Over the weekend, I was talking to a friend about the chances of the Eagles making the playoffs. He had a hunch the Birds would knock off New York, go on a tear, and sneak into the postseason. He just wasn't sure why.

When I asked him to give me a reason, any reason, he struggled to come up with something. And when I told him that, prior to the Giants game, the Eagles had just a 35-1 shot of making the playoffs according to BetUS.com, he dismissed me.

The numbers didn't matter to him. They matter even less today.

Riding high after the Eagles beat the Giants, and with the not-so-stellar Browns looming, fans are starting to believe in the Birds again. It doesn't matter that the updated odds (now 20-1) say it will still be difficult for the Eagles to reach the playoffs. It doesn't matter that three other NFC teams are still ahead of them in the wild card race. Who needs bookmakers or the standings when you have your gut?

The whole thing reminds me of The Empire Strikes Back. Remember when Han Solo and company are trying to evade capture, and they pilot the Millennium Falcon into an asteroid field? C-3PO promptly tells everyone that the chances of successfully navigating something so treacherous are slim.

"Never tell me the odds," Solo snaps.

The good guys make it out unscathed, of course, and then save the universe and deliver the inevitable happy conclusion. Will the same be true of the Eagles? Will they beat the odds and use the Giants win to catapult them to an improbable postseason run? Or will they collide headlong with a large mass of disappointment at some point over the next three games and crush what's left of Philly's hopes?

"We're in a situation now where we've got to win them all in order to make the playoffs," Brian Westbrook said.

First they must best Cleveland, then Washington, neither of which is playing great football right now. It's entirely possible, even probable, that the Birds win both games, and that their season comes down to the final tilt against Dallas.

But what are the odds they beat the Cowboys, too? Like my friend, I also have a hunch. It just doesn't involve a Hollywood ending.

For years, I didn't think it was possible for the Fox studio analysts to spew any more gibberish. Then they added Michael Strahan.

On Sunday, the former Giants defensive end felt obligated to opine about the Plaxico Burress mess. No problem there. Who hasn't?

But, in the process, Strahan made a cardinal media mistake. He attempted to use the Burress gaffe as a vehicle to drive a grand observation about society and sports.

Rookies. They try to do too much.

"Memo to every NFL player out there," Strahan said. "Don't think you're above the law. Don't think you're going to cut corners because of your fame. . . . By making an example of Plaxico, Michael Vick and even Martha Stewart, the authorities are scaring someone who is thinking about committing the same kind of crime. It's an effective, easier way than to go out and search for dog fighters or convince guys not carry around guns. The days of covering up mistakes, screwups and even crimes for our celebrities and our sports heroes are over."

To review, according to Strahan, it's Burress who serves as the long-overdue warning to athletes that they are no longer untouchable. Not former Carolina Panther Rae Carruth, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Not former 100-meter dash world-record holder Tim Montgomery, who's doing time for bank fraud, money laundering and distribution of heroin. Not former Cowboy Nate Newton, who served 32 months in prison after being caught with 388 pounds of marijuana back in 2001. Not even O.J. Simpson, who was tried (but acquitted) for murder, then recently convicted of armed robbery and kidnapping.

Strahan doesn't think any of those instances registered. No, the big wake-up for players and people the world over came courtesy of Burress' boneheaded self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Gotcha.

In a way, you have to love Dallas. The madness never stops down there. After the Steelers beat the Cowboys, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that owner Jerry Jones questioned the toughness of running back Marion Barber, who didn't play against Pittsburgh due to an injury.

"He can play with that injured toe," Jones said. "He can play with the soreness and a combination of those things. I see nothing that led us to believe he couldn't."

Good point. Do you know how many plastic surgeries Jones underwent without missing a press conference? You have to fight through these things.

Still shopping for holiday gifts? The Web site eBay has a listing for spandex worn by Yankee's third baseman Alex Rodriguez during the 2008 season. At last check, the bidding was up to $400 - or approximately $500 more than I would pay. . . . Beginning tonight, Comcast SportsNet will air Miracle on Broad Street: 2008 Phillies Championship Journey. The series will replay some of the season's most crucial moments, starting with the NL East division clincher against the Nationals and working through the Game 5 World Series win against the Rays. . . . Dan Levy - who does terrific stuff for the700Level.com and OntheDLpodcast.com - conducted a funny, fantastic interview with everyone's favorite martial artist/punch line, Chuck Norris. Check it out at http://poprl.com/7YI.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.