The NFL schedule is expected to be released this week ahead the NFL Draft, which starts next Thursday. Aside from the October 14 London Game between the Seahawks and the Raiders, the only thing 100% locked in is that the Eagles will open the season in Lincoln Financial field against one of eight opponents. All eight potential matchups would have their own storylines and be a lot of fun to watch, but this is how I rank them.
8. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts, who should have a healthy Andrew Luck back under center in 2018, being last on the list shows the difficultly of the Eagles schedule this season. Former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich returning would be a big storyline, as it would be interesting to see what his offense has in store after he was a contributor to crafting Philly’s offense over the last two seasons. With Luck’s health still no stone-cold guarantee, there is little chance of the Colts being in the opening game, though.
7. Houston Texans
It would feature two quarterbacks coming off of torn ACLs, but Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz (hopefully) headlining the NFL’s opening game would be a thrill. Also, the return of J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, along with the Texans debut of Tyrann Mathieu (and potentially Dez Bryant), would make Houston a formidable foe for the defending champs.
6. Carolina Panthers
A couple years ago, the Panthers opened the season in a Super Bowl 50 rematch against the Broncos. Cam Newton is about as good of a draw as any player in the NFL given his popularity and polarity, but he’s had some struggles against the Eagles in the past. Last year’s Thursday night matchup between these two teams might have been the best TNF game of the year, and Carolina was really close to winning despite Luke Kuechly leaving the game early with a concussion.
5. Washington Redskins
We’re now getting to the division rivals, who all naturally get a boost because of the history between them and the Eagles. The Redskins have a new quarterback in Alex Smith, who as a member of the Chiefs last season was one of the only quarterbacks to get a win over Philadelphia last season. Washington thinks they upgraded by adding Smith and allowing Kirk Cousins to walk, and it would be interesting to see things start to play out in the opening game.
4. New York Giants
While the Giants finished as the second-worst team in the NFL last season, they have some talented players and are expected to bounce back in 2018. Odell Beckham Jr. headlines a group that will hopefully be healthy for Week 1, and the Giants have a chance to add another blue-chip player with the second pick in the draft such as running back Saquon Barkley. Also, Giants head coach Pat Shurmur, who was previously the offensive coordinator for Philadelphia, was probably the runner-up when Doug Pederson was hired in 2016 (if you don’t count former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo, who was reportedly guy the Eagles wanted to hire most before New York did).
3. Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones’ Cowboys are perhaps the biggest brand in the NFL, so they must be in strong consideration to open the 2018 NFL season. Eagles-Cowboys might be the top rivalry in the league, and there’s a chance that rivalry is heightened now that the Eagles have a Lombardi Trophy—which the Cowboys owner is very angry about. Dak and Zeke leading Dallas into the Linc against the rabid Philadelphia fans would be entertaining.
2. Atlanta Falcons
January’s Wild Card Round matchup against the Eagles was about as close as it gets, as the Falcons had a chance to win it on a Matt Ryan pass to Julio Jones that was just barely incomplete. Atlanta has basically been among the NFC’s elite since Matty Ice got there in 2008, and they are still looking for a title. Eagles versus Falcons would be both a playoff rematch and a potential playoff preview in January 2019.
1. Minnesota Vikings
The heavy favorite to open the season against the Eagles has to be the Vikings. The Eagles took away the Vikings’ chance to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium before hoisting the Lombardi themselves after defeating the Patriots. Kirk Cousins is now at quarterback for the Vikings, and he’s had his share of big wins and success versus Philadelphia when he was a member of the Redskins. The opening battle in the war for homefield advantage in the NFC could happen on opening night.