The Eagles will start the 2012 season with an easy (on paper) opener at Cleveland, but will face teams coming off playoff seasons in six of their next seven games.

The same cannot be said of the Birds, who got off to a miserable 1-4 start a year ago and missed the postseason for only the third time in 12 seasons.

That early slate was considered by many to be the gentler portion of the 2011 schedule, while the home stretch was deemed a more difficult test. The Eagles, though, in a case of too little, too late, swept the final four games to finish 8-8.

As challenging as the NFL schedule-makers have seemed to set the Eagles' first half - one that could decide coach Andy Reid's future in Philadelphia - April is still a long way from September, and the league increasingly has turnover.

Still, Reid, in his 14th season, will have to avoid a number of land mines if his team is to return to the playoffs. The Eagles will face four teams coming off bye weeks, and both meetings with Dallas will follow Monday night games.

After visiting the Browns on Sept. 9 - just two weeks after the teams meet in the preseason - the Eagles will host Baltimore in their Lincoln Financial Field opener on Sept. 16.

It will be the first time Ravens coach and former Eagles assistant John Harbaugh faces his old team in Philadelphia, and the first time Audubon, N.J., native Joe Flacco returns to the area as an NFL quarterback.

The Eagles then fly west to visit Arizona on Sept. 23. Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb could have the opportunity to play against his former team, a chance he didn't have a season ago after he suffered a concussion.

The highlight of the first month, however, will be a Sunday night showdown Sept. 30 at the Linc against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. The Eagles won't say it publicly, but many believed they were just as good as their Eli Manning-led NFC East rivals last season.

The game, on NBC10, will be the first of five in prime time. The Eagles, still quite the draw, are one of only eight teams with as many nighttime starts.

The schedule doesn't get any easier with a trip to Pittsburgh on Oct. 7, though some have the Steelers as an AFC team in decline. Detroit, on the contrary, is considered an up-and-comer. The Birds will host the Lions on Oct. 14.

After a bye, the Eagles will square off with Atlanta for the fifth consecutive year. Both teams will be playing with an extra week's rest, but Reid is 13-0 after the bye. The Birds will have an additional day off the following week when they head south for a Monday night tilt at New Orleans on Nov. 5. That's typically a tough assignment. This time, it's tough to say what kind of Saints team the Eagles will see. Coach Sean Payton has been suspended for the season because of the team's bounty scandal, and quarterback Drew Brees may not be a happy camper if he has to play under the franchise tag.

The Eagles then jump back into their division when the Dallas Cowboys come to town on Nov. 11, and they will drive down I-95 to face Washington on Nov. 18. The latter game likely will be the Eagles' first shot at rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom the Redskins are widely expected to take with the No. 2 overall pick in next week's draft.

Last season's dynamo quarterback, Cam Newton, will be on display when the Eagles welcome the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 26 - a Monday night. The Birds will travel to Dallas on Dec. 2 and to Tampa on Dec. 9.

They will have a short week to prepare for Cincinnati on Dec. 13, a Thursday night. Last season, the Eagles flew to Seattle for a mid-week game and were slaughtered by the Seahawks, essentially ending any postseason hopes.

The Birds gladly will accept the 10-day break before the Redskins visit the Linc on Dec. 23. And the season will end with a potential blockbuster against the Giants on Dec. 30 at the Meadowlands.

Here's the Eagles' entire 2012 regular-season schedule:

Sunday, Sept. 9: at Cleveland, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Sept. 16: vs. Baltimore, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Sept. 23: at Arizona, 4:05 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Sept. 30: vs. N.Y. Giants, 8:30 p.m. (NBC)

Sunday, Oct. 7: at Pittsburgh, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Oct. 14: vs. Detroit, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Oct. 21: BYE
Sunday, Oct. 28: vs. Atlanta, 1 p.m. (FOX)

Monday, Nov. 5: at New Orleans, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN) 
Sunday, Nov. 11: vs. Dallas, 4:15 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Nov. 18: at Washington, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Monday, Nov. 26: vs. Carolina, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN)

Sunday, Dec. 2: at Dallas, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Sunday, Dec. 9: at Tampa, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Thursday, Dec. 13: vs. Cincinnati, 8:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
Sunday, Dec. 23: vs. Washington, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sunday, Dec. 30: at N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m. (FOX)