John Smallwood: Are Eagles teasing us all or what?

Jason Avant celebrates with Brent Celek after the tight end's touchdown reception.
Jason Avant celebrates with Brent Celek after the tight end's touchdown reception. (RON CORTES / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: December 19, 2011

IT'S NOT LIKE they slipped a diamond necklace into a stocking or put the keys to a new car in a gift-wrapped box, but the Eagles gave their fans the only holiday present they possibly could.

It is now officially the start of another Dallas Week, and as unlikely as it might have seemed 2 weeks ago, a week ago or even yesterday at 1 p.m., the Birds' game on Christmas Eve at the Cowboys still means something.

Happy holidays!

What do you want me to do? I know a lot of you think this kind of talk is absurdity. I work for a newspaper. We deal in facts.

The fact concerning your Philadelphia Eagles is that despite a season that by all rights should have been over a few weeks ago, this team now has more than just a Christmas Miracle chance of stealing the NFC East title.

Before the start of their game against the New York Jets at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles knew that the New York Giants had lost, 23-10, at home to the Washington Redskins.

Knowing that they were in the playoff chase, the Birds crushed the Jets, 45-19.

For one of the rare times this season, the Eagles actually handled their own business.

"Yeah, we were aware of [the Giants' loss] before the start of the game," quarterback Michael Vick said. "But regardless of what happened with them, we still have to go out and take care of our business.

"If we go out and lose the game, then it doesn't matter. It's irrelevant."

So now, by winning consecutive games for just the second time, the Eagles (6-8) go into Dallas with the chance to stumble into a scenario where the final week of the season could be a three-team shootout for the NFC East . . .

What do you want me to say?

More than a few of you chastised me for putting out false hopes when I said that the Eagles weren't mathematically eliminated after that disgusting loss in Seattle that dropped them to 4-8.

You're likely thinking the same thing now.

I admit that was an absurd notion then, but now the Eagles unbelievably could be a win in Dallas away from possibly being a win away from hosting a playoff game.

Do I really believe they'll do it?

No, I do not, not even at this time of year.

Still, the situation is what it is.

If the Eagles beat Dallas (8-6) and the Giants (7-7) lose to the Jets on Christmas Eve, the Birds would then win the NFC East if they beat the Redskins at the Linc on New Year's Day and the Giants beat the Cowboys.

If all of those things happen, the Eagles, Cowboys and Giants would all finish 8-8, and the Birds would win the NFC East by virtue of the tiebreaker system.

Perhaps that's why Eagles coach Andy Reid had so many praises for a Jets team that he had just squashed.

"Tribute to the Jets," Reid said. "They've got a good football team, a really good football team. [Coach Rex Ryan] has done a heck of job with that team.

"They'll be fired up and ready to go. They'll rebound next week."

It almost isn't fair, what the Eagles are doing to their fans. A mish-mash of improbabilities has set a dubious trap that many fans don't want to get lured into. I can't blame them for not wanting to believe.

All of these little mechanisms of chance are starting to fall into places where they have no right to be.

Thinking about what it could mean makes little sense.

A 6-8 record should not be anything to get hope from, but it nonetheless keeps the Eagles alive in the division race.

"Hey, man, we just need to go down [to Dallas] and take it one game at a time, what we've been doing here and hopefully pull out a victory," said defensive end Juqua Parker, who started yesterday's scoring with a 47-yard fumble return. "We just have to believe and just keep our foot on the pedal. Keeping riding, man."

Honestly, there have not been too many Eagles-Cowboys games with playoff implications over the last decade.

After letting control of their fate slip out of their hands 2 weeks ago with their loss to the Giants, the Cowboys suddenly are back in control, thanks to the Giants' loss to Washington.

If Dallas wins its next two games, it wins the NFC East. Simple as that.

But the Eagles will have their say. Winning the NFC East is still an extreme long shot, but the fact that it is even a possibility at this point may have been an even longer one.

"Still alive," said Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, who broke Steve Van Buren's single-season records for touchdowns and rushing TDs. "It shows the type of fight this team has.

"We have to win these last two games to even have a shot. More than that, we just have to show that we have pride in ourselves. We have struggled a little bit and had some difficulties, but we are fighting now to get in."

Whether you chose to believe is up to you, but you can't ignore the fact that this game against Dallas now has meaning.

I'm still not quite sure how Santa pulled that one out of his gift bag.


Send email to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

www.philly.com/Smallwood.

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