Saturday, October 18, 2008

Parity is Eagles best friend

A week ago, it seemed like the Philadelphia Eagles were losing the city they have dominated for the past decade.

The Birds were coming off a bad loss at home to division rival Washington, falling to 2-3 and looking up at three potential playoff teams in the always tough NFC East.

Meanwhile, over in Major League Baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies were disposing of the Milwaukee Brewers to win their first playoff series in 15 years and looking forward to playing the overmatched Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series.

For the first time in the Jeffrey Lurie-Andy Reid era, the Phillies were bumping the Eagles from the back page and threatening to make the football team irrelevant, at least for this season.

Then a funny thing happened.

In a week that would have made the late great Pete Rozelle smile, the Goliaths of the NFC East fell apart. The Dallas Cowboys were stunned and, perhaps more importantly, beaten up in the desert by the Arizona Cardinals. The defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants were embarrassed on Monday night by the underachieving Cleveland Browns and the Redskins fell to the woeful St. Louis Rams.

To their credit, the Eagles did their part out in the Bay Area, beating a bad San Francisco team (albeit in unimpressive fashion).

"Does it help that the other groups didn't win? Well, it does," Reid said at his weekly press conference.. "I don't get into that too much, but I know it didn't hurt. The most important thing is that we stay focused on what we are doing and keep ourselves right and get ourselves better."

Voila. Just like that, the Eagles were right back in the thick of the NFC playoff race heading into the bye week. More importantly for Lurie and Reid, they were able to fend off apathy from an increasingly frustrated fan base.

Now the Birds will look to get healthy and anticipate the return of their best player, running back Brian Westbrook, who has been sidelined with broken ribs and an ankle injury.

Of course, the bye isn't going to be a magic salve for a team that revealed far too many flaws during its shaky start. In fact, if Mike Martz tempered his ego and just handed the football to Frank Gore 35 times for San Francisco, the Eagles likely would be sitting at 2-4.

Instead the fans are thinking playoffs again.

You've gotta love parity.

"That's the name of this league right now," Reid said. "There is so much parity in this league. There are people that are in a position where they have to predict games; I'll tell you that's a tough job. On any given Sunday, anybody can get anybody. Where before you could have a series or two that weren't very good, now you have a series or two that aren't very good and you're going to pay for it."

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