Quarterback Brandon Weeden #3 of the Cleveland Browns throws to a receiver as he is pressured by defensive end Brandon Graham #54 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Stadium on August 24, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio.
Les Bowen had a fun piece today, looking at the last five Eagles season openers. It's interesting. There were three blowout victories: 2008, 2009, and 2011. Then there were two close losses (both to the Packers, incidentally) in 2007 and 2010.
It's hard to look at the Eagles matchup on Sunday and not see something closer to the former than the latter. The Browns appear to be one of the worst teams in the NFL. Their starting quarterback is a 28-year-old rookie. They have no passing weapons to speak of. Trent Richardson, their other first round pick, seems dangerous—but he's hobbled by an injury. The Browns defense is filled with castoffs, starting a familiar defensive backfield that includes Dimitri Patterson and Sheldon Brown. Mike Tanier was dead on accurate in his assessment of the Browns as the Eagles "minor-league affiliate".
I don't know how you call this game any other way but a victory for the Eagles. They're the nine-point favorite—on the road! I'm not smart enough to pick against all these factors. All I had to see was Damaris Johnson torching Sheldon Brown down the sidelines in the third preseason game. If that's what an undrafted free agent can do, I'm expecting a big day from the newly-minted man, DeSean Jackson. Hopefully this game will also give Michael Vick an opportunity to return to form against slightly lesser competition.
All that said, I'm also expecting a sloppy game. The Eagles weren't exactly firing on all cylinders throughout the preseason (which is fine). Keep an eye on the offensive line and linebackers this week. Problems there might not be enough to lose the game, but as with last year's opener against the Rams, the warning signs may be flashing for the rest of the season.
See you on Sunday!