Even after Owens, the superstar wide receiver was injured, the Eagles showed in the NFC playoffs that they were heads and shoulders above everyone else in the conference. Heck, Andrews lasted one quarter as the starting right guard before suffering a season-ending injury. Not until the Super Bowl did the Eagles realize what a loss it was not to have Andrews on the field.
So, yeah, it's fair to wonder about opening this season in Carolina. And I'm keeping tabs on the Panthers and I'm wondering what is going to happen with Julius Peppers and if he is going to report to that team. I have an eye on New Orleans, which comes to Lincoln Financial Field in Week 2. The Saints away from the Superdome? I know they have a great offense, but I like playing them out of the Dome. And then the Eagles host the Chiefs, have a bye week and then Tampa Bay comes to town and, OK I'm dreaming out loud here, but is it too much to expect a good start this season?
Please, please, please don't wait until December to start playing Eagles football, guys ...
I'm probably just thinking too much out loud, because I know that if I asked 10 players about the high expectations that the media and the fans have for this team, at least eight of them would claim not to pay any attention to "that stuff." And then they would proceed to talk about the internal expectations and how high they are and blah, blah, blah. The players, simply put, don't read the headlines all that much. They don't obsess like we do. Their loss ...
But I do maintain that it is a valid question: Can the Eagles respond favorably in a season when they are the favorites in a lot of the eyes of those who are normally doubters?
It isn't about pressure, because every season has that vise-like feeling. It's about coming out and playing with great urgency, a great sense of purpose and extreme efficiency. It is about winning the games the Eagles "should" win. It is about scoring touchdowns on red-zone opportunities and of converting third-and-1 plays and of catching passes thrown into defenders hands.
It is about playing Eagles football from the very first day of the season, just like the analysts believe the Eagles will do, just like the Eagles did in 2004. If there is a Super ending planned for this season, the Eagles must win from the opening whistle. No matter what the analysts say now. It doesn't matter, just like it didn't matter when those same analysts thought the Eagles' "window" had closed.
What matters is winning early, winning in the middle of the season and closing strong. Keep 'em loving you, Eagles, by winning every week and showing everyone that this team is as good as everybody seems to believe it is at the moment.