Eagles' schedule teeming with tough opponents

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles' Brandon Boykin breaks up a pass intended for to Cowboys' Dez Bryant in Week 17.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Eagles' Brandon Boykin breaks up a pass intended for to Cowboys' Dez Bryant in Week 17.
Posted: February 05, 2014

YOU NEVER KNOW in the NFL, but a seemingly tougher schedule awaits the Eagles in 2014.

There are four division winners on next season's slate, five teams that won 10 games, including the Super Bowl champion Seahawks. The Birds also will see some teams in rebuilding mode, in Houston and Jacksonville, and who knows what to expect out of their three divisional opponents.

Here's an early look at the teams the Eagles will be playing next season. The schedule will be released in the spring:

NFC East opponents

Dallas Cowboys

2013 vs. Eagles: Split two games, with the road team winning each. The Eagles' win on the final night of the regular season was for the NFC East title.

2013 recap: Went 8-8 for the third consecutive year with a season-ending loss to a division rival that kept Dallas out of the playoffs. Despite the mediocrity, Cowboys owner (and general manager) Jerry Jones said he will not fire coach Jason Garrett or replace quarterback Tony Romo, who turns 34 in April.

2014 questions: Who will put the "D" back into Dallas? Monte Kiffin's group, in its first season in the 4-3 scheme, was often a disaster . . . Wide receiver Dez Bryant led the team in receptions, yards, touchdowns and petulance. Did he rub elbows with the appropriate people during his first trip to the Pro Bowl?

Did you know? The Cowboys will pick 16th or 17th, depending on a tiebreaking coin flip. They have not drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds since taking Quincy Carter in Round 2 in 2001.

New York Giants

2013 vs. Eagles: Split two games, with the road team winning each.

2013 recap: Did well to finish 7-9 after an 0-6 start had the G-Men climbing uphill all season.

2014 questions: The offensive line and running game need to be addressed, and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride retired before he could be fired . . . Justin Tuck, 11 sacks in 2013, is the most prominent of the Giants' 23 free agents.

Did you know? Eagles quarterback Nick Foles threw 27 touchdowns.

Giants QB Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions.

Washington Redskins

2013 vs. Eagles: Lost twice to Philadelphia. It's the third year in a row the season series has been a sweep. In 2012, Washington won the two meetings. In 2011, it was the Eagles.

2013 recap: Went 3-13 and were seemingly enveloped by a polar vortex all season. Quarterback Robert Griffin III was hobbled for most of the year and then benched for the final three games.

2014 questions: Hired new head coach Jay Gruden to replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired the day after the season ended . . . After that, Washington needs to figure out whether Griffin is the franchise's quarterback and whether to re-sign star linebacker Brian Orakpo, who is headed toward free agency.

Did you know? Gruden will be the eighth head coach since Daniel Snyder became team owner in 1999. By comparison, the Eagles have had

seven coaches since Dick Vermeil stepped down after the 1982 season.

Non-divisional opponents at Lincoln Financial Field

Carolina Panthers

Last game vs. Eagles: 2012,

Carolina won at Lincoln Financial Field, 30-22

2013 recap: Went 12-4, improving five games from 2012 and winning the NFC South. Lost to San Francisco in a divisional playoff game.

2014 questions: Defensive end Greg Hardy had 15 sacks this season and will be in the market for a long-term deal . . . No. 1 wide receiver Steve Smith will be 35 in May.

Did you know? This will be Cam Newton's first game against Chip Kelly since Newton led Auburn to a win over Kelly and Oregon in the BCS championship game following the 2010 season.

St. Louis Rams

Last game vs. Eagles: 2011, the

visiting Birds rolled, 31-13.

2013 recap: Went 7-9 as they continue to climb out of the depths of the 2-14 season from 2011. The Rams' biggest problem might be the quality of their division. The other three teams in the NFC West (Seattle, San Fran Francisco and Arizona) each had at least 10 wins.

2014 questions: The Rams have two first-round picks, including the second overall, which they fleeced from Washington in the Robert Griffin III deal . . . Is Sam Bradford, 18-30-1 and coming off a serious knee injury, the answer at quarterback?

Did you know? The Rams' leading rusher (Zac Stacy) and receiver (Tavon Austin) were both rookies.

Seattle Seahawks

Last game vs. Eagles: 2011, Seattle thumped the visiting Birds, 31-14, in a game marked by a sideline rant by wide receiver DeSean Jackson, which appeared directed toward quarterback Vince Young.

2013 recap: Went 13-3 to grab the NFC's top seed and defeated Denver in Super Bowl 48, 43-8. Allowed 14.4 points per game, fewest in the NFL.

2014 question: Can they count on Percy Harvin? Harvin's a game-changer, but with Golden Tate set to hit free agency, he'd no longer be a luxury. He's be a necessity.

Did you know? Marshawn Lynch is the only running back with 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Last game vs. Eagles: 2010, the visiting Eagles won, 28-3, in their first trip back to Jacksonville since losing Super Bowl 39.

2013 recap: An 0-8 start led to a 4-12 season, the Jags' third consecutive season with 10 or more losses.

2014 questions: What they do with the No. 3 overall pick will be critical, as this franchise tries to pick itself up off the mat. Even if it means trading down, they have to come out of this draft with a quarterback . . . Popular running back Maurice Jones-Drew is a free agent.

Did you know? Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, selected with the 10th pick in 2011, is 1-12 as a starter the last 2 years.

Tennessee Titans

Last game vs. Eagles: 2010, lost in Tennessee, 37-19. Kenny Britt had three TD catches that day. He's had only nine since.

2013 recap: Numerous injuries contributed to a disappointing 7-9 season and the surprising firing of head coach Mike Munchak.

2014 questions: What will new coach Ken Whisenhunt bring to the team . . . The Titans also need to make a decision on running back Chris Johnson, who had his sixth 1,000-yard season, but averaged a career low 3.9 yards per carry.

Did you know? The Titans spent more than $100 million last offseason on free agents as owner Bud Adams wanted one more playoff run before moving on to that great gridiron in the sky. Adams died on Oct. 21, so he didn't miss anything.

Non-division opponents on road

Arizona Cardinals

Last game vs. Eagles: 2013, lost to the Birds, 24-21, after trailing, 24-7, in the third quarter.

2013 recap: Went 10-6 for first-year coach Bruce Arians and narrowly missed the playoffs after going 5-11 in 2012.

2014 questions: Was 2013 for real? Carson Palmer brought stability and veteran leadership at quarterback, despite throwing 22 interceptions . . . Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will count $18 million toward next season's salary cap, so expect some contractual gymnastics.

Did you know? Next season will be the fourth year in a row the Eagles play the Cardinals in the regular season. Arizona won the first two.

San Francisco 49ers

Last game vs. Eagles: 2011, the 49ers erased a 23-3 deficit and stunned the Eagles, 24-23, in a game best remembered for Ronnie Brown's ridiculous lateral attempt at the goal line that became a key fumble.

2013 recap: Showed no hangover from losing last year's Super Bowl by going 12-4 in the regular season before losing in the NFC title game to Seattle.

2014 questions: Running back Frank Gore, coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl season, will be 31 in May . . . The Niners have a brutal schedule that includes their rugged division, all four teams in the AFC West, the Eagles, Bears and Saints.

Did you know? The 49ers will move into Levi's Stadium after playing at Candlestick Park since 1971. The Eagles were a respectable 7-5 at Candlestick, including a soggy playoff loss to Steve Young in 1996.

Green Bay Packers

Last game vs. Eagles: 2013, lost to the visiting Birds, 27-13, a week after superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers dabble-checked his way into the trainers' room with a broken collarbone.

2013 recap: Went 8-7-1 and still won the NFC North. Lost to visiting San Francisco on a field goal at the buzzer in the first round of playoffs.

2014 questions: Do they need to get Rodgers a security blanket at tight end for the injured Jermichael Finley, who is among 17 potential free agents? . . . Center Evan Dietrich-Smith and wide receiver James Jones also could walk.

Did you know? Green Bay went 2-4-1 in the seven games Rodgers missed. The Eagles were the only one of those seven opponents that made the playoffs.

Houston Texans

Last game vs. Eagles: 2010, the Birds went to Houston and won, 34-24. It was their fourth game in 18 days.

2013 recap: The Texans circled the drain with a 14-game losing streak that took them from preseason Super Bowl contender to dubious owners of the No. 1 overall pick.

2014 questions: Did they make the right move nabbing Bill O'Brien from Penn State to become the franchise's third coach (not counting interim Wade Phillips)? . . . Quarterback is the most pressing need, but is anyone worth the top pick? Seems high.

Did you know? Nine of the Texans' 14 losses were by a touchdown or less.

Indianapolis Colts

Last game vs. Eagles: 2010, a 26-24 victory finally gave the Birds their first win over Peyton Manning in four tries.

2013 recap: Won the NFC South with an 11-5 record. The Colts then pulled one of the all-time miracles by erasing a 38-10, third-quarter deficit to beat Andy Reid's Kansas City Chiefs, 45-44, in one of the wildest wild-card games ever. Indy lost the following week at New England.

2014 questions: The Colts need to upgrade their running game. Traded a first-round pick to Cleveland for Trent Richardson, which looked great at the time, but appears now to be a disaster . . . Cornerback Vontae Davis is the most important pending free agent . . . Wide receiver Reggie Wayne will be coming off a torn ACL and will be 36 in November.

Did you know? This will be the Eagles' first visit to Lucas Oil Stadium, which features a retractable roof.

On Twitter: @EdBarkowitz

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