If you're one of the Eagles' many new players, how do you prepare for a Sunday like this?
How do you get ready for your first game in front of nearly 70,000 Eagles fans screaming for a game that counts? To face the archrival New York Giants as they come down the New Jersey Turnpike looking for revenge for a historic Eagles comeback the last time they met? With Philadelphia brimming in anticipation of the first home game featuring the Eagles' new, star-studded roster?
Facing his first home game and first NFC East game and first taste of the Eagles-Giants rivalry, rookie center Jason Kelce will sit in the locker room at Lincoln Financial Field, put on a pair of headphones, and crank up some Christmas music.
"I like to do that, really just to kind of take my mind away, really, just relax," Kelce explained. "Before the game the last thing you want to do is to be overanalyzing things, thinking about a bunch of stuff you did before the week, because you already did the preparation."
So he'll turn on something Christmas-themed, maybe some Nat King Cole or Frank Sinatra, and soak it in. As a junior at Cincinnati, he joined several teammates in the Christmas-song ritual. Kelce found that he preferred being at ease to using up his energy with the kind of pregame fire-breathing favored by other players.
Of course, there won't be anything relaxing once the Eagles take the field. The stadium, with Reggie White's image looming above and the Philadelphia skyline in the distance, will be packed with green and white, maybe with some blue sprinkled in. Rocky's theme music will blare along with the fans. Smoke will greet the home team.
"I know how you want to defend your home and how you want to set the tempo at home, especially to start the year out," said defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, new to the Eagles. "You want to kind of give a little preview of what teams can expect for a whole year coming in here."
With eight new starters, the Eagles have many players who haven't yet been part of this rivalry. But they've already learned what it means to both sides.
"Some of the veteran guys have told me already, it's going to be a little bit different atmosphere. The fans are going to be different, the players," Kelce said. "There's really animosity between the two teams."
Including the playoffs, they have faced off 156 times, starting in 1933. That's the most the Eagles have played any franchise. Recently, the two teams have often vied for NFC East championships, and the games have frequently taken on a nasty tone.
"There's nothing friendly between the Eagles and Giants," said Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
Former Giant Antonio Pierce, now an ESPN analyst two years removed from the NFL, cursed when a Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger reporter asked him about the Eagles this week.
"I've never disliked a team or a city or the fans more than I disliked Philadelphia," Pierce told the Ledger.
The Eagles rallied from a 21-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat the Giants in December in New Jersey, the game that essentially made the difference between the Eagles making the playoffs and the Giants staying home. Since then, players on each side have been trashing the other.
Add that to the fervor around this game. It's the Eagles' first clash with a division rival, and Philly fans' first chance to cheer new stars and greet old ones they haven't seen at home since January. It's an opportunity for the Giants to avenge their embarrassing loss and for the Eagles to heap on some more misery.
Kelce, the rookie center, won't be the only one feeling as if it's Christmas in September. Just ask the fans in the stands.