Sometimes the Long Shot Comes In

Who would have thought we’d be sitting here on Monday talking about the Eagles’ upcoming playoff game? Nobody. Who in their right mind thought Tampa would lose at home to a lousy team like Oakland, blowing a ten-point lead in the process? Nobody. Who thought the Eagles would put a spanking on the Cowboys the likes of which have rarely been seen in Eagles history? Nobody. The Bears losing in Houston wasn’t terribly surprising, but the chances of both Chicago and Tampa losing were pretty small. In fact, you probably had a better chance of winning the lottery than witnessing the confluence of events that occurred yesterday to allow the Eagles to sneak into the playoffs. Then again, it’s been that kind of wacky season (the Chargers rallied from a 4-8 record to win their division for god’s sake).

I’m not surprised the Eagles beat the Cowboys (though, in my understandable dejection after the Washington debacle I said something much different), but the way they did it was certainly shocking. Playoffs or no playoffs, that was one of the more enjoyable games in Eagles’ history. The Cowboys, with eight days of rest and a playoff spot on the line, flat-out choked like the frauds they are. Of course the Eagles had something to do with that, particularly the defense that is playing as well as any in football right now. It doesn’t get much sweeter than demolishing the Cowboys, especially given the bonus of sending them home for the postseason. I’m glad Reid finally discovered that Buckhalter is still on this team. He and Westbrook would make a formidable tandem if Reid would just use them. I hope he has finally gotten the message that you have to run to win, but how many times have I said that in the past? I won’t hold my breath that he’s suddenly a changed man, but we can at least hope that he’ll continue the trend for the playoffs.

The Eagles have been largely representative of this year’s NFL as a whole. One game they look unbeatable, the next they look like they can’t get out of their own way. Thankfully, against the Cowboys, we got the former. Now the question becomes which Eagles team we’ll see in the playoffs. When they play like they did against Washington, they are capable of losing to anyone, but when they play like they did yesterday, they are capable of beating anyone. And really, does anybody in the NFC playoffs scare you? If the Eagles can get on a roll with the way the defense is playing, they have just as legitimate of a shot as anyone. The Giants proved last year that if you get hot at the right time, it doesn’t matter how many road games you have to play.

As for the game itself: Minnesota is a very beatable team. Defensively, the Eagles just need to stack the line and force Jackson to beat them through the air. Peterson is a monster, but the Eagles did a good job of stuffing him last year, and I have faith in Johnson to come up with an effective scheme for containing him once again. On offense, they may have to throw more than we want them to because Minnesota is so good against the run, but it would be a mistake to abandon the running game altogether, so please, Andy, learn from your past mistakes for a change!

My prediction: I just don’t see Minnesota being able to put that many points on the board against the Eagles’ defense, and I think McNabb and the offense will do just enough to pull this one out, even if Reid goes brain dead and throws 80% of the time again. Experience wins out in this one: Eagles 20, Vikings 10.

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