The Philadelphia Eagles have had it easy for the last month or so. Eagles fans like myself might beg to differ in some aspects, since we've already lived through two Michael Vick injuries and a near-loss to the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9. However, Philadelphia still went 4-0 in the preseason and is 1-0 in the regular one - but all that didn't really count like the next several weeks will.
After cruising through preseason play and being fortunate enough to play the Browns in Week 1, all the breaks for the Eagles will end as of Sept. 16. That's when they play their first real measuring stick game against their first real opponent in a game that counts - then Philadelphia will play several more right after that.
The Eagles' real season starts when they host the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 - the furthest thing from facing the Browns. But if Philadelphia doesn't play like it did against Cleveland and manages to beat a real contender, all the angst over Week 1's sorry showing will fade away. Yet even after that, the Eagles can't rest too easy.
There might be a slight lull when Philadelphia visits the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 - although it might now finally get to duel with Kevin Kolb after all. But after that, the Eagles face a gauntlet of game against the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions before the overdue Week 7 bye. Then for good measure, the Birds face the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys right afterwards.
However, should the Eagles not be as fortunate in their next five games as they were in their first one, they may be counted out before the bye even ends. Although the showdown with the Ravens is technically the second game of the year, this is where the regular season truly begins for Philadelphia.
Lose to the likes of the Ravens, Steelers and Giants, and those five straight wins since August will be a very distant memory. Getting at least one win over an elite team would help more, yet there would probably still be doubt over the Eagles' elite status. But if Philadelphia was 4-2 heading into the bye - or even better than that - then there might be reason to get fully excited.
A 4-0 preseason record, and barely starting 1-0 in September, has done little to answer our questions about the Eagles. But those were all games that would never have revealed anything to begin with, even if they were losses.
However, there is no delaying judgment any longer, as for all intents and purposes, Philadelphia's Super Bowl quest starts this coming Sunday. Four weeks later, we will finally know what this Eagles team is really capable of - or at least get a little closer to figuring it out than we have now.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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