Week 2 of the NFL season is going to be very, very different for the Philadelphia Eagles. Joe Flacco isn't a rookie quarterback. Ray Rice isn't a first-time running back. The Ravens bear almost no resemblance to the Cleveland Browns, who gave the Eagles all they could handle on the road on Sunday.
What do we know about the Eagles? More than we did before the 17-16 win in Cleveland, but not nearly as much as we'll know after Sunday's game against Baltimore.
Clearly, the Ravens are one of the premier teams in the league. They blew out the Bengals on Monday night in an AFC North showdown, and they showed almost no weaknesses. Flacco was brilliant completing 21 of 29 passes for 299 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's big and strong with a good arm and decent mobility. Flacco showed on Monday night that he's ready to ascend to the next level in the NFL and lead the Ravens into Super Bowl contention.
You can be sure the Eagles paid attention. You can be sure the Eagles know just how much better they need to play Sunday in the home opener at Lincoln Financial Field after the narrow escape at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
The truth is that the the season must unfold and to gain a clear identity of the Eagles, but we have a chance for an instant snapshot on Sunday.
The Ravens had a big second half on Monday night to blow out the Bengals. This is a balanced, experienced team that some believe is led more now by its offense, rather than by its punishing defense. But that remains to be seen.
Sunday is going to be telling in just about every way. Baltimore offers a challenge for every phase of the Eagles team, and Philadelphia will test the Ravens in every way, as well.
Despite the ups and downs of Sunday, the Eagles have the makings of a team that can go deep into the playoffs. The level of execution must increase, of course, starting Sunday. This is a game the Eagles can use as a yardstick to see just where they are among the NFL's hierarchy.
NEWS, NOTES AND A LITTLE BIT OF THIS AND THAT
- What happens next with Demetress Bell? Is he part of the plan here or he is a deep, deep reserve? We'll see how he reacts to being inactive in Cleveland. As it stands now, it appears, rookie Dennis Kelly is the backup left tackle behind King Dunlap. This is, obviously, not how the Eagles figured Bell would fit in when they signed him to a free-agent contract. There is still time to get into the picture along the offensive line, but Bell has to show improvement in practice.
- Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen made great first impressions against Cleveland. The task is much greater against a Baltimore team that has downfield threats in Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, as well as a great, all-purpose running back in Rice. We all had questions about the safeties, and some remain. A strong game against Baltimore would certainly ease any concerns people have about the safety spots.
- Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin showed a lot of toughness and heart playing through some injuries on Sunday. He is in recovery mode now, and it wouldn't surprise me if he misses some practice time this week as his hip flexor heals. Will he play on Sunday? No idea. Given the fact that Riley Cooper is out with his collarbone injury, the Eagles need to know in the next couple of days about Maclin. If he can't go, they may have to sign a wide receiver to fill in.
- The Eagles didn't rotate their defensive linemen as much as maybe we thought they would in Cleveland. Brandon Graham, for example, played only four snaps. Cullen Jenkins, Trent Cole and Jason Babin were in the mid-40's on snap count (out of 62 Browns offensive snaps) and the rest of the linemen filled in. Fletcher Cox, by the way, had a very strong game in his NFL debut.
- Underrated in his performance was fullback Stanley Havili, who was a powerful lead blocker in the fourth quarter as LeSean McCoy ran for 55 of his 110 yards. Havili showed great athletic ability and really hit his mark as a blocker and he and McCoy had excellent timing together.
- No way McCoy continues to touch the ball 26 times -- plus three other touches wiped out by penalty -- as the weeks go along. Look for more of Bryce Brown and, if he's healthy, Dion Lewis. The Eagles need to run the ball to be effective.
- Great test for Juan Castillo as he battles Baltimore's no-huddle offense on Sunday. Matching up personnel and making sure he adjusts to the Ravens' tempo will be the critical points to watch for Castillo.