In the Dolphins, Eagles face a 4-8 club that's on the upswing
If you've stuck around, this may be the last one worth sticking around for. The Eagles season is on the line when they face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m. It should have fallen off the line and plunged to its death a long time ago, but the NFC East is as bad as the Eagles, so there is still life in Andy Reid's 4-8 squad.
If you've stuck around, this may be the last one worth sticking around for.
The Eagles season is on the line when they face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at 1 p.m. It should have fallen off the line and plunged to its death a long time ago, but the NFC East is as bad as the Eagles, so there is still life in Andy Reid's 4-8 squad.
Because both the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants lost last week, the Eagles - coming off a pitiful loss at Seattle on Dec. 1 - were not mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
Three things have to happen for the Eagles to make the postseason for the 10th time in the last 12 seasons.
They have to win all four of their final games - at Miami, vs. the New York Jets, at Dallas, and vs. Washington.
The 6-6 Giants finish no better than 2-2 and beat the Cowboys in one of their two meetings. The teams meet at Dallas Sunday night and then at New York in the season finale. In between those meetings, the Giants are home against the Redskins and play the Jets as the road team.
The 7-5 Cowboys go 1-3 or worse. Aside from the two Giants games and the Eagles game, they travel to face Tampa Bay.
Go ahead and roll your eyes, but crazy has happened before - although only once in NFL history. In 2008, 4-8 San Diego won its final four games and clinched the AFC West title. Of course, the Chargers had only one team to catch - the Broncos - and had the luxury of playing Denver in the last game of the season.
The Eagles, on the other hand, have to leapfrog two teams and get to play only one of those teams down the stretch. And there's that whole playing good thing that seems to have eluded a team that rivals only the economy in disappointment.
So you might be better off finishing your Christmas shopping than watching the Eagles.
"I've been around here when a lot of miraculous stuff has happened, so I definitely believe anything can happen," wide receiver Jason Avant said last week. "But it won't happen if we don't go out and take care of our own business and just go out and focus on Miami."
The miracle Avant spoke of occurred in 2008, when the Eagles headed into the final weekend needing a victory over the Cowboys and two other teams to pull off upsets. But that was minor compared to this feat. The Eagles, according to makeNFLplayoffs.com, have a 1.7 percent chance of making the playoffs.
Even Juan Castillo faces better odds of returning next season as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.
"It's a desperation last four games," said quarterback Michael Vick, who will be making his first start in nearly a month after missing three games with broken ribs. "We want to finish strong, and we know how important that is."
A four-game winning streak, maybe even if the Eagles miraculously make the playoffs, won't just wipe away a season that has delivered one bloody jab after another. Reid, who may or may not have his job on the line, said that he still has a clear objective.
"The reality of it is, is we're where we're at now. Now what do we do?" Reid said. "We're going to get better, and so that's what we're shooting for, that's where our energy's at."
We've heard a similar refrain from Reid before this season, but the results have been relatively the same: one underperforming loss after another. The last two losses - vs. New England and at Seattle - have been especially disturbing because the players appeared to have quit.
Miami could have quit long ago. The Dolphins opened the season 0-7 and were believed to be Indianapolis' lone rival in the Andrew Luck competition.
They could have shut it down with their head coach supposedly on his way out. Tony Sparano could have packed it in, too. But the Dolphins coach looked inward and came to the conclusion that some of his hard-line methods weren't working, and changed.
At least that's how the story goes. Whatever it was, Miami won four of its next five, and if it weren't for a last-second field goal by Dallas, they would have won them all.
The losing "forced me to reevaluate some things that I've done," Sparano said during a conference call last week. "I have my own way of doing things with the way I've been brought up in this business. But it forced me to look at some things a little bit differently."
Sparano said he went to his veteran players and took their thoughts into account. One of the things he changed was the length of practices and the intensity of those practices.
"He did change a lot of things about himself, and as hardheaded as he is sometimes and stubborn and very focused and determined, he was willing to change," the Dolphins' Jason Taylor said.
Reid, who has always been known for his steady hand, has taken a contrary approach. At least according to some of his players.
Sunday could determine if Reid's charges have completely given up. Miami, with .0001 chance of making the playoffs, certainly has less to play for. And while a victory would only extend the Eagles' slim hopes of making the playoffs, it would bring some optimism.
It is unclear how many fans would be willing to hang around for another week.