The Philadelphia Eagles have been here before – trying to pick up the pieces after a brutal loss in an otherwise successful season. The picture shaped up to be perfect, right out of a Cinderella story. A team many had pegged for an 8-8 season at best, hitting the NFL’s version of the reset button with Philadelphia Eagles new coach Chip Kelly. But at this point of the Birds 2013 season, that ship has sailed, and that song has been sung. Call them overachievers, or simply the epitome of a team. This year’s version exceeded those expectations. Yet there are still those who say things haven’t changed. This past week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings provided that proof. The ultimate “trap game,” as many fans feared, snared the Eagles into complacency, and the result was a 48-30 loss. At the end of the game, visions of a similar scenario on a Tuesday night in 2010 came rumbling back. Is this the same old Eagles after all?
While it’s easy to sit back and simply accept that this would be an up-and-down year, a lot has changed, perhaps enough that makes this time different. Putting aside the different pieces (coach, quarterback, defense, etc.), the feel you get from watching the players mature and gel as a cohesive unit throughout the season has been remarkable. The question now becomes is that maturation enough to weather a reality-check game that reminds everyone where he really stands in the grand scheme of the team. This week’s Sunday Night Football contest against the Chicago Bears will be that acid test, not just of the Birds’ maturity, but of their ability to bounce back strong.
Even with the specter of a loss hanging over them, this Bears game has the makings of another trap that the Eagles could easily fall into. Based on the current standings, with the Dallas Cowboys sitting at 7-7, if the Cowboys win their Week 16 game, the Eagles/Bears outcome is meaningless in the playoff race. Dallas would come out 8-7, and the Eagles would finish the week 9-6, or 8-7. Because Dallas beat Philly twice this season, if both teams finish with equal records, Dallas wins on tiebreakers. Therefore, Chip Kelly’s crew must come out of Week 17 with the better overall record. That begins in earnest with the Bears game. The result of the Cowboys/Redskins game will be known by the early afternoon, but that should have no bearing on the Eagles mindset. It needs to be “go out and win” plain and simple. Should Dallas lose, an Eagles win gives them the NFC East crown. If Dallas wins, it all comes down to the Week 17 matchup. Therein lies the trap, of which this year’s Birds must not fall. The Bears and Cowboys are both must wins. What better way to start 2014 and the road to MetLife Stadium than riding a 2-game winning streak.