The Philadelphia Eagles will measure themselves up against several teams all season. At the least, Eagles fans like myself will do so, as we hope and wonder if they are on the level with the NFC's elite. At the bare minimum, we hope that Philadelphia can measure up to their NFC East rivals - and for Week 1, it will need to be more like the Dallas Cowboys than the New York Giants.
When the Eagles face the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 9, will they resemble the Cowboys team that upset the Giants days ago? Or will they resemble the Giants team that came out flat and overconfident against an underdog, as the Eagles hope not to do?
Dallas came into its opener on Sept. 5 with a lot of question marks and injury problems, like Philadelphia is facing right now. But despite having a lot of injuries in the preseason and having barely played all together in August, the Cowboys looked pretty efficient against the Super Bowl champions. In fact, Tony Romo looked as efficient as he ever has been, while Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten put their injuries behind them - and a new threat emerged in Kevin Ogletree.
The Eagles just have Michael Vick's preseason injuries to worry about, although there is more than enough reason to fear. Even if he survives a 60 minute game, can Vick and his offense shake off their rust together after only running 12 preseason plays? The Cowboys hardly looked rusty and they were playing the champions - who broke their hearts twice late last season at that. By that logic, the Eagles have absolutely no excuse not to do the same against the much weaker Browns.
Yet the Giants can attest to how difficult simple tasks can be. All signs pointed to New York having its way with Dallas, just as all signs point to Philadelphia cruising over Cleveland. Although a Cowboys victory wasn't a massive upset like a Browns win over the Eagles would be, it was still largely unexpected. The Giants thought they would have their way with the Cowboys as they did last season, but Dallas turned out to have learned a new thing or two.
The Cowboys learned to keep a fourth-quarter lead and get stronger as they went along - things the Eagles need to improve on as well. Will they learn from that example and keep learning from it throughout the year? Or will Philadelphia come out flatter than expected in Week 1 and get knocked down to Earth, as New York did?
Of course, the Eagles want to do better than both the Cowboys and Giants this season. These two clubs are the first measuring sticks for Philadelphia in 2012 - and hopefully they will be closer to the Cowboys' stick than the Giants during Week 1.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
Other stories by this contributor