As for the season, the first step is getting to 4-2 at the bye week. Make it 7-4 by December, and 9-6 by the time the season finale rolls around with a visit to the Giants. A win gets the Eagles a home playoff game. A loss leaves them 9-7 and sends them to Atlanta for the first round. Pick: 10-6.
TELL ME how many games Michael Vick plays, I'll tell you the Eagles' record. I'm going to assume he misses one or two.
I see this as a very good team. The biggest difference between 2012 and 2004, when the Eagles went to the Super Bowl, is that the NFC is a lot stronger overall. I don't think these Eagles will start out 7-0. But I don't think they should be big underdogs to anybody. I say 10-6, maybe even better if Vick stays upright for 16 games.
THERE ARE a lot of reasons to curb your enthusiasm for the Eagles this season. An injury-prone quarterback and a rookie backup. A thin safety corps that desperately needs Kurt Coleman and Nate Allen to stay healthy.
King Dunlap at left tackle. A linebacking corps that, aside from rookie Mychal Kendricks, still is keeping defensive coordinator Juan Castillo up at nights.
A tougher-than-it-looks schedule that includes six 2011 playoff teams among their first eight opponents. Three games against teams coming off byes.
A coach on the hot seat.
But there also are just as many reasons to believe the Eagles can earn their 10th playoff berth in the last 13 years and make a serious run at that ever-elusive Lombardi Trophy.
An All-Pro running back. A deep receiving corps. An offensive line that, even without Jason Peters, should be pretty good.
A bottomless pass rush that is going to make life hell for quarterbacks this season. A solid cornerback situation. A kicker who missed just three field goal attempts as a rookie.
When I weigh the good and the bad with this team, I come up with a team that's going to win 10 games and the NFC East, but that will fall short of a February trip to New Orleans.
I AM TOLD the reason the Eagles will do better this season than last is that they are more experienced, more familiar with the system, more chagrined even by the experience of the season before.
Yet I also just read that the Eagles have more first- and second-year players than their division rivals, which is usually a barometer of inexperience.
And they just got rid of a couple of their more seasoned guys when they trimmed the roster late last week.
And there was that line Michael Vick had about expecting to reach the Super Bowl a few weeks back. Which didn't exactly sound chagrined.
Honestly, there's nothing to wow you about this team. Maybe the defensive line, if it returns to health and stays there. But really, I think they finish 9-7 and just out of the playoffs. Of course, with a break here or there, they could have finished 9-7 last year. Or 11-5. Or 6-10.
So what do I know?
All together now . . .
NOW THAT the Eagles have a legitimate backup quarterback, they have a legitimate chance to roll through the division, secure homefield, perhaps throughout the playoffs, and make a run to the Super Bowl.
The chief reasons the Eagles failed to make that run last season lay in the two worst personnel decisions in years: guard Kyle DeVan and safety Jerrod Page. In a lockout-shortened preseason, with a revamped defensive coach staff, a reconstructed offensive line and new line coach, the Eagles' 8-8 finish did not resemble their talent level. The 9-7 Giants won the Super Bowl.
When Michael Vick gets hurt twice this season, it will be Trent Edwards who replaces him effectively. With DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy enriched, there should be no reason they do not play to their potential. Neither has yet reached it. With real linebackers and healthy, young safeties, Juan Castillo has a chance this season. He had no chance last year.
As long as the left-tackle position does not cripple the team, it's another NFC title game.
IT IS A waste of an exercise - the NFL remains ridiculously unpredictable - but we have to begin somewhere. It's a rule. So, this: If you did the point-spreading today, the Eagles would probably be favored in 12 of their 16 games. They do have a lot of talent.
Of course, you cannot do that. Injuries happen, for one reason. And because good teams end up stinking and because bad teams end up being good and because the ball takes funny bounces and, well, because.
You look at the Eagles. They appear to be deeper at quarterback and at running back than they were a month ago, which is good. But left tackle makes you wonder. On defense, they appear ready to rush the passer like crazy. But can they play a successful game of hide the safety?
Overall, if Michael Vick can resemble the 2010 Michael Vick, and if the pass rush truly dominates, this team can win the NFC East. The Eagles might still have to outscore people some weeks, but they have the talent and the scheme to do it - to go, say, 11-5 and to win the division. After that? Check later.
HOW MUCH do the Eagles' chances of winning Super Bowl 47 depend on the health of Michael Vick?
Combined, the winning quarterbacks of the past six Super Bowls - Eli Manning (two), Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Peyton Manning - missed only one regular-season game due to injury.
Vick has missed 4 1/2 games in each of the past two seasons because of injuries. His injury history does not bode well for the Birds celebrating their first Super Bowl championship in New Orleans come February.
Other than that, the Eagles should bounce back nicely from their 8-8 campaign in 2011. Vick, despite the anticipation of some injury, is a solid if not elite quarterback.
With weapons like running back Shady McCoy, talented receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin and tight end Brent Celek, Vick should have a better 2012 campaign, cutting way down on interceptions from last year's 14 in 13 starts.
The offensive line has some issues and the safeties and linebackers raise concerns. But a talented and deep defensive line should cover for several deficiencies by the pressure it puts on quarterbacks.
The schedule is manageable. Barring extended injury or a complete meltdown by Vick, the Eagles finish 10-6 and win the NFC East.