The Philadelphia Eagles still have a few days before their opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, the Eagles and the rest of the NFC should pay attention to the NFL's actual opening night on Sept. 4. If Philadelphia wants to break into the elite of the NFC and NFL, it must be on the same level as the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, who start setting the bar against each other on night one.
The Seahawks set the bar for every team in the NFL, since they are the Super Bowl champions. As a result, they get to have the annual Thursday night opener at home, where they are already almost unbeatable. No matter who visits, the Seahawks have been virtually perfect in Seattle under Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson. As long as that doesn't change and the Seahawks win more than half their road games, no one will overthrow them in the NFC.
If the Packers can upset them tonight, that could send a message about the NFC being more up for grabs. It would also send a message that Green Bay is really back, after struggling through half of last year without Aaron Rodgers. But the assumption is that Rodgers will play more this year and Green Bay will finish better than 8-7-1 as a result.
The Seahawks, Packers and San Francisco 49ers are undoubtedly the three big favorites in the NFC. That is the bar the Eagles must meet to take the next step, and prove that they can be a true contender under Chip Kelly and Nick Foles. While Philadelphia did beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field during its second half surge in 2013, it was while Rodgers was sidelined.
Are the Eagles ready to challenge a Rodgers-led Packers team and the champion Seahawks? As it turns out, they will face both in the second half of the season, as they visit the Packers again on Nov.16 and have the fortune to host the Seahawks on Dec. 7. Those games could help make or break the Eagles' playoff fate, or at least show whether they can do more than just win one playoff round.
The Seahawks and Packers may well look different a few months from now. If one or both of them puts on a big show tonight, the Eagles and the rest of the NFC will have to pray that they do.