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What’s ahead of the Eagles after the bye? | Early Birds

A game-by-game breakdown of the final half of the season, starting with Sunday night's matchup against the Cowboys.

Eagle head Coach Doug Pederson raises his fist to the Eagle fans in MetLife Stadium at the end of the game as the Eagles win 34-13 over the Giants in Thursday nights game. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Eagle head Coach Doug Pederson raises his fist to the Eagle fans in MetLife Stadium at the end of the game as the Eagles win 34-13 over the Giants in Thursday nights game. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff PhotographerRead moreMICHAEL BRYANT

Good morning. The Eagles return to the NovaCare Complex after the bye week today.  It will be the first time Golden Tate works with his new teammates. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Mike Groh have news conferences beginning at 4 p.m.

This is the Early Birds newsletter, which will arrive in your inbox Monday through Friday for the rest of the season. I want to know what you think and what you want to read, so send me feedback by email or on Twitter @ZBerm.

— Zach Berman

The Eagles after the bye: What’s ahead?

Now that the Eagles are back, they'll have eight consecutive weeks of football — and potentially more. Here's what's ahead:

vs. Dallas (3-4), Nov. 11: The Cowboys will play tonight against the Tennessee Titans, so it will be known tomorrow morning whether this Sunday will be a meeting of two 4-4 teams or if the Cowboys need to beat the Eagles to keep pace with them in the standings. It will be a different Cowboys team from the first seven of weeks of the season because they added wide receiver Amari Cooper. A first-round pick was a steep price to pay for Cooper, but it landed them help in the passing game that they badly needed. The Eagles will enter this game with extended rest and the Cowboys will be on a short week, so that could be an Eagles advantage. The Cowboys probably won't be happy to see Golden Tate again – he had eight catches for 132 yards and two touchdowns against them Sept. 30 while with the Lions.

at New Orleans (7-1), Nov. 18: If you saw the Saints beat the Los Angeles Rams yesterday for their seventh consecutive win, you know just how challenging this game will be for the Eagles. The Saints are the NFL's hottest team, rebounding from a Week 1 loss to show that they're the Super Bowl contenders that they were expected to be before the season. Drew Brees and the Saints are averaging 37.25 points at home this season, so visiting the Superdome will be a tough task for the Eagles defense. This will be the first time Eagles veterans Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sproles play in New Orleans since coming to Philadelphia in 2014.

vs. New York Giants (1-7), Nov. 25: The most convincing win of the Eagles season came Oct. 11 when they dominated the Giants, 34-13, and the Giants haven't improved their record since then. The Eagles cannot afford to lose a game to the lowly Giants, who started selling off players before the trade deadline and whose fans are thinking ahead to next season. The big question is whether Eli Manning will still be the starting quarterback for this game – and if so, if it will be the final time the Eagles play Manning in a Giants uniform.

vs. Washington (5-3), Dec. 3: There will be a lot of excitement leading into this Monday Night Football game. The Redskins have been the best team in the NFC East this season, although their 38-14 loss to Atlanta yesterday halted a three-game winning streak and their minus-12 point differential could show they're not as tough as their record and first-place standing might indicate. The Eagles' best path to the postseason is through the NFC East, so a win over Washington could help their hopes of division supremacy. This will be the first time the Eagles face Alex Smith as Washington's quarterback.

at Dallas, Dec. 9: If the schedule favors the Eagles for the first Eagles-Cowboys game, it favors the Cowboys for this meeting. The Eagles will travel to Dallas on a short week. The Cowboys, meanwhile, will have extra time to prepare after playing the previous Thursday. This will end a stretch of three consecutive NFC East games (and four in five weeks), so the Eagles' playoff hopes should be clear by this point.

at Los Angeles Rams (8-1), Dec. 16: One of the marquee games on the NFL schedule, the Eagles-Rams meeting was memorable last season for its back-and-forth excitement, the Eagles clinching the NFC East, but also for Carson Wentz suffering a season-ending knee injury. Wentz will return to the scene of the injury, and the Rams are even better this season. They were undefeated before losing to New Orleans yesterday, and Jared Goff (the No. 1 pick, ahead of Wentz) is leading an electric offense that is atop the NFL with 447.1 yards per game. These teams could meet again in January, too.

vs. Houston (6-3), Dec. 23: The Eagles' challenging second-half schedule will continue against the Texans, who have quietly been one of the NFL's best teams this season. Deshaun Watson is in the company of Wentz among the NFL's best young quarterbacks, and they have a top-10 defense to help, too. The Eagles are 2-1 against the AFC South this season.

at Washington, Dec. 30: Could this be a de facto NFC East championship? There hasn't been a repeat NFC East champion since 2004. The Eagles will try to win back-to-back NFC East titles for the first time since they won four in a row from 2001-04.

What you need to know about the Eagles

  1. The beat writers team up to examine the Eagles at the bye week.

  2. How can the Eagles offense take off in the second half? Bob Ford says it starts with protecting Carson Wentz.

  3. Les Bowen analyzes why the Eagles haven't reached expectations so far this season.

  4. Marc Narducci was at the Washington-Atlanta game to see the Eagles make up ground in the NFC while on the bye.

  5. John Smallwood finds out what former Eagles tight end Chad Lewis is doing now.

From the mailbag

Are the Eagles comfortable with their offensive line situation or were there simply no deals to be had at the deadline? Given the injuries to Jason Peters and Lane Johnson, and the trouble they've had run-blocking, I would have expected them to go all out to bolster that unit. — John V., via email

Good question. The Eagles kept 10 offensive linemen on the roster this season, so they already have more depth than most teams. And though there have been inconsistencies (and now injuries), the Eagles have veteran reserves they can rely upon, too. Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Stefen Wisniewski started in the Super Bowl. Chance Warmack has started 51 games in his career. Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor are developmental players who can play in an emergency. These reserves know the offense and have worked with each other before.

There are advantages to that compared to bringing in someone from the outside. The way I see it, the Eagles don't need outside help on the offensive line right now. They need their starters to play better. The injury to Lane Johnson affects the lineup, so we'll see how the unit looks when it returns to practice this week. I also think the Eagles will use the short passing game — especially now that they've acquired Golden Tate — instead of the running game at times.

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