LOTS OF Eagles fans, their postseason hopes rekindled, will watch other NFC wild-card contenders play this weekend, trying to decipher what this game or that game portends for their ressurrected Birds.
But none of tomorrow's goings-on will amount to much if the Eagles don't win on Monday night at home against Cleveland.
Losing that game, which the Birds are favored to win by about two touchdowns, is a ridiculous notion, you say? Two words: Remember Cincinnati?
The Eagles say they do. Actually, they don't say that, exactly, but they say they're well aware that they aren't sitting atop the standings after upsetting the league's top team, the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, who managed to clinch the NFC East title anyway last week when Dallas lost.
"I guess I make this quote every week: What's our record?" Brian Dawkins asked a reporter who queried him about overconfidence this week.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said yesterday he probably didn't need to remind the players on his 7-5-1 team that the 4-9 Browns are dangerous, "but I did do it."
Mornhinweg said, just in case, he reminded his players that the Browns "were up on Denver by 10 in the fourth quarter, up on Indianapolis, held [the Colts' offense] to three points; there were several other [close] games" in addition to Cleveland's 35-14 victory over the Giants on Oct. 13.
Also, the Browns are 2-0 this season on "Monday Night Football," including that Giants game; the Eagles are 0-2 on "MNF" over the past two seasons.
"They could easily be sitting there with a winning record," said Mornhinweg, no stranger to the time-honored football tradition of hyping the upcoming opponent. Last week, you might recall, Mornhinweg declared that the Giants' defense had "no weakness." Yet, somehow, the Eagles controlled the clock and the game.
And so it is with the Browns, who are, after all, down to their third quarterback, having lost Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson to injury. Ken Dorsey is scheduled to make the 12th start of his 6-year NFL career Monday night. You have to like Jim Johnson's defense just a little in that situation, though Johnson cautioned yesterday: "I think they have an excellent offensive line. I think they pass protect as well as anybody in the NFL."
Indeed, the Browns have allowed only 16 sacks in 13 games, remarkable for a 4-9 team that often plays from behind. They have shown some unpredictability, using wideout/returner Josh Cribbs to take the snap from a "wildcat" formation, the way the Eagles have done with DeSean Jackson. Cribbs has 17 carries for 99 yards.
"We expect that 'wildcat,' " Johnson said. "That's part of what they're going to do - him being a running quarterback and throwing. He has only thrown one pass, but we know that coming out of Kent State, he was a good quarterback. We're anticipating things like that. He's an excellent athlete. They used him last week against Tennessee running the football. He did a nice job."
Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker said the key to defending against the "wildcat" is "knowing it's not a quarterback back there, it's some guy that's fast, that's pretty elusive with the ball."
Defensive tackle Mike Patterson agreed that "you've just got to be more aware of the speed that's back there. You see just a lot more going on in the backfield - it makes it harder to get a good read on it."
Patterson said the Browns have "good weapons . . . we don't see 'em like a horrible squad, or anything. They're still a team that has potential of playing real well."
But the Eagles still have something to play for, unlike the Browns.
Eagles special-teams coordinator Rory Segrest hinted at some changes among the players who block for field goals, in the wake of the two blocks suffered Sunday against the Giants. The Eagles have had three field goals blocked this season, two of them run back for touchdowns on the final play of the first half.
"We've looked at some different options this week, moving some guys around on things and just trying to become more solid inside there," Segrest said yesterday. "A lot of it, as we said, had to do with the kick situations, as well. The first one, we did give up some penetration and it was a little bit of a low kick, and the second one there, as I looked at it on the sideline, I didn't think there was any way that it was blocked, just because of how far away the corner was. But, with the wind coming across so hard from left to right, we had to start the ball off so far left, and that gave them an opportunity to get a hand on it.
"Should it not have been windy that day, I don't believe he would have been able to get to it, if we had been able to start the ball on a normal path. The main thing that we have to do, on our part, is just make sure that we make those corrections. It's unacceptable to have anybody touching kicks and that sort of thing. We've got to make sure that we're solid there, and we're definitely going to get that fixed this week."
Asked about specific changes, Segrest said, "There are a couple different guys who we're rotating in there to take a look at."
Long snapper Jon Dorenbos was named the Eagles' 2008 Ed Block Courage Award recipient. Dorenbos, whose mother was murdered by his father, took up magic as a teenager to take his mind off the tragedy. He performs regularly, often for charity . . . Running back Brian Westbrook (knee, ankle) was a limited practice participant yesterday, but is listed as "probable" for Monday, as is wide receiver Kevin Curtis, who practiced fully for the first time since suffering a concussion Sunday . . . The Birds are listing right tackle Jon Runyan (knee) as questionable, though Runyan, who sat out yesterday's practice, almost certainly will start his 190th successive NFL game, the league's third-longest current streak. *