Perhaps the greatest lesson from 2008 will be that


can happen. Whether it's a black man being elected president or a Philadelphia team winning a championship, nothing is out of reach.

Which brings us to the Eagles' playoff hopes. The Birds need to beat Dallas on Sunday - itself, a tall order - and get losses from the Buccaneers and either the Vikings or Bears to sneak in.

Before rolling your eyes and reaching for the Phillies' spring-training schedule, please note that Andy Reid's teams have gotten very lucky in the past when needing help on the season's final weekend. Although Reid's bunch has never been in such a precarious position of missing the playoffs, history has done them right as far as seeding. Here's a look at recent instances when the Birds needed help entering the regular-season finale:

2006 season

At stake:

Needed a win or a Dallas loss to win the NFC East.

What happened: The Cowboys, playing a 1 o'clock game, lost at home to 2-13 Detroit. The Eagles, playing a 4:15 game, quickly pulled their starters when they found out about the Dallas gag. Philadelphia still beat Atlanta, 24-17.

The result: The Eagles beat the visiting Giants in the wild-card round before losing at New Orleans the following week.

2003 season

At stake:

Needed to win and a Rams loss to secure the NFC's top seed.

What happened: The Eagles pounded the Redskins, 31-7, behind Donovan McNabb's four touchdowns. The following day, Joey Harrington threw three touchdown passes to lead 4-11 Detroit in an upset over the Rams.

The result: The Eagles claimed the No. 1 seed, but lost their third consecutive conference championship 3 weeks later to visiting Carolina.

2002 season

At stake:

Needed a win or a Green Bay loss to get homefield advantage throughout the conference playoffs.

What happened: The Eagles lost a heartbreaker in overtime to the Giants on a Saturday, but got a reprieve when the Packers were trounced by the Jets, 42-17.

The result: The Eagles beat Atlanta in the divisional round before that memorable loss to Tampa Bay for the NFC championship in the Veterans Stadium finale.

2000 season

At stake:

The scenario was just about the same as it is this week. The Eagles needed to win and get losses from Tampa Bay and Minnesota to qualify as a wild-card.

What happened: The Eagles beat Cincinnati, Minnesota was drilled by Indianapolis, and Tampa Bay lost in overtime to Green Bay.

The result: Andy Reid's first playoff berth set up a wild-card game against the Buccaneers at Veterans Stadium on New Year's Eve. With a wind-chill temperature of 11 degrees, the Birds quickly disposed of their visitors from Florida, 21-3. Although they lost the following week to the Giants, a new era was at hand.

1995 season

At stake:

The Eagles, coached by Ray Rhodes, needed to win and a Dallas loss to win the NFC East.

What happened: The Eagles were beaten by the Bears, 20-14. Dallas won its game the following day.

The result: The Eagles had to travel to Dallas for a divisional playoff game 2 weeks later and were thumped, 30-11. That day, a massive snowstorm paralyzed the Philadelphia area. *