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Philadelphia Eagles' 2021 schedule: Second-half slate offers hope

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The Philadelphia Eagles schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN's Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Eagles:

Schedule

Sept. 12: at Atlanta

Sept. 19: vs. San Francisco

Sept. 27: at Dallas (MNF)

Oct. 3: vs. Kansas City

Oct. 10: at Carolina

Oct. 14: vs. Tampa Bay (TNF)

Oct. 24: at Las Vegas

Oct. 31: at Detroit

Nov. 7: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Nov. 14: at Denver

Nov. 21: vs. New Orleans

Nov. 28: at New York Giants

Dec. 5: at New York Jets

Dec. 12: Bye

Dec. 18/19 (TBD): vs. Washington

Dec. 26: vs. New York Giants

Jan. 2: at Washington

Jan. 9: vs. Dallas

Strength of schedule: 32nd, .430

Biggest takeaway

The front half of the Eagles' schedule is loaded with difficult opponents, including the two Super Bowl representatives from a year ago in the Chiefs and Bucs. Things smooth out down the stretch. Coach Nick Sirianni's squad will not have to get on a plane after Week 10, with five of its last six games played against divisional rivals in the mediocre NFC East. While Philadelphia technically has the easiest schedule in the NFL based on opponents' strength of schedule from a year ago, it's easy to envision teams such as the Chargers, 49ers, Panthers and Falcons improving, making Philadelphia's path more difficult in the process. It's going to be far from a cake walk, in other words, especially for a team in transition.

One storyline to watch

The Eagles-Giants rivalry has only intensified in recent months. The Eagles' decision to pull Jalen Hurts for reserve quarterback Nate Sudfeld during a closely contested game against Washington in the 2020 season finale sparked outrage in New York, as a Washington win eliminated the Giants from postseason contention. Then in April, the Eagles leap-frogged the Giants in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft -- by trading with the Cowboys of all teams -- to snag the apple of the G-Men's eye, wide receiver DeVonta Smith. Safe to say, the Giants wanted their crack at the Eagles early in the schedule.

Just imagine the pent-up aggression that will be on display when these teams finally square off in late November.

What Vegas thinks

The oddsmakers have the Eagles' win total at 7. I'll lean over here, as the manageable schedule over the second half of the season will help propel Philadelphia to a respectable finish. The play of Hurts will be the key. With a solid offensive line in front of him and playmakers such as Smith, Dallas Goedert and Miles Sanders around him, the Eagles could surprise some folks so long as Hurts can bump his accuracy up while keeping the turnovers down.

Bold prediction

Philadelphia will be in contention for the division title heading into Week 18. When you play in the NFC East, you're almost never out of it. After all the turmoil over this past year, the Eagles will have a chance to climb back into the postseason with a home win against Dallas.