This coming Sunday night, the Eagles face off against the Dallas Cowboys for their second divisional meeting of the 2013 season. The Birds enter with a 9-6 record after a roller-coaster season, riding a surge of confidence after dismantling Chicago last Sunday. The Boys, riding a different kind of surge after barely escaping the Redskins, enter with an 8-6 record. This Sunday’s winner become the NFC East Champion.
Many words have been used to describe the Eagles season thus far: magical, lucky, surprising, promising. The one word that hasn’t been mentioned that often is overachieving. The Philadelphia Eagles came into August with a brand new head coach (Chip Kelly), questions about the quarterback position, and enough roster issues to give Kelly a pass on Year 1 if it didn’t work out. After a warp speed win against the Redskins to open the season, the Birds roller coaster began – Lost 3, Won 2, Lost 2, Won 5, Lost 1, Won 1. Here they are at the other end with a new starting (and record-setting) quarterback, a roster that came together quicker than many expected, and a chance to make Kelly’s debut season carry into 2014.
Let’s stop right there! As fans, we want that Lombardi in February. The odds don’t necessary favor the Eagles this year. They’ve got a lot of good things going but unless magic hits a few more times. Or a bunch of the other teams’ players get injured but wait, that has happened. A trip to the post-season exceeds the expectations for the year. Andy Reid gave us all 14 years of fairly consistent competitiveness within the division and within the NFC. Sure there were losing seasons, but as a whole, the NFC Championship (with 5 trips) and multiple NFC East titles set the bar fairly high. Philadelphia became a Super Bowl-or-bust city. Many think it still is.
The challenge then for this year’s collection of pigskin poultry is to excel at the right time. If this is THE YEAR, then punch the ticket to MetLife Stadium and bring home the trophy. More realistically, if it’s not the year, maybe a one-and-done in the playoffs won’t be so bad. Disappointing? Yes. Heartbreaking? Yes. Sure to start a “same old Eagles” rumor mill? Of course. But it sets the bar at a high but not unreasonable level, and that might be just what the doctor ordered. I’ll still be screaming “FLY EAGLES FLY” on Sunday, hoping for Cowboys burial, and a 3 seed in the playoffs.