Having shown the maddening ability on Sunday night to play well when the pressure is off - which is never as useful as playing well when it matters - the Eagles were dutifully returned to the "In The Hunt" playoff lists kept by those media outlets whose consumers apparently can't read the standings for themselves.

Whether the Eagles are actually hunting or are just in the vicinity and can hear shooting will depend, among other things, on how dreadful the NFC East actually might be. The Eagles have a 3-1 record in the division, so that should be a clue right there.

With six games to play, the Eagles find themselves three games out of a wild-card berth but only two games behind the division-leading Cowboys and Giants. That probably does qualify as "In The Hunt," even if they don't deserve it. Their situation would be even more favorable had Washington been able to kick a field goal in overtime against Dallas on Sunday, but expecting help from the Redskins is like expecting French lessons from a cocker spaniel.

All of the mathematical permutations are interesting, of course, as is the game-by-game dissection of the rest of the schedule, but the fact is there is no reason to believe that the Eagles - a team not good enough to play consistently thus far - will suddenly become a dependable metronome the rest of the way.

But this is where the Eagles have left things, and what else are we going to pay attention to at the moment, whether Jason Kapono will ever work again? Probably not.

Winning the division will require the Eagles to win five of their final six games, and those wins almost certainly have to include beating Dallas and Washington at the end of the schedule to ensure the division-record tiebreaker. They will need some other help as well, since the Cowboys and Giants will have to each go 3-3 at best.

Dallas still has two games against the Giants and one against the Eagles, but if those are the three losses you give them - and the rest of the Cowboys' schedule isn't very difficult - then New York has to come up small in all of its big remaining tests. Those are against New Orleans, Green Bay and the Jets. It could happen, but it shows how little ammunition and how little room for aiming error the Eagles actually have for this hunt.

With a loss Sunday to New England in Lincoln Financial Field, where they have lost seven of the last eight, the Eagles would then have to sweep Seattle, Miami, the Jets, Dallas and Washington. That would be unlikely even for a good team and, Sunday's surprise against the Giants notwithstanding, the Eagles haven't inspired confidence they would be up to the task.

If the season ended today, three of the six NFC playoff participants - Dallas, Detroit and San Francisco - would be teams that finished with 6-10 records a year ago. (Dallas technically holds the tiebreaker over New York, although it is just a snapshot at this point.) Those teams must have held secret minicamps and OTAs or something to fuel their turnarounds, because that lack of an offseason is what everyone thinks doomed the Eagles.

Maybe it also had something to do with changing the entire defensive system, and the scheme along both lines, and with shuffling the roster until the locker room became a small city of strangers. It isn't as if the other teams didn't have turnover as well, though. The 49ers brought in a new head coach and an entirely new system, and had to keep playing with Alex Smith.

Where the Eagles actually failed is anyone's guess. It looks like the combo platter at the moment: a heaping helping of bad coaching, poor personnel decisions, injuries and mercenary indifference from some of the players.

If Sunday's win over New York was a beam of hope - and not an indictment of the Giants for taking off a game - the question is how the Eagles can put forth that kind of effort one week and be bad enough to lose to John Skelton and the dogpile Arizona Cardinals in another.

The answer is that is what undependable teams do. Blame it on the changes or the lack of offseason or the players who were overrated, or whatever you like, but don't be fooled by the win over the Giants. This team is going to make you throw stuff at the television again.

The bigger issues will remain to be debated after the season. That's when you can chew over the mega-contract given to Michael Vick, and the matter of how to handle DeSean Jackson, a sensational talent who should have a nanny instead of an agent. That's the time to decide about fixing the mismatched cornerback situation and investing in linebackers.

None of it can be solved, and this broken season can't be repaired, in the next six weeks. All you can do is study the schedule and do the math and wait for the hunt to end. It shouldn't be very long now.