The Eagles will start the season in Atlanta, where the rebuilding Falcons think they might have the league’s next great tight end. Tom Brady is also on the schedule — and it’s for a night game at Lincoln Financial Field.
For those interested in harassing Brady about Super Bowl 52, please note that since the Eagles famously beat the Patriots that night in 2018, Brady has won two more championships. The Birds have won one playoff game.
Here’s a quick buzz around the league.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is with his ninth team in his 17-year career, is Washington’s opening day starting quarterback. If he starts against the Eagles in Week 15 or 17, it would mark the eighth team he’s done that for, a preposterous list that includes St. Louis (2005, loss), Cincinnati (2008, tie), Buffalo (2011, win), Houston (2014, loss), N.Y. Jets (2015, loss), Tampa Bay (2018, win), and Miami (2019, win). His career passing yards against the Eagles in those seven games is a very patriotic 1,776.
Nobody’s happier with the return of Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott than wide receiver CeeDee Lamb. In five games as a rookie with Prescott last season, Lamb averaged six catches on eight targets and had two 100-yard outings. In 11 games without Prescott, Lamb averaged four receptions, six targets and had no 100-yard games.
The Eagles had three picks in the first two rounds in 2019. Miles Sanders (53rd overall) is the starting running back, but tackle Andre Dillard (22nd overall) and receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (57th) have been busts.
Philadelphia has three games in 12 days starting Oct. 3. Two of those games are against last year’s Super Bowl teams — Oct. 3 vs. Kansas City, Oct. 14 vs. Tampa Bay. It’ll be the Eagles’ first game against Patrick Mahomes, and their first against Tom Brady as a Buccaneer.
Looks like the Giants will be easing Saquon Barkley back to action, putting him on a snap count to start the season. DraftKings has an over/under line of 1,550 rushing/receiving yards for Barkley, which feels heavy. Odds are -120 for under, -110 for over.
Fearless prediction: The Eagles’ Miles Sanders will lead the division in rushing yards.
If quarterback/diva Aaron Rodgers wants out of Green Bay after the season, the Packers said they would accommodate his trade request. He is not signed beyond 2022.
Green Bay dealt with left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) starting the season on the PUP list by signing former Eagle Dennis Kelly, who blocked for Derrick Henry last year in Tennessee. They moved Elgton Jenkins from left guard to Bakhtiari’s spot. Jon Runyan (St. Joseph’s Prep), a sixth-round pick last year out of Michigan, also provides O-line depth.
The Bears went 8-8 last year but made the postseason only because the league expanded the playoffs. The rough early schedule, including road games at the Browns and Rams in Weeks 1 and 3, might hasten the call for rookie Justin Fields to replace Andy Dalton.
Energetic is one way to describe new Lions coach Dan Campbell. Nuts is another. He dropped this gem during training camp. His message to fans: “I want you to envision right now that we’re all in the backyard because Ford Field is our backyard. OK? And we’ve got our fire pit in the backyard, right? And so, we’ve got our beer, we’ve got our hot dogs, we’ve got our wine. The kids got the marshmallows ready to go. All right, let me tell you something, we’re going to bring the firewood and we’re going to light the flame. And you guys know at some point, it gets late in the night, man, and you really want to see the show and see how high you can get this thing to burn. You’ve got to, you’ll douse it with gasoline. And that’s what we need from you.”
The Vikings have made the postseason in odd-numbered years every season since Mike Zimmer became head coach (2015, 2017, 2019). That’s a lot of inconsistency.
Fearless prediction: Dan Campbell’s chaotic campfire burns down half of Michigan.
Tom Brady is trying to become the first quarterback in history to win back-to-back championships with two teams. Tampa Bay has every starter back from last year’s title team and has reached 100% vaccination. They play at the Linc on Thursday night, Oct. 14 — same day the Phillies could be playing in Game 5 of the NLDS. (LOL)
The Panthers have a DJ (Moore), a J.J. (Jansen), and a P.J. (Walker), and the possibility that new quarterback Sam Darnold throws a touchdown to tight end Dan Arnold.
With the opener against the Packers moved to Jacksonville because of Hurricane Ida damage, the Saints could play just one true home game before hosting Tampa Bay on Halloween. They host the Giants in Week 4, but otherwise have four road games and a bye between now and then.
Atlanta rookie tight end Kyle Pitts (Archbishop Wood), the fourth overall pick, didn’t play much in the preseason, an indication of how much the Falcons are counting on him. His only catch went for 27 yards and it took four Browns players to bring him down. Pitts gets the Eagles in Week 1.
Fearless prediction: The Saints will finish last.
DeMeco Ryans, who spent the last four years of his solid 10-year playing career with the Eagles, is San Francisco’s defensive coordinator. He takes over for Robert Saleh, who was sentenced to the job of being the Jets’ head coach.
Curious to see what sort of pass rush the Cardinals can get out of J.J. Watt (32) and Chandler Jones (31). Shortly after signing with Arizona, Watt said he texted quarterback Kyler Murray, ‘I’m here because I believe in you.’”
The Rams added Matthew Stafford and DeSean Jackson, which would make them leading contenders to win the 2014 NFC championship. It’s a fresh change for Stafford, who was beat up pretty good in 12 years in Detroit and did not win a playoff game (0-3). Jackson will be 35 in December and is on a one-year deal.
Seattle gave running back Chris Carson a two-year deal with $5.5 million guaranteed, so he bought his mom the house she had been renting since a fire destroyed her home two days after Christmas in 2013. “For me, it’s something that I can always be proud of,” Carson said after signing the contract. “Me, not supposed to be here, the odds are that a seventh-rounder doesn’t get to free agency like that. It’s a blessing.”
Fearless prediction: A fifth division title for Russell Wilson as Seahawks QB.
New England rookie Mac Jones received some high praise from Giants veteran safety Logan Ryan (Eastern High School). ”I think he’s a good young quarterback,” said Ryan, who saw plenty of Jones during joint practices in August. “He’s pretty smart with what he does. I hear he’s a hard worker, and I know the guys like him. So, it’s good for him.”
Bill Belichick’s opening-day quarterbacks going back to his days coaching Cleveland in the early 1990s: Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, Drew Bledsoe, Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cam Newton, and now Mac Jones.
Buffalo’s Josh Allen, 25, is the oldest opening-day starting quarterback in the division. He’s followed by Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa (23), New England’s Jones (22), and the Jets’ Zach Wilson (22). Tagovailoa, who preceded Jones at Alabama, goes up against the Patriots in Week 1.
Miami beefed up its wide receivers by adding veteran Will Fuller (Roman Catholic) and drafting Jaylen Waddle sixth overall. They also did not trade for Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson — at least not yet — which means this is Tagovailoa’s team.
The Jets kept seven cornerbacks on the roster. Six are either rookies this year or were rookies last year.
Fearless prediction: The Eagles’ DeVonta Smith (10th pick) will have more catches this year than Jaylen Waddle (sixth pick), his fellow first-round rookie wide receiver from Alabama.
Then there’s Ben Roethlisberger, 39, who says his arm is fully healthy after elbow and shoulder surgeries the last two years. Biggest concern in Pittsburgh is the rebuilt offensive line, and getting wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster not to do any more harrowing milk-crate challenges.
Cleveland defensive tackle Malik McDowell, who spent nearly a year in jail, has been given a final chance to have an NFL career. “I won’t make [the Browns] look bad,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “[Browns general manager Andrew Berry] in particular, giving me this opportunity, bringing me in here, sticking his neck out for me and everything. So definitely don’t want to let nobody down.”
Baltimore signed former Steelers archrival Le’Veon Bell, 29, after injuries to running backs J.K. Dobbins’ and Justice Hill. Gus Edwards figures to be the Ravens’ primary back. Edwards has a healthy 5.20 yards per carry in his career, though he’s averaged just about 10 attempts per game. Since Edwards entered the league in 2018, only Raheem Mostert (5.65) and Nick Chubb (5.23) have more yards per carry.
Bengals wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase, the No. 5 overall pick, had a mostly forgettable rookie training camp. Quarterback Joe Burrow, a teammate of Chase’s on that terrific LSU national championship team, is healthy after missing the final six games last season with a torn ACL.
Fearless prediction: The Steelers, not the Bengals, will finish last.
ESPN analyst Marcus Spears was asked to name the five NFL players facing the most scrutiny this season. “I don’t think there is more pressure on any player in professional sports than Carson Wentz has this year,” said Spears, who played nine seasons in the league. “Everybody talks about [his] resurgence with [Colts head coach] Frank Reich, how he’s in a better situation from a mind standpoint and a football standpoint. [But] he’s missed practice because of a foot. He’s missed practice because of COVID. And he is on a team that is supposed to not only win their division but to get into the playoffs and make noise.”
The Texans likely will deactivate Deshaun Watson every week as the allegations of sexual assault/misconduct by more than 20 women are investigated. They still will be obligated to pay his base salary of $10.54 million.
In seven years at Ohio State, Jaguars coach Urban Meyer went 83-9. He’ll probably get his ninth loss this season by Thanksgiving. The Jags enter 2021 on a 15-game losing streak. Ugh.
Tennessee’s Derrick Henry could be the first running back in 14 years with three consecutive seasons of 300 or more rushing attempts. Hall of Famers Edgerrin James and LaDainian Tomlinson were the last.
Fearless prediction: The Colts will not win 10 games.
The Chiefs responded to that humbling loss in the Super Bowl by revamping their offensive line. Veterans Orlando Brown Jr. and Joe Thuney will anchor the unit as newcomers Creed Humphrey, Lucas Niang, and Trey Smith get comfortable.
”You don’t really like to reflect on rehab and stuff, but I need to kind of look up and really take in the type of environment that we have here in Broncos country,” said Von Miller, who played in the Broncos preseason finale after missing all of 2020 with an ankle injury. “We had 53,000 fans here. Last year, we didn’t have any. It felt really, really good to be back in the stadium, to be back with all the guys. It was a great day.”
The Raiders brought in coordinator Gus Bradley to fix a defense that allowed at least 30 points in a game 10 times last season. Training camp injuries forced them to trade for Carolina veteran linebacker Denzel Perryman, so the defense is still in flux.
Teddy Bridgewater is with his fourth team in five years since wrecking his knee in 2016 while with Minnesota. He’s the consolation prize for Broncos fans, who thought they had a chance at getting Aaron Rodgers. Denver hosts the Eagles in Week 10.
Chargers safety Derwin James is back to his menacing ways after missing most of the last two seasons with injuries. L.A. picked up his fifth-year option for 2022 — a $9 million vote of confidence for James, who was first-team all-pro as a rookie in 2018.
Fearless prediction: The Chiefs will have two losses by the time they visit the Eagles in Week 4. Their first three games are against Cleveland, at Baltimore, back home for the Chargers.
Sources: Inquirer research, wire services.