Finally, football that counts.
The Eagles open their regular season Sunday afternoon with a 1 p.m. kickoff at Washington against the Redskins, on FOX. The hype, curiosity and pontificating can turn into entertainment and substantiated arguments when the Birds take to the field and begin their trek toward a playoff spot for the first time since 2013.
Here’s a look at the three most prominent things to keep an eye on as Week 1 approaches:
Jeffery vs. Josh
There have been questions surrounding Alshon Jeffery, his healthy and his preparedness to play with Carson Wentz and under a new offensive scheme this season. He’ll be thrown into the fire in Week 1, as most expect the Redskins’ top cornerback — and outspoken personality — Josh Norman to follow Jeffery everywhere he goes.
The two have done battle before, both playing in the NFC and Jeffery held his own. Last year, Jeffery caught five of 10 targets for 92 yards. Two years prior when Norman was with the Panthers, Jeffery caught six of seven passes for 97 yards and a score.
“There’s good and bad on the film,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said of watching film of the two doing at it on the outside. “It’s not all the positives. It’s not a highlight film, by any means. It’s the good and the bad. Alshon won his share. Josh Norman won his share. It’s a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other. It’s great competition. But I just wanted to see how he handled a little pressure in those situations.”
End the slide
The Eagles have lost their last five games in a row to the Redskins — the longest losing streak against a single opponent in more than a decade for the Birds. Division games make up a huge percentage of the NFL schedule and have more or less double the impact of non-conference games on standings. Simply put, the Eagles simply must find a way to keep from losing their sixth straight to Washington.
This is a good football team,” Pederson said. “It’s a tough place to play. Crowd can get juiced up. [FedExField is a] loud place, as we know. They play well at that home stadium. Division opponent, on the road, Washington Redskins, season opener. It has everything you want to start the year.”
Off to a good start
NFL pundits seem to be absolutely split in two on the Eagles this season. Power Rankings have the team spread everywhere from fifth to the low teens as the season kicks off, and the Vegas line on the Eagles visit to Washington went from a field goal advantage for the Skins to a 1.5-point edge for the Eagles. No one knows how good the Eagles will be. Starting 1-0 will be a good way to show the Eagles’ faithful that their optimism will be rewarded.
“I think they’re all must wins, quite honestly,” Pederson said. “I think the opener is a very important game. It kind of can set the tempo for the rest of the season, and it’s the first part of the year. I talk to our guys about starting fast; that goes without question, how we start the season.”