Remember, it took the Eagles two tries to lure Kelly from Oregon. He originally turned Philly down and the team appeared focused on then-Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who would eventually get the Jacksonville top job. Then Kelly changed his mind. Kelly's up-tempo offense wasn't exactly revolutionary in his first NFL season, but it certainly was successful. The Eagles led the league in rushing by a wide margin (LeSean McCoy won the rushing title), were No. 2 in total yards and fourth in points (27.6). Also, remember that Michael Vick was Kelly's first choice as the starting QB. Vick was generally pretty good when in there but typically he got hurt. Nick Foles replaced him and never looked back, leading the NFL in QB rating and throwing just two interceptions in 317 attempts.
Few teams closed the 2013 regular season better than Philly, which won seven of its final eight. It took a 24-22 squeaker in Dallas in Week 17 to win the NFC East title. The Eagles were solid betting favorites at sportsbooks in the wild-card round against visiting New Orleans. After all, the Saints had never won a road playoff game and Drew Brees rarely plays well in cold weather. It was bitterly cold that night, but the Saints pulled out a 26-24 upset on a 32-yard field goal on the final play. That was one problem last year: The Eagles were only 4-5 at home including that game.
Key Offseason Moves
Vick was a free agent and the Eagles made no attempt to bring him back. The team also cut two receivers, Jason Avant and DeSean Jackson. Obviously the Jackson one was the big news considering he was brilliant last season, catching 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine scores. There are few guys with more big-play ability in the NFL, but Jackson was very costly salary-wise and there were some attitude concerns. He was quickly gobbled up by the division-rival Redskins. Philadelphia felt comfortable dumping Jackson because it re-signed Riley Cooper, who had a career year (47 catches, 835 yards, eight TDs), and gets Jeremy Maclin back after he missed all of last season. He caught 69 balls for 857 yards and seven scores in 2012. Philly will add at least one receiver in the draft.
The big addition was a trade for the Saints' Darren Sproles, arguably the best pass-catching running back in the NFL. All the Eagles had to give up was a fifth-round pick for a guy who had 71 receptions, 604 yards, four total touchdowns and 220 rushing yards last year. He should thrive in Kelly's offense and can help spell McCoy at times but also line up with him. Philadelphia also took a shot on Mark Sanchez to perhaps serve as Foles' backup.
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Monday, Sept. 15, at Indianapolis, 8:30 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, Washington, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, at San Francisco, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, St. Louis, 1 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, NY Giants, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: BYE
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Houston, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 10, Carolina, 8:30 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 16, at Green Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, Tennessee, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, at Dallas, 4:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, Seattle, 4:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 20, at Washington, 4:30 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.
Philadelphia has a schedule that ranks as the 13th easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .479. It has five games against playoff teams.
The Eagles opened as 11-point favorites for Week 1 against Jacksonville, the highest spread of any opening game at sportsbooks. The total is 52.5 on NFL odds. Philadelphia hasn't kicked off a season at home since 2010. Certainly it should beat Jacksonville before a big one Monday night against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Then three of the next four are at home, although the road tilt is a major challenge at San Francisco in a potential playoff preview. Really the only negative of the schedule before the bye is the two toughest games are on the road.
The four-game stretch out of the off week could set the table for the season with three of them on the road. The Cardinals were a 10-win team last year; they visited Philadelphia in Week 13 and lost 24-21. Foles had three TD passes in the game. The Eagles didn't face the Panthers in 2013 but won at Green Bay 27-13. Foles had three TD passes of at least 32 yards in that one. The Pack were without Aaron Rodgers.
The NFC East should be decided in the Eagles' final five
games, with four in the division and a visit from the Super Bowl champion
Seahawks. Philadelphia split with New York and Dallas last year -- winning each
time on the road -- but swept the Redskins.
Free NFL picks: 'Over' 9 wins even with an expected small regression from Foles, who can't possibly match last year's numbers. Philadelphia should win the NFC East, and that's going to take more than nine wins (curiously enough, they have every non-strike year except for 2011). Jackson will be missed if not in the locker room, but the Sproles addition is big, and Kelly will make full use of him.