Chip Kelly's first NFL schedule

Posted: April 19, 2013

A COUPLE of months after he made the college-to-pro head-coaching leap from the University of Florida to the Washington Redskins in 2002, Steve Spurrier was asked how much tougher he thought it would be to win in the NFL than it was in the Southeastern Conference.

Spurrier, who never has been on a first-name basis with humility, responded by saying that conquering the NFC East would be a piece of cake compared with the challenge of the SEC.

"Gosh," the ol' ball coach said, "we only have to beat three teams. Had to beat 11 of 'em back in Gainesville."

While Chip Kelly is every bit as confident in his coaching ability as Spurrier, who bolted D.C. and returned to the college game after back-to-back losing seasons, the new Eagles boss understands he's not in Eugene anymore.

He received a reminder of that Thursday when the NFL released its 2013 schedule, and Washington State and Colorado and some of the other Pac-12 stiffs Kelly used to beat up on regularly at Oregon were nowhere to be found.

Kelly will make his NFL regular-season coaching debut on the road on Monday, Sept. 9, when the Eagles travel to Washington to play the Redskins in one of only two scheduled prime-time games. Their only other night game is a Week 3 reunion at the Linc with Andy Reid and the Chiefs on Thursday, Sept. 19. In between is a Week 2 home game against San Diego on Sept. 15.

Last year, the Eagles played five prime-time games, including two on Sunday night. That's what happens when you go 4-12, give up a franchise-record 33 touchdown passes and finish 31st in the league in giveaways.

While a playoff trip in Kelly's first season is unlikely, it's certainly not impossible. This is the NFL, after all, where rags-to-riches stories are the rule rather than the exception. I mean, this time last year, who in their right mind was predicting that the 3-13 Vikings and 2-14 Colts would make it to the postseason.

But the NFL isn't making it easy for Kelly. While the Eagles have the 13th-easiest schedule in the league, based on the cumulative records of 2012 opponents (.496), it's also the second-most difficult in the NFC East. Only the Redskins (.498) have a tougher dance card.

What's more, the Eagles open the season with three games in 11 days, followed by three straight road games. Yeah, you read that right. Three straight road games. At least they don't have to schlep over to London.

Kelly won't have to wait very long to find out how his team matches up against the rest of the division. Four of the Eagles' first eight games are against NFC East opponents.

In addition to the Week 1 game against the Redskins, they are at the Giants in Week 5 (Sunday, Oct. 6), home against the Cowboys in Week 7 (Sunday, Oct. 20) and home against the Giants in Week 8 (Sunday, Oct. 27).

While only two of their first eight are against 2012 playoff teams, and only four of their first nine are against teams with winning records, four of their first six are on the road, including the three in a row in Weeks 4-6 at Denver, the Giants and Tampa Bay.

With their bye week not coming until Week 12, they will need all of the protein shakes and sleep they can get.

The late-November bye is the latest one the Eagles have had since 2000, when their R&R came in Week 16. For what it's worth, they won 11 games and made the playoffs that year.

After their back-to-back division games at the Linc against the Cowboys and Giants in Weeks 7-8, the Eagles have two straight road games - a cross-country trek to Oakland on Sunday, Nov. 3, and a game against the Packers in Green Bay on Sunday, Nov. 10.

They have a rematch with the Redskins at the Linc on Sunday, Nov. 17, right before their bye week. After the bye, three of their final five games are at home - against Arizona (Dec. 1), Detroit (Dec. 8) and Chicago (Dec. 22).

The Bears visit is sandwiched between road games against Minnesota (Dec. 22) and the regular-season finale at Dallas (Dec. 29).

This will be the fourth time in the last 6 years the Eagles and Cowboys have met in the final week of the regular season.

If you're able to find nine wins there, let me know.



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