The Optimist Fan’s Guide to the 2011 Eagles

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With the pessimist fan's guide already done, it's time to turn to the dreamers, the optimistic few in this City of Brotherly Despair. These precious souls are always looking for the best, expecting another Super Bowl run. There's no reason to jump off that bandwagon now. Eventually you'll be right, and here's why that could come this season:

* Last year's Eagles team had a tremendous number of problems. There was a quarterback controversy, a miserable right side of the offensive line, not enough pass rush, weak linebackers, and a giant hole at right cornerback that sucked in any unsuspecting player who tried to fill it. And yet, the Eagles still managed to go 10-6 and win the NFC East. And they could have easily been 11-5 if they played their starters in the season finale. This wasn't a bad team in 2010.

* Remember all those problems I just laid out? The Eagles addressed all of them in the offseason. Some of the spots went from areas of weakness to immediate strengths. Cornerback is now the deepest unit in the league. The defensive line has been upgraded with two big free agents. Offensive line and linebacker may not yet inspire confidence, but there's no doubt that change has come to both positions and improvement wouldn't be that difficult.

* If you watched Thursday night's NFL season opener, you saw the blueprint for a great team: a transcendent quarterback, spread offensive weapons, a relentless pass rush, and shutdown cornerbacks. That describes the Super Bowl champ Packers perfectly, and now the Eagles too. Forget the preseason. This Andy Reid-coached, Michael Vick-led passing attack will set franchise records. The defense, in turn, is built to feast on opponents who struggle to keep up.

* If there was ever a schedule made for winning a playoff bye week, this is it. The NFC East looks like it's in a down cycle. The Cowboys got back Romo but had lots of other turnover. The Giants lost a number of starters to injuries and free agency just in the last month. And the Redskins are starting Rex Grossman. Meanwhile, the Eagles take on the NFC West, another four wins. Then they play Atlanta instead of New Orleans and Chicago instead of Green Bay. Looking at the schedule, there's no reason the Eagles can't go 12-4 or 13-3.

Many contrarian commentators want to play down the Eagles' chances because it's always fun to hate. But this team has as good a chance as any in the Andy Reid era of finally breaking through and bringing home that elusive Lombardi Trophy.

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