After watching the Philadelphia Eagles squeak out another fourth-quarter victory—this one over a Washington Redskins team they beat handily in October—I’ve come to the perfect conclusion on how to describe the Birds.
It’s the same way Cyndi Lauper described The Goonies : Not necessarily good, but good enough.
Now, don’t take that as me saying “the Eagles suck” or some other possibly-vulgar variant. They don’t.
They’re just not particularly “good” overall.
But all that is often countered by piss-poor play calling, questionable clock management and an offense that is so inept in the red zone they might need a government bailout.
The result? Two straight fourth-quarter comebacks needed against mediocre teams, a third falling short against an actual “good” team and a loss to the gall-darned Raiders.
So despite what their 7-4 record says, they’re not good. But they are good enough…and this season, that level of ability should be enough to guide them handily into the NFC playoffs.
Why? Because the Eagles are the epitome of a paper champion: A team that beats opponents and wins the games they should (no matter how bad they may look in the process), but also loses the same way.
Case in point: Their record against teams who are under .500 is 6-1, with that lone loss being the embarrassment against the Raiders.
So what, you might say, because every good team is due a bad loss, right? Maybe, but they should also have a signature win.
Unfortunately for the Birds, right now that’s their victory over the 6-5 Giants; otherwise, the Birds’ record against teams above the middle mark is a perfect 0-3.
Luckily for the Eagles, this “problem” could lead them to another double-digit win season and a playoff berth. Why? Because of their remaining five games, only one is against a team who is “better” than them—and that’s the season-ending rematch against the Cowboys.
The first two (and possibly first three) are all in contention with Philly and Green Bay for the two NFC Wild Card slots. If form holds true, the Eagles should finish 3-2 or perhaps 4-1, with a defeat of either the Broncos or Cowboys giving them their “signature win” that proves the rule.
If they win the first three as they “should,” they’ll have a big enough lead and the right tiebreakers to clinch a playoff berth. I say three because even though the 49ers are 5-6, they are surging and the rest of their remaining schedule besides the Birds and a home game with Detroit.
But if they hold true to form, the Eagles won’t have to win a game against a “better” team until the playoffs.
Know where it gets even weirder? In December, the division leading Cowboys play the Giants, San Diego, New Orleans and Washington.
If the Eagles go 3-1 this month—again, something they “should” do—then the only way that season-ender with the ‘Boys isn’t for the division title is if Dallas is perfect (either in winning or losing) in December.
Given the way they’ve played lately, does anyone even in the Lone Star State think that’s a remote possibility?
New Orleans in the running for home field, but still couldn’t clinch that honor until the week they play Dallas. Oh yeah, plus they’re still undefeated as of Monday.
San Diego is firing on all cylinders and has won six in a row since a dismal 2-3 start.
As for the division games, the Giants already beat Dallas and Washington should’ve two weeks ago. Both teams are drastically different, but in the NFC East, nothing is a sure thing.
They should at least win one of those games, but all four? Not likely.
Which means that the Birds would enter the finale knowing a win over Dallas would give them a home playoff game, something they didn’t have en route to the NFC Championship Game last season.
Amazing what being just good enough can do for a team. Sure, they would have to play New Orleans or Minnesota in the Divisional round. But hey, sometimes being just good enough and having a late run can spark a team all the way to the Super Bowl…just ask the 2008 Arizona Cardinals.
Full circle, indeed.