The Nick Sirianni era begins in earnest on Sept. 12 in Atlanta when the Eagles face the Falcons in the season opener.
The NFL officially released its 2021 schedule Wednesday, and, while the Eagles have known their opponents for months, they didn’t know the order or dates of the games. Their slate is among the easiest based upon last season’s records. But, with a new coach, staff and starting quarterback, a rebuilding year could be anything but simple.
On paper, Sirianni has a fairly difficult first six weeks. After the opener, the Eagles host the 49ers, who went 6-10 last season but were among the most injured teams in the league a year after they reached the Super Bowl.
They then meet the division rival Cowboys on the road on Monday night before their toughest stretch: Two of three games against last season’s Super Bowl combatants – the Chiefs and defending champion Buccaneers – with each coming on a short week.
The lone saving grace: Both games will be played at home at Lincoln Financial Field. The stadium, like most others around the nation, is expected to be full after Philadelphia health officials announced Tuesday that all density limits will be lifted on June 11.
This season will look much different, not only because of the easing of restrictions as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic lessens but because NFL owners voted to add a 17th game to the regular season.
Teams will play one fewer preseason game, three total. But the start of the regular season will again start on the second weekend of September. The schedule, which still will include a bye week for each team, will extend on the back end with the 18th week occurring the second weekend of January.
The Eagles, who went 4-11-1 last season, typically have a schedule full of prime-time games. But they have only two this season, vs. Dallas on Sept. 27 and Tampa on Thursday, Oct. 14, reflecting the low expectations for Siranni’s first season.
There are many unknowns, of course, chief among them will be how second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts fares as Carson Wentz’s successor. There are also many new and young faces on the roster.
Here are some other particulars from the schedule:
Andy Reid will return to Philly for the first time since 2013. The former Eagles coach, who has since claimed his first title, won that game along with another in Kansas City in 2016. Reid will face his third Eagles coach after meeting Chip Kelly and Doug Pederson.
One of the more anticipated road trips comes on Oct. 24, when the Eagles travel to Las Vegas for the first time to face the Raiders. The Week 7 game comes after a 10-day break following the Thursday night contest with the Bucs.
After flights to Atlanta, Dallas, Charlotte (Week 5), Las Vegas, Detroit (Week 8), and Denver (Week 10), the Eagles don’t board another plane for the final two months of the season.
The Eagles have back-to-back road trips to North Jersey in Weeks 12 and 13, when they meet the Giants and Jets. The latter was the added 17th game.
Five of the Eagles’ final six games come against NFC East rivals and could offer a chance to make up ground in what could be another weak division.
The Eagles’ bye week doesn’t come until Week 14, the latest it’s been since 2000.
The final four games all come against division foes: vs. Washington, vs. the Giants, at Washington, and, in the season finale, at the Linc against the Cowboys.
While fan excitement may be tepid, each NFL season is its own entity, with the fortunes of many teams changing yearly. The Eagles’ future remains uncertain. But one thing is certain: They will be playing into January this season.