Well none of us are going to pretend we expected this. Sure, we could envision this, but to expect this would have been a bit strong after the Washington game. The Eagles are actually in the playoffs.
So, are they any damn good?
That's the thing about the Eagles game today. We don't actually know what the narrative of this season is yet. Is is the "Eagles go on a run like 2006 (Washington game is 'just a blip')" or is it "Eagles stumble into playoffs, but are who we thought they were"? If they win today, many many sins will be forgiven -- even if they lose the following week. Then they're good but not good enough, and that's a lot better than we thought we'd get in mid-November. If they lose today, especially if they do so in one of the ways to which we've become accustomed, well, then they were essentially last year's team with a better punt returner: good on paper, but bad when it matters.
I wouldn't be completely shocked if the Eagles didn't show up at all today, but I don't think it'll happen. Rather, I think that there's a compelling reason why it might not happen: the Eagles defense. But more about that in a bit.
What I'll be shouting about in re: today's big Wild Card Game:
Your storylines. It's a little overwhelming (and by overwhelming, I mean that it makes writing a preview really challenging) when your team makes the playoffs in re: the clear national storylines. As in, (1) Jim Johnson versus Tavaris Jackson (must include reference to total available quantity of blitzes), (2) Can the suddenly elite Eagles' defense contain Adrian Peterson, (3) Teacher-versus-Pupil. What's sweet is that I feel good about each of those. And the thing that worries me most is just that they go out and throw it 48 times. Andy Reid, you haunt me!
Storylines we refuse to consider. You're not allowed to say, "This is an extremely close game in simulations with the Eagles winning just under 51 percent of the simulations. The key to the game is turnovers," in an article entitled "Intel Report" on ESPN. Generally speaking, I think blathermonkeys should be fired on the spot for uttering the phrase, "The key to the game is turnovers." The key to scoring is touchdowns and field goals. The key to defense is tackling. Yes. It's all true!
Fan storyline that's a bit odd. I assume most of you are like me in that you feel good about defense and special teams, and have no idea what we're getting from the offense. It's worth noting that said offense set the franchise record for points scored...and I still don't think we're remotely irrational for not trusting them.
The last time these guys played in January. The future Mrs. BountyBowl got us tickets for the game as a Christmas gift, circa December 2004. This was a very clever strategy of hers for currying my affections. Seemed to have worked out for everyone. F***ing cold that day, though!
Hip, whatever. The Birds paid a lot of money for Asante Samuel. Mr. Samuel has traditionally been very successful in elimination games (save for an awkward moment along the sideline last February). It'd be lovely if he felt compelled to demonstrate his penchant for the big moment against the Vikings. Also, I'm pretending that the injury thing is an illusion.
Speaking of, he doesn't need to play. L.J. Smith has his impending free agency to worry about. Let's cut the guy some slack and let him get healthy. It's for the best.
The CamelCased One. What a wonderful opportunity for young Master DeSean to go out and demonstrate he has a feel for the big moment (and redeem himself for the Washington game) than to make a play against the absolute worst punt coverage team in the league? Very tempting, no? We'd hate to think the kid had issues with the spotlight.
Speaking of wideouts. Both Kevin Curtis and Reggie Brown made circus catches against the Vikings when the Eagles played there last year. A similar effort this afternoon would augur well for the Birds' chances.
Jared Allen is scary, though not as scary as Demarcus Ware. I think Allen will be slightly more dangerous than Ware was last week if only because Ware's team completely quit. But if the Birds can handle Ware, why not Allen? (That said, I think Allen is excellent.)
Adrian Peterson is scary, though not as scary as Brian Westbrook. Sure, AP ("Purple Jesus") is a megastar guy who has a chance to be the best back of his generation. But in a game that matters I feel extremely good about a Brian Westbrook, and not just because he might be the single smartest guy on the field. He's also good at not getting tackled!
Eagles thoughts from during the Cards - Falcons game. While I know it's not for everyone, it sure looks like you can run your offense through a couple dominant wideouts. Those guys are good.
Eagles thoughts from during the Bolts - Colts game. This was actually painful to watch for me, if only because there were so many little plays that almost but didn't quite go the Chargers' way (at least until the coin toss!). Lots of dropped picks, bad bounces, that sort of thing. It's rare that I can feel like an Eagles fan watching another team. Thanks, Chargers!
Things I'm glad I haven't thought about in weeks. How about that David Akers! Doesn't seem to be struggling any more. And he's got to feel good about a dome.
No one believes in you, Donovan. I hope Mr. McNabb is on his laptop this morning reading the InterWebs just so he knows that NO ONE BELIEVES IN HIM. Nope. Not a one. And the ONLY WAY HE CAN STICK IT TO THE FICKLE DOUBTERS is to play the game of his life. That's the only way you can really get us, Donovan. Seriously. It'll totally piss us all off, because we don't really like you and don't want you to succeed.
Cardboard Box. One of the things that makes me feel confident about the game today is that I think the Eagles actually will get the speed of the playoff game. That is, there are a few guys on the field for the Eagles who won't be intimidated by the moment and will come out playing fast. Mostly I'm thinking that Brian Dawkins and/ or Sheldon Brown isn't going to be afraid to endanger themselves in order to announce their presence with authority in the first few minutes of the game. And now, because I can't help it, is the link. Treat yourself.
Game prediction. I think that the defense is going to show up this week for the Eagles, and that if the Birds can get it to 20 points they should be chill. The problem is that I can't really speak for the offense. I think they could be awful. I think it's important that the Eagles wide receivers play well. That means getting open and it means catching the ball. Eagles 20, Vikings 13.