The Philadelphia Eagles are your 2018 Super Bowl champions, in a thrilling game largely hallmarked by coach . This means Philly is possibly . If not, the to celebrate the city's first Super Bowl. And if Philadelphia survives that, there will even be a Week 1 home game to play for the Eagles.
We already know, which means we can narrow down the possible Week 1 opponents as well. And the list of teams is outstanding -- there will be no Super Bowl LII rematch, but the Eagles could play against any one of their high-profile division opponents, both the teams they played on the NFC side of the bracket and a few more stout NFC foes.
Let's rank the possible Week 1 opponents for the Eagles.
Shoot the ratings right into your veins. The Cowboys had a down season in 2017, but they are still one of the most high-profile teams in football and expectations will be sky high again in 2018. Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott will presumably be ready to roll for Week 1, and there is an expectation the Cowboys will improve on their defensive unit this offseason.
We are not fully prepared for the level of hot-takery involved in the Dak vs. Carson Wentz debate which will ensue over the next decade plus. The Cowboys struggling and Wentz suffering an injury put the kibosh on it really heating up; imagine if these two teams played in the playoffs this year. With a Super Bowl on the line? Lord help us all. There would be sweeping, grand generalizations.
As it is, the hype surrounding Wentz will largely focus on his recovery from an ACL injury. It feels very far away, but by the time July and August arrive, the hype around both these teams and both these quarterbacks will be at a fever pitch. Expect 10-win potential for the over/under for both Philadelphia and Dallas. The only issue will be taking this game away from Fox, which just committed $3.3 billion to "Thursday Night Football."
And the Giants presence might be the best reason to indulge in someone other than Dallas. The Giants were a terrible team in 2017, but the expectation is a return for Eli Manning next year, and a fairly quick improvement on the offensive line courtesy of new GM -- and bargain-bin shopper extraordinaire -- Dave Gettleman, who worked well with the offensive and defensive lines in Carolina during his last run as GM. Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram constitute a dangerous attack in the passing game for the veteran Manning.
New York could potentially be a bad team again. They might not be great, depending on how Manning manages to mature. But the benefit of throwing the Giants out here in Week 1 is you get a team with a lot of hype, a team with a high level of local and national interest, a team that is a big-time rival of the Eagles and a team that won't be more than a touchdown underdog in a Week 1 game (Eagles -4.5 or 5.5 depending on Wentz's status?).
Giants fans firmly believe the arrival of Pat Shurmur, the return of Eli, the health of Odell, the maintenance of the offensive line and some continuity on defense will result in a bounceback season.
This matchup largely depends on what happens with the Vikings quarterback situation. If they end up going huge and signing someone like Kirk Cousins, bump them up to No. 2, because Minnesota and Philadelphia will be considered the top contenders for the NFC crown.
Even if the Vikings simply bring back Case Keenum and/or Teddy Bridgewater, it wouldn't be inconceivable for them to return to the scene of the crime, heading back to Philadelphia for the first time since a horrendous performance by both sides of the ball in the NFC Championship Game. The Eagles curbstomped the Vikings in that game, but there is no real reason to expect a huge dropoff from Minnesota in 2018.
Assuming they get a quarterback anyway: Keenum is a logical answer to the issue here, with the Vikings potentially utilizing a transition tag on the journeyman quarterback after his breakout season in 2017. At worst it feels like a low-risk deal for Bridgewater would be the answer and that gives them a high floor if Bridgewater can stay healthy. TBD on the quarterback front, but the Vikings will be good.
Mike Zimmer's defense is going to remain stout, thanks to the presence of Everson Griffin, Harrison Smith and a host of other impressive players. Dalvin Cook's return along with the presence of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen make the offense more than effective. The Vikings are the top non-divisional pick, assuming they secure the quarterback position.
Another playoff team who fell to the Eagles in Philly, Atlanta should also be an NFC contender heading into 2018. Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu are all under contract. Jake Matthews, Andy Levitre and Alex Mack will be back to help the offensive line.
Defensively, the Falcons started to find their rhythm late in the season and could be capable of taking a major leap forward next year. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford give Atlanta a very nice cornerback duo. Takkarist McKinley and Vic Beasley could be ready to explode in terms of being elite pass rushers. Grady Jarrett remains underrated. Deion Jones and Keanu Neal are heat-seeking missiles.
The Falcons might not be the sexiest pick for ratings purposes, but they would be a very good opponent. I'm guessing they might not be favored in Philly this time around.
The Panthers might provide a little more juice than the Falcons, but they also have a lot more uncertainty surrounding them this offseason. Cam Newton is the star power, but there are a LOT of questions for the Panthers before 2018. First of all, who is going to be the owner? Jerry Richardson has to sell the team, but there isn't a timeframe for the sale. The NFL doesn't want an unsold, investigated team showing up for Week 1.
What will the Panthers look like under their new coordinators? Norv Turner is taking over as offensive coordinator after Mike Shula was fired. Steve Wilks is being replaced by Eric Washington. The Panthers have Devin Funchess and Christian McCaffrey, but are going to need to figure out a way to quickly inject some more talent at the skill positions quickly. With Kelvin Benjamin traded and Funchess hurt, Newton was throwing to some questionable targets at the end of 2017.
Defensively they have Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, the latter of whom is about to embark on a farewell tour for his NFL career, but might struggle to recreate their depth at defensive end in 2018. This unit won't be toothless by any means, but there are big questions on that side of the ball too. Carolina currently has an owner trying to sell and a GM in Marty Hurney on interim status -- how can we possibly expect them to be big spenders, or even movers and shakers, in the offseason?
Sleeper pick for the Week 1 matchup after Deshaun Watson electrified the NFL as a rookie for about eight weeks until he tore his ACL and the Texans crumbled. Watson has legitimate star power, and if he continued on pace for the full course of the 2017 season with the statistics he produced while serving as the team's starting quarterback, he would have sauntered to the NFL Rookie of the Year award. Watson will have high expectations heading into 2018, but it is also possible there is concern about whether he is fully healthy for Week 1. Putting him on a stage like this would be risky given the injury.
And the same goes for J.J. Watt, who suffered a broken leg and missed most of the season. Watt obviously has massive star power: he not only has multiple Defensive Player of the Year Awards, but he was named Walter Payton Man of the Year during NFL Honors this year for his work raising money to help Houston people trying to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The NFL always looks for opportunities to highlight players who do good things, and the Texans in Week 1 would give them a very good opening for it.
It originally looked as if the Redskins could be dead last on this list, depending on what they did with Kirk Cousins. Let him walk and suddenly Washington could crater. But they made a move to land Alex Smith in a trade, which gives them a nice high floor. However, it also gives them a ceiling. Offensively, Smith plus Josh Doctson plus Jordan Reed plus Jamison Crowder can be spicy. But it could also be clunky coming out of the gates. Seeing Smith recreate the magic he produced against the Patriots in Week 1 last year with a new offense feels like asking a bit much.
Maybe the goal here is similar and the league wants to get a divisional matchup in Week 1 on the books while the Redskins still have maximum intrigue. But the counterpoint is choosing the Redskins for this matchup would be passing up on multiple other big-time games they could put together.
8. Indianapolis Colts
There is simply too much up in the air right now with Andrew Luck to put the Colts any higher. Jacoby Brissett is a really good backup and maybe a potentially good quarterback, but he doesn't have the same appeal as Luck, who is still battling back from a long and winding shoulder injury that fortunately will not need additional surgery.
If Luck is somehow cleared and ready to roll when the schedule comes out in April, the Colts could move up this list, particularly with the addition of McDaniels, who would give a little bit of Super Bowl LII rematch juice to this matchup. It's just hard to see the Colts being anything less than 7-10 point underdogs against the Eagles in a Week 1 matchup, barring some really unexpected offseason personnel maneuvers.
They are pretty clearly the least likely option here.