ABOUT A YEAR ago at this time, the Green Bay Packers needed a victory over the New York Giants just to stay in playoff consideration. The Packers were a mess at that point, banged up, losers of two straight and three of their last four, and they needed this to happen and that to happen in addition to their own turnaround to make the playoffs.

Yep, sure sounds familiar. And yeah, the Packers were 8-6 a year ago and the Eagles are 6-8 heading into Dallas. If this were last year, the Eagles would be playing out the string tomorrow against the Cowboys, not seeking to make the same type of unlikely late-season noise the Packers did in their road-game march to become Super Bowl champions.

But this year is not last year. An 8-8 NFC East team can make the playoffs, can even start the postseason as a higher seed than the 10-6 Packers of a year ago.

Yet their circumstances have similarities. Their quarterbacks were sidelined with concussions. Their offense struggled at times. Injuries on both sides of the ball affected their continuity. No one thought the Packers should have been that bad last year. And when this season began, no one thought this was possible for the Eagles, either.

And yet . . .

Their last two lopsided victories, against teams that were hot, at least resembled the team we expected to see for most of the season, especially on the defensive side. Which is why Dallas owner Jerry Jones called the Eagles "scary" this week. The last thing a team looking to clinch needs is to face a talented team more desperate. The Cowboys could lose tomorrow and still make the playoffs with a victory over the Giants in the final game of the season. The Eagles have no such luxury.

"It is fun, though, battling back like this," LeSean McCoy said after practice yesterday. "I don't know how to say this . . . We're not happy, how things have gone for us. But it's fun as a team, all together, battling back. Before it was like, 'The Eagles are super done. There's nothing they can do now.' So together, we've kind of battled back."

The locker room, which just a few weeks ago had the mojo of an unemployment line, was noisy and laughter-filled after practice.

"Sure we need some help from other teams," McCoy said. "But each week it's something different. Coach [Andy] Reid has found a way to motivate us to play the game. Because we still have a shot. So it's kind of fun that we're all together in this small locker room trying to battle back and get a spot."

"I think the guys feel pretty good right now; moved around great today, seemed to have a lot of energy," Reid said after practice.

I know. Sorry to have brought him up. It is still the bucket of cold water to this thing, the thought that mutes too much excitement over your team making unusual history over the next few weeks. If they win out as convincingly as they have over the last two games, do they have a chance to do what Green Bay did last winter?

If you answered yes, Merry Christmas.

If they win out and then bow out, does that eliminate any chance of the wholesale coaching change so many have clamored for?

If you said yes to that? Well, so much for a happy New Year.

So where do you land on this? People forget - the Phillies needed a red-hot September to make the dance in 2008. We were all over them at one point of that season too. The problem, of course, is their history is not the Eagles' history. They changed managers. A lot.

In his 13 season as the head coach, Reid has been a master of making you believe in magic . . . then actually sawing the girl in the box in half as we watch in horror. Titillating one week, horrifying the next, followed by that same accountability act that details nothing and rings as fraudulent as the magic itself.

So it goes like this, and there's really no wriggle room: If there's going to be an early Christmas present tomorrow, then it must lead to a happy New Year.


May old acquaintance be forgot.

Send email to donnels@phillynews.com.