The Philadelphia Eagles open the 2014 season at home on Sunday at the newly revamped Lincoln Financial Field.
Until last season, the Eagles struggled at home, posting just five wins in 2011 and 2012 combined. Last season saw little improvement, as their first home win did not come until week eleven. However, the Eagles finished the 2013 season 4-0 at home and with seven wins over their last eight games.
This will mark the first game without the electric DeSean Jackson, since releasing him in the offseason. Jackson led the Eagles last season in receiving good for 1,332 yards. Though a tall order to replace such a deep ball and speedy threat, the Eagles have a healthy Jeremy Maclin back and a formidable rookie in Jordan Matthews. With Riley Cooper rounding out the receiving core, Foles will have no shortage of targets.
LeSean McCoy looked true to form in the preseason, rushing for close to four yards per try and catching four passes, including one for a TD.
McCoy may not put up the same lead-leading rushing numbers as last season, but not because of a lack of effort or decline in ability; the addition of Darren Sproles will be a dynamic highest on my radar for game one. What’s worse than having to cover LeSean McCoy in the flat? Having to do it twice. Sorry, fantasy owners.
Defense still remains the variable subject to weakness. Improvements were made over the offseason including bringing in experienced safety Malcolm Jenkins.
The real spots of vulnerability last season were at cornerback and safety, as the Eagles came in dead last in passing yards allowed. This, however, may have been a byproduct of a lack of pressure from the defensive line. The hope is that newly acquired DE Taylor Hart and DT Beau Allen will spark the line into getting after the quarterback.
Familiarity in the second year under defensive coordinator Billy Davis may right the floundering defense of 2013.
The Eagles get to test out all of their new schemes and personnel on last year’s NFL punching bag the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars went 4-4 last season after their bye in week nine but started with many wondering if they were going to join the 2008 Lions as history’s only winless team.
The Jaguars do have a new coach in Gus Bradley who seems to have a more convincing command over the team, but the loss of Maurice Jones-Drew will make an already struggling team that much less explosive.
Bradley decided to go with the college phenom turned pro question mark Chad Henne over the rookie Blake Bortles. Many including myself expect Bortles to make a start at some point during the season save performances out of Henne that defy his past NFL statistics.
There is little chance the Jaguars open the season in the same form that spawned the largest spread in NFL history last season against the Broncos, but to expect a drastic change feels equal at chance.
The Eagles are the highest favorite to win their week one opener, and I suspect the outcome not to debunk the prediction.