by Vaughn Johnson & Chris McPherson
Week 1 at Atlanta Falcons (Sun., Sept. 12, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium: 0-1
Key additions: Head Coach Arthur Smith, Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees, TE Kyle Pitts, S Richie Grant, LB Barkevious Mingo, CB Fabian Moreau, RB Mike Davis, S Erik Harris
Key departures: C Alex Mack, S Keanu Neal, DB Damontee Kazee, S Ricardo Allen
Key stat: 4
Despite the rough season, four of the Falcons' final five losses were one-possession games against the Super Bowl Champs (Tampa Bay), the AFC Champs (Kansas City), and the NFC South Champs (New Orleans).
Player to watch: TE Kyle Pitts
The Philadelphia native and University of Florida product was the highest-drafted tight end in NFL history (No. 4 overall) and was also the first tight end to be the first non-quarterback selected in a draft.
Team preview: 4-12 in 2020, 4th in NFC South
While the head coach (Smith) and general manager (Terry Fontenot) are new in Atlanta, Matt Ryan remains the quarterback as the Exton, Pennsylvania native enters his 14th NFL season. The former league MVP has thrown for over 4,100 yards in each of the past 10 seasons and the Falcons continued to bolster the arsenal around him with Pitts, who joins a skill-position group that includes All-Decade wide receiver Julio Jones, former first-round picks Calvin Ridley at wide receiver and Hayden Hurst at tight end, and free agent additions in Pro Bowl returner Cordarrelle Patterson and running back Mike Davis. Ryan's protection up front includes three former first-round picks.
There's plenty in the cupboard for Smith, who engineered top-10 scoring offenses in Tennessee in each of the past two seasons, helping turn around the career of former first-round pick Ryan Tannehill and transforming former Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry into the league's two-time rushing champion.
Defensively, Smith was able to coax longtime coordinator Dean Pees out of retirement. In 10 of his 12 seasons as a defensive coordinator, Pees' units have ranked in the top 12 in yards allowed. Smith and Pees worked together in Tennessee. Pees' biggest challenge is reworking a secondary that allowed opposing quarterbacks a lofty 101.7 passer rating in 2020, good for 27th in the league. The Falcons used their second-round pick on safety Richie Grant and signed veteran defensive backs Fabian Moreau and Erik Harris in free agency.
How important is the first game? Since 1990, teams to win the season opener make the playoffs 53.4 percent of the time compared to only 24.7 percent of teams that started 0-1, according to NFL Media Research. It's a new era for both the Eagles and the Falcons. And an opportunity to add another exciting chapter to the rivalry.
Week 2 vs. San Francisco 49ers (Sun., Sept. 19, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. 49ers at Lincoln Financial Field: 3-2
Key additions: QB Trey Lance, C Alex Mack, RB Wayne Gallman, LB Nathan Gerry
Key departures: CB Richard Sherman, DE Solomon Thomas, RB Tevin Coleman
Key stat: 83
The 49ers allowed the most quarterback hits in the league during the 2020 season with 83. The Eagles were second with 80.
Player to watch: TE George Kittle
Injuries limited Kittle to only eight games in 2020, but he went bonkers against the Eagles in one of those games.
Kittle caught 15 passes on 15 targets for 183 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles last season. The Eagles seemingly threw everything they could at him, but none of it stopped Kittle from moving the chains.
The Eagles won the game but Kittle put on a show in front of a national television audience.
Team preview: 6-10 in 2020, 4th in NFC West
The NFC West is full of intriguing teams, but the 49ers are perhaps the most intriguing.
It wasn't that long ago that the Niners were coming off a close Super Bowl loss and were seen as one of the most talented teams in the league. In a matter of 12 months, however, they're seemingly in a bit of a transition after finishing last in the very competitive division.
Quarterback is at the top of the list of things to watch with the 49ers after they drafted Trey Lance with the third overall pick in the 2021 draft with Jimmy Garoppolo still being on the roster.
Another interesting thing to keep an eye on is the health of defensive end Nick Bosa, who is returning to the lineup after suffering a torn ACL in 2020.
Week 3 at Dallas Cowboys (Mon., Sept. 27, 8:15 PM on ESPN/94WIP)
Record vs. Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium: 6-7
Key additions: LB Micah Parsons, LB Keanu Neal, LB Jabril Cox, Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn
Key departures: CB Chidobe Awuzie, DT Tyrone Crawford, QB Andy Dalton, LB Sean Lee, C Joe Looney, DT Antwaun Woods, S Xavier Woods, Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan
Key stat: 11
The Dallas Cowboys averaged 11 fewer points with quarterback Dak Prescott sidelined in 2020.
Player to watch: LB Micah Parsons
New Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn gets his man in the middle of the unit with the former Penn State star coming in as the team's top draft choice at No. 12 overall, following the trade with the Eagles. The Cowboys have had excellent play at the linebacker position at times over the years, but injuries have limited players like Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch. How quickly can Parsons, a 2020 opt-out, get on track?
Team preview: 6-10 in 2020, 3rd in NFC East
While the Cowboys' offense seems to be ready for another successful season, their issues in 2020 began on the defensive side of the ball with a unit on its own historic pace in the first half of the season.
The unit improved as the season went along but it wasn't enough for the Cowboys to return to the postseason. Dallas has attempted to rectify its defensive struggles by hiring former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn to coordinate the unit that allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league last season.
Quinn landed his head coaching gig in Atlanta primarily because of his success with the "Legion of Boom"-era Seattle Seahawks, which was one of the best defenses of the past decade.
The Cowboys made it clear that defense was the priority in the 2021 NFL Draft. Their first six selections were all defensive players, including Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick. In totality, eight of the Cowboys' 11 draft picks were defensive players.
Week 4 vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Sun., Oct. 3, 1 PM on CBS/94WIP)
Record vs. Chiefs at Lincoln Financial Field: 1-2
Key additions: T Orlando Brown, OL Mike Remmers, G Kyle Long, DE Taco Charlton
Key departures: RB Damien Williams, T Eric Fisher, T Mitchell Schwartz
Key stat: 24
The Chiefs allowed the fifth-fewest sacks in the NFL last season with only 24.
Player to watch: TE Travis Kelce
A tight end catching 105 passes for 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns used to jump off the stat sheet, but that was just another season for the uber-productive Travis Kelce.
Yes, Jason Kelce is the unofficial Mayor of Philadelphia who has quite the resume himself, but his little brother is putting his name among the best tight ends ever to play the game.
Kansas City's offense is known for creating explosive plays, but those big plays don't happen without Kelce consistently moving the chains.
Team preview: 14-2 in 2020, AFC Champions
Despite allowing the fifth-fewest sacks in football during a season that ended with a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs have spent the offseason completely overhauling its offensive line.
Gone are stalwarts Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, and in are Orlando Brown (via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens), Mike Remmers, the once-retired Kyle Long, and Creed Humphrey, whom they selected in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
What would bring about such a drastic change? Look no further than the Chiefs' 31-9 loss to the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV when Patrick Mahomes was sacked three times and hit nine times overall. According to Pro Football Reference, Mahomes was pressured 21 times or on 37.5 percent of his dropbacks. Tom Brady, on the other hand, was pressured on only 16.7 percent of his.
A seemingly improved offensive line should mean the Chiefs' offense will be even better in 2021, which is startling for opposing defenses, being as though they gained the most yards in the league in 2020 en route to a 14-2 season.
Barring some sort of catastrophe, the Chiefs should be right back at the top of the AFC this season.
Week 5 at Carolina Panthers (Sun., Oct. 10, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium: 3-2
Key additions: QB Sam Darnold, CB Jaycee Horn, LB Haason Reddick, G Pat Elflein, CB A.J. Bouye, LB Denzel Perryman, T Cam Erving, DE Morgan Fox
Key departures: QB Teddy Bridgewater, WR DE Stephen Weatherly
Key stat: 33
First-round pick Jaycee Horn, the cornerback out of South Carolina, allowed just a 33-percent completion rate in 2020, the lowest in the SEC.
Player to watch: RB Christian McCaffrey
One of the most dynamic running backs in the NFL, McCaffrey was sidelined for most of 2020 due to injury. But in 2019, McCaffrey was nearly unstoppable with over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving becoming the third player in NFL history to accomplish the feat, joining Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk, while scoring 19 total touchdowns in the process.
Team preview: 5-11 in 2020, 3rd in NFC South
Matt Rhule set the foundation in his first year as head coach as the Panthers hung tough early in the 2020 season before finishing 5-11. Rhule and company look to take the next step and to do so acquired former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold from the New York Jets. Rhule hopes that pairing the quarterback with Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady will unlock his talent. Of course, the return of McCaffrey should aid in this as well.
Defensively, the Panthers have a young, energetic bunch with the addition of Horn. Up front, Brian Burns is a promising pass rusher and 2020 top pick Derrick Brown is an anchor in the middle. Rhule brought his former Temple star Haason Reddick to play linebacker from Arizona, and Horn joins a secondary with cornerback Donte Jackson and safety Jeremy Chinn.
Week 6 vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Thurs., Oct. 14, 8:20 PM on FOX/NFLN/Amazon/94WIP)
Record vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Lincoln Financial Field: 1-2
Key additions: RB Giovani Bernard, LB Joe Tryon
Key departures: S Andrew Adams
Key stat: 3
Tom Brady is 3-0 against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Player to watch: LB Shaquil Barrett
The Buccaneers' playoff run showed the entire world just how disruptive their front seven could be in key moments, and no one caused more problems for opposing offenses in 2020 than linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Barrett was sent on blitzes 121 times in 2020, the second most in the league according to Pro Football Reference. He was also tied for the most hurries in the league with 24.
If the Eagles are going to have any success against the Bucs' defense, they will have to find a way to neutralize Barrett.
Team preview: 11-5 in 2020, Super Bowl Champions
After a bit of a rocky start, the Buccaneers righted the ship (no pun intended) and made a pretty remarkable run to the franchise's second Super Bowl title. After playing the entire postseason on the road, the Bucs' first home playoff game came in the Super Bowl, making them the first team to play and win the big game in its home stadium.
Usually, there is plenty of turnover after winning it all (the Eagles saw their share heading into 2018), but that has not been the case for the Bucs as they return all 22 of their starters from last year's championship team. That is unheard of in today's NFL where player turnover is the norm.
Tom Brady having a full offseason in Bruce Arians' offense and with his bevy of talented receivers should make Tampa's offense even more potent than last season. The defense, which took over Super Bowl LV, should seemingly pick up right where it left off last season.
Of course, injuries could derail anyone's season, but there's no reason not to expect Tampa Bay to be right back in title contention in 2021.
Week 7 at Las Vegas Raiders (Sun., Oct. 24, 4:05 PM on FOX/94WIP)
This will be the Eagles' first trip to Las Vegas to play the Raiders.
Key additions: DE Yannick Ngakoue, T Alex Leatherwood, RB Kenyan Drake, DT Solomon Thomas, WR John Brown, WR Willie Snead
Key departures: T Trent Brown, DE Takk McKinley, LB Raekwon McMillan
Key stat: 434
The Raiders quietly put together one of the league's most potent offenses in 2020, ranking in the top 10 in both points scored and yards gained. The Raiders scored the most points since 2002, the year they lost to Head Coach Jon Gruden's Bucs in the Super Bowl.
Player to watch: TE Darren Waller
Even though he plays in the same division as Travis Kelce, Waller has established himself as one of the best tight ends in the game. He's entering 2021 off back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons and was rewarded with his first Pro Bowl nomination after a career-high nine touchdowns.
Team preview: 8-8, second in the AFC West
Head Coach Jon Gruden enters the fourth season of his second stint with the Raiders, and while he hasn't gotten them back to the postseason the Raiders have increased their win total each season. Offensively, the pieces are in place around quarterback Derek Carr with wide receiver Henry Ruggs entering his second year and the Pro Bowl tight end in Waller. The Raiders used their top draft pick to solidify the protection by taking Ruggs' former teammate Alex Leatherwood to play tackle.
To help a defense that ranked 30th in points allowed last season, the Raiders brought in talented edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue and used a second-round pick on safety Trevon Moehrig. There are several young prospects from the 2019 and 2020 drafts like defensive end Clelin Ferrell and cornerback Damon Arnette who can help Gruden and the Raiders reach the postseason for the first time since 2016 if they take that proverbial next step in 2021.
Week 8 at Detroit Lions (Sun., Oct. 31, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Detroit Lions at Ford Field: 2-2
Key additions: Head Coach Dan Campbell, QB Jared Goff, T Penei Sewell, WR Tyrell Williams, WR Breshad Perriman, RB Jamaal Williams
Key departures: QB Matthew Stafford, WR Kenny Golladay, LB Jarrad Davis, DT Michael Brockers, DT Danny Shelton, CB Desmond Trufant, RB Kerryon Johnson
Key stat: 4,600
While former quarterback Matthew Stafford was known for his prolific stats in Detroit, new quarterback Jared Goff has thrown for over 4,600 yards in two of his first five NFL seasons.
Player to watch: CB Jeff Okudah
The Lions' first-round pick in 2020 will be integral in helping new Head Coach Dan Campbell establish a tone on the back end of the defense. The former Ohio State star could be seeing plenty of the Eagles' last two first-round picks in Jalen Reagor and DeVonta Smith.
Team preview: 5-11, 4th place in the NFC North
The Lions hope that the new regime of Campbell and General Manager Brad Holmes can quickly establish an identity, and that's a physical one, although it won't likely involve biting kneecaps which the new coach hinted at during his introductory press conference.
Gone is Matthew Stafford, who set virtually every passing record in franchise history. The Lions acquired quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Holmes was in the Rams' front office at the time. Goff guided the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance in 2018, so he brings that playoff experience to Motown. And the Lions, trying to fulfill Campbell's vision for a tough team, used their first draft pick on talented tackle Penei Sewell out of Oregon.
Of course, one of the storylines to this contest will be the return of Darius Slay, who spent seven seasons with the Lions where he cemented his status as one of the league's elite corners.
Week 9 vs. Los Angeles Chargers (Sun., Nov. 7, 4:05 PM on CBS/94WIP)
Record vs. Chargers at Lincoln Financial Field: 1-1
Key additions: Head Coach Brandon Staley, T Rashawn Slater, CB Asante Samuel Jr., TE Jared Cook, LB Kyler Fackrell
Key departures: CB Casey Hayward Jr., TE Hunter Henry, DE Melvin Ingram, C Mike Pouncey
Key stat: 16.3
According to Pro Football Reference, the Chargers posted the lowest blitz percentage in the league, sending an extra rusher only 16.3 percent of the time.
Although new Head Coach Brandon Staley coordinated the best defensive in the league in 2020 with the Rams, do not expect the Chargers to turn up the heat when it comes to blitzes suddenly. The Rams were only 21st in the league in blitz percentage last season at 25.4.
Player to watch: QB Justin Herbert
The Chargers may have a more defensive-minded head coach at the controls, but make no make mistake about it, the Chargers' future rests on the right arm of young Justin Herbert. If 2020 was any indication, the future is as bright as the lightning bolt that adorns their helmets.
Herbert finished his rookie campaign with 4,336 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 10 interceptions, and took home Offensive Rookie of the Year honors as a result.
Team preview: 7-9 in 2020, 3rd in AFC West
The 2021 season marks a new era of Chargers football. There's a new head coach in Brandon Staley, Justin Herbert is firmly in place as the franchise quarterback, and they drafted an offensive line prospect in the first round of the draft whom they hope will be protecting Herbert's blindside for years to come.
If the Chargers can stay relatively healthy, they have the talent in place to improve their sub-.500 records the last two seasons.
Even if everything works out in the Chargers' favor, they still face stiff competition in their division, with the two-time defending AFC Champion Chiefs poised to make yet another run to the Super Bowl.
As if playing the Chiefs twice and navigating the rest of the AFC West was tough enough, the Chargers' list of AFC opponents also includes three playoff teams in the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Baltimore Ravens.
Week 10 at Denver Broncos (Sun., Nov. 14, 4:25 PM on CBS/94WIP)
Record vs. Denver Broncos at Empower Field: 0-2
Key additions: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Patrick Surtain, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Ronald Darby, RB Javonte Williams
Key departures: CB A.J. Bouye, DL Jurrell Casey, RB Phillip Lindsay
Key stat: 7
Von Miller had at least 10 sacks in seven of his first eight NFL seasons. He didn't play in 2020 due to an Achilles injury, but the Broncos could be in the AFC West mix if he regains his All-Pro form.
Player to watch: WR Jerry Jeudy
There are so many of DeVonta Smith's former teammates littered around the NFL, but the Broncos' first-round pick in 2020 had a promising rookie campaign with 52 catches for 856 yards and three touchdowns, one of them a 92-yarder. Jeudy will be key for whoever wins the quarterback battle between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater.
Team preview: 5-11, 4th place in the AFC West
There was a clear emphasis for Head Coach Vic Fangio this offseason - upgrade the secondary. The Broncos added two free agent corners in Kyle Fuller and former Eagle Ronald Darby, but that didn't sway them from using the No. 9 overall pick on Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama. With those three corners and Justin Simmons at safety, Fangio can recreate some of the stellar defensive units he's coached over the years.
Of course, a lot hinges on the quarterback position. Does former second-round pick Drew Lock advance? Or does the veteran Teddy Bridgewater provide stability to let the defense feast?
Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints (Sun., Nov. 21, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Saints at Lincoln Financial Field: 3-2
Key additions: DE Payton Turner, QB Ian Book, LB Tanoh Kpassagnon
Key departures: QB Drew Brees, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Sheldon Rankins, WR Emmanuel Sanders, TE Jared Cook, DE Trey Hendrickson
Key stat: 6.2
The Saints finished tied for last in the NFL in intended air yards per pass attempt, according to Pro Football Reference at 6.2. With Drew Brees retiring, it will be interesting to see if that number increases in 2021.
Player to watch: RB Alvin Kamara
There are still many questions to be answered for the Saints when it comes to the quarterback position, but one thing is for certain: Alvin Kamara will be an integral part of the offense no matter who lines up under center.
Kamara has yet to gain more than 1,000 yards in a season (the closest he's come was 932 in 2020), but that doesn't matter when he's caught at least 80 passes in each of his first four seasons, including a career-high 83 in 2020.
Kamara's rushing and receiving prowess has helped him post at least 1,300 yards from scrimmage every season as well. He gained 1,688 in 2020, also a career high.
Not to mention, he scored 21 total touchdowns in 2020, which led the league.
Team preview: 12-4 in 2020, NFC South Champions (Lost in Divisional Round)
Four straight division titles. Four straight bitter playoff defeats, including three in a row at home.
The postseason has not been kind to the Saints in recent years. The Saints have enough talent to pick up right where they left off last season, which was a 12-4 record, and take yet another crack at getting to the Super Bowl, but there will be one major piece missing: Drew Brees.
Yes, the best player in franchise history hung up his cleats after the 2020 season after breaking numerous NFL passing records and leading the franchise to their first and only Super Bowl title.
Brees' retirement begs the question: What will the Saints' offense look like in 2021? No one will have a clear answer until a definitive starter is named under center. Whether that is Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston remains to be seen.
Regardless of who trots out as the starter in Week 1, the expectations remain as high as ever for the Saints given how much talent is on the roster and the team's recent success.
Week 12 at New York Giants (Sun., Nov. 28, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Key additions: WR Kenny Golladay, CB Adoree' Jackson, TE Kyle Rudolph, DT Danny Shelton, WR Kadarius Toney
Key departures: WR Golden Tate, G Kevin Zeitler, RB Wayne Gallman, DT Dalvin Tomlinson
Key stat: 22.3
The Giants improved from 30th in points allowed in 2019 to ninth, allowing just 22.3 per contest.
Player to watch: DT Leonard Williams
The former first-round pick, who was acquired in a trade with the New York Jets in 2019, was set to be the Giants' franchise player before signing a long-term extension. He had 11.5 sacks in 2020, seventh in the league and most by a Giants player since 2014. Williams was twice named NFC Defensive Player of the Week down the stretch of the 2020 campaign as the Giants remained in the playoff mix. Williams was also third in the league with 30 QB hits. Will the addition of second-round edge rusher Azeez Ojulari help free up Williams to do more damage inside?
Team preview: 6-10 in 2020, 2nd in NFC East
It may be odd to see a 6-10 season as a vast improvement but that was the case for the Giants in 2020. Head Coach Joe Judge took the reins and established a culture that may not have translated to a bunch of wins last season, but most believe the Giants are on the right path for 2021 and beyond.
The offense features a bevy of weapons that should allow quarterback Daniel Jones to flourish, and the defense will look to improve upon a pretty good 2020 season. Last year was the first in a while where the Eagles-Giants rivalry felt truly competitive and 2021 should be no different.
Week 13 at New York Jets (Sun., Dec. 5, 1 PM on CBS/94WIP)
Record vs. New York Jets at MetLife Stadium: 1-0
Key additions: Head Coach Robert Saleh, QB Zach Wilson, OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, DE Vinny Curry, RB Tevin Coleman, DT Sheldon Rankins, LB Jarrad Davis, WR Corey Davis, DE Carl Lawson
Key departures: QB Sam Darnold, RB Frank Gore, DE Henry Anderson, WR Breshad Perriman, LB Jordan Jenkins, G Pat Elflein, LB Tarell Bashem
Key stat: 188.6
New Head Coach Robert Saleh is looking to use his Jets to keep opposing passing attacks grounded. In the last two years as defensive coordinator of the 49ers, San Francisco was tops in passing defense in terms of yards allowed with 188.6 per game.
Player to watch: QB Zach Wilson
General Manager Joe Douglas restarted the clock on a quarterback with a rookie contract by selecting BYU's Zach Wilson with the No. 2 overall pick and sending former No. 3 overall selection Sam Darnold to Carolina.
Wilson completed a school-record 73.5 percent (breaking Hall of Famer Steve Young's mark) of his passes for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdowns against only three interceptions for the Cougars.
Team preview: 2-14 in 2020, 4th in AFC East
It's back-to-back trips up the New Jersey Turnpike for the Eagles, who don't get in a plane after November 14. This time, it's for the "17th game" against the Jets.
Douglas now has his hand-picked head coach and quarterback to continue rebuilding a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2010.
The selection of Wilson will hope to help an offense that ranked last in the league in points scored last season with just 15.2 per game. Douglas doubled down in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on offense by adding lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker to the mix. In free agency, the Jets added former first-round pick Corey Davis to provide Wilson with a veteran target.
Of course, Saleh's calling card is the defensive side of the ball and the Jets added several pieces in the front seven, from edge rusher Carl Lawson to tackle Sheldon Rankins to linebacker Jarrad Davis. The quicker Saleh can mold the Jets' defense into what he had with the 49ers, the smoother the transition it will be for Wilson to give him the best opportunity to flourish.
Week 15 vs. Washington Football Team (Dec. 18-19, TBD/94WIP)
Record vs. Washington at Lincoln Financial Field: 10-8
Key additions: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Curtis Samuel, LB Jamin Davis, WR Adam Humphries
Key departures: QB Alex Smith, CB Ronald Darby
Key stat: 191.8
The Washington Football Team was second in the league in passing yards allowed per game with 191.8.
Player to watch: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
If there's one quarterback who has seemed to have the Eagles' number as of late, it is Ryan Fitzpatrick. In Week 2 of the 2018 season, Fitzpatrick led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a surprising 27-21 win over the Eagles with 402 passing yards and four passing touchdowns.
In Week 13 of the 2019 season, Fitzpatrick led the Miami Dolphins to an even more shocking win over the Eagles - this time by the score of 37-31 - thanks to 365 yards and three scores.
Barring some unforeseen circumstances, the Eagles will have to face Fitzpatrick twice in 2021. This time, he has the help of one of the best defenses in the league.
Team preview: 7-9 in 2020, NFC East Champions (Lost in Wild Card Round)
Although Washington was the third team to win a division title with a sub-.500 record, its roster still features a slew of talented players, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The defense is led by its front seven, which features reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. Young and company's pressure upfront helped Washington post the second-best pass defense in the league behind only the Los Angeles Rams.
That is not to say the cupboard is bare on the offensive side of the ball because it certainly is not. Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel make for a very formidable wide receiver duo. Running back Antonio Gibson proved to be a viable cog in Washington's offense during his rookie season.
All Washington really lacked was consistency at quarterback. It seemingly solved that problem with Fitzpatrick, who has proven to be a steadying force under center for multiple teams in the past.
Week 16 vs. New York Giants (Sun., Dec. 26, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Giants at Lincoln Financial Field: 13-6
Key stat: 30
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams registered the third-most quarterback hits in the NFL in 2020 with 30, behind only the Pittsburgh Steelers' T.J. Watt and the Cincinnati Bengals' Carl Lawson.
Player to watch: RB Saquon Barkley
Between Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, and rookie Kadarius Toney, the Giants have no shortage of weapons on offense. However, the unit's most important piece remains running back Saquon Barkley.
When healthy, Barkley is one of the best running backs in the league. But staying healthy has been easier said than done for the former Nittany Lion. Barkley missed time in 2019 with a high ankle sprain and played in only two games in 2020 due to a torn ACL.
The question heading into 2021 is will Barkley remain healthy during a now 17-game regular season and, if he is, will he return to the generational talent everyone expects him to be? If he is on the field for all 17 games and returns to form, the Giants' offense could be awfully dynamic in 2021.
Week 17 at Washington Football Team (Sun., Jan. 2, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Washington at FedEx Field: 14-10
Key stat: 175
Behind defensive-minded Head Coach Ron Rivera, the Football Team improved from 27th in both points and yards allowed in 2019 to fourth and second, respectively, in 2020. In 2019, Washington was outscored by 169 points. The Football Team had a plus-6 differential last year, a 175-point swing.
Player to watch: DE Chase Young
The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft lived up to the billing as Young became the first player in Washington's history to win the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.
Young posted 7.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss, and forced four fumbles for the NFC East Champs, earning Pro Bowl honors along the way. Washington's defensive front fueled the team's turnaround with 47 sacks as the Football Team allowed just 304.6 yards per game, second fewest in the league.
According to NFL's Next Gen Stats, Washington pressured the opposing quarterback 30.3 percent of the time with Young on the field, but 24.6 percent without him.
The 6-5, 264-pound Young is only 22 years old. He had 2.5 sacks against the Eagles as a rookie, but Lane Johnson wasn't on the field for either of those games, so that will be a showdown to watch in 2021.
Week 18 Dallas Cowboys (Sun., Jan. 9, 1 PM on FOX/94WIP)
Record vs. Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field: 8-10
Key stat: 6
The Cowboys' first six draft picks in 2021 were all defensive players.
Player to watch: QB Dak Prescott
Before his season-ending injury, Dak Prescott was on a historic pace in 2020. Heading into what turned out to be his final game of the 2020 season, Prescott was averaging 422.5 passing yards per game, which put him on pace to throw for more than 6,700 yards. Both would have easily shattered previous league records.
Because Prescott only threw for 166 yards before suffering his injury, it brought his season average down to 371.2. If Prescott simply kept that pace, he would have led the league in yards per game and set a new NFL record for yards per game in a single season.
Because of his injury, however, Prescott did not get a chance to face an Eagles defense that had its own share of injury troubles in 2020. Those injuries helped the Cowboys put up more than 500 yards of offense against the Eagles in Week 16 despite playing with a backup quarterback.
Prescott returning at presumably 100 percent should get the Cowboys' offense back on track in 2021.