When they awakened Sunday morning, the Eagles needed to upset the New York Giants and get help from around the NFL to brighten their dim playoff hopes.

By Sunday night, they had the win and all the help they needed.

"Long season," Eagles coach Andy Reid said yesterday. "Anything can happen in the National Football League. If you get to Thanksgiving and you're within striking distance, that's a good thing."

Sunday's events left the 7-5-1 Eagles a half-game behind Atlanta (8-5) and Dallas (8-5) for the second wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs after the Falcons and Cowboys both lost.

If the Eagles win their final three games against Cleveland, Washington and Dallas, the Falcons would need to win their final three games to beat them out for the second wild card. This is assuming, of course, that the first wild-card berth will go to either Tampa Bay or Carolina, who went into last night's game tied for first in the NFC South at 9-3. (Neither has clinched a playoff berth.)

Atlanta's next two opponents will be difficult. The Falcons play host to Tampa Bay next, then visit NFC North leader Minnesota before closing at home against St. Louis. The Cowboys are home against the Giants and Ravens before closing against the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field in a game that could be a showdown for a playoff spot.

Injury report

Reid confirmed that receiver

Kevin Curtis

suffered a concussion in Sunday's victory. Also, cornerback

Asante Samuel

sprained an ankle and tight end

L.J. Smith

had a bruised knee.

Reid added that backup running back Correll Buckhalter, out for the last two games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee, should return to practice this week. Reid said Samuel's sprained ankle "doesn't look like it's too bad."

The Eagles will get an extra day of rest this week because they play Cleveland on Monday night. They will return to practice Thursday after three days off.

High praise

Among the players Reid singled out for their play against the Giants were linebackers

Chris Gocong

and

Akeem Jordan

.

"I thought Chris Gocong did a tremendous job of filtering things back inside to linebackers and safeties when we were under the weak side," Reid said. "Akeem did a tremendous job. He had a couple of tackles behind the line of scrimmage."

Reid said the key to containing the Giants' running game started with the defensive tackles, Mike Patterson and Brodrick Bunkley.

"We did a better job of playing on their side of the line of scrimmage with our defensive line, and that starts with the defensive tackles," he said.

Since the Eagles did not have to deal with suspended Giants receiver Plaxico Burress, they were able to bring safety Quintin Mikell up to the line of scrimmage to help defend against the run. When Burress plays, the Eagles often use a safety to double-team him.

Brown out

Reid had little to say about receiver

Reggie Brown

, who was a healthy scratch Sunday for the first time in his career.

"We'll take it one week at a time," he said. "Reggie's a good football player."

- Ray Parrillo