Bryce Brown and the Eagles went 7-1 in the second half of the season to clinch the NFC East title. (USA Today Images)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No reason it has to end here. No reason the Eagles can’t keep rolling. No reason anybody needs to be content just making the playoffs.
Because the Eagles are a dangerous team right now, and it’s going to take a very good team to knock them out of the playoffs.
This isn’t the team that opened the season 3-5. The Eagles since Week 5 have been as good as almost anybody in the NFL, and there’s no reason not to reset expectations. It’s not a fluke that the Eagles are playing postseason football for the first time since 2010. They’re a good football team right now.
Can they beat the 49ers? Can they beat the Seahawks? Can they beat the Panthers? Can the Eagles play with the NFL’s best?
The Eagles just faced four teams in December with winning records (at the time they played them) and went 4-0, beating the Cards, Lions, Bears and Cowboys by a combined 136-74.
They sure didn’t back into the playoffs.
Sunday night in Dallas was ugly and infuriating and frustrating, but ultimately the Eagles did what they’ve been doing for two months.
They found a way (see Instant Replay).
That’s why they’re 10-6, and that’s why they’re a playoff team, and that’s why we can now all reset our expectations for this football team.
Because if there’s anything we’ve learned over the past decade, it’s that the hot teams are the ones that win in the postseason. Not necessarily the top seeds with a first-round bye.
Seven of the last eight Super Bowls had at least one team seeded fourth, fifth or sixth, and six of the last eight Super Bowl winners had to go the wild-card route to bring home the Lombardi.
Why not the Eagles as No. 3 seed?
Here are the best records in the NFL since Week 5: Panthers 11-2, 49ers 10-2, Eagles 9-3, Bengals 9-3, Seahawks 9-3, Cards 9-3.
They are as hot as almost anybody.
Since leaving Denver 1-3 after an embarrassing 52-20 loss, the Eagles have the No. 3 offense in the NFL at 29.0 points per game (behind only the Broncos and Patriots) and the seventh-best defense in the NFL at 20.1 points per game.
They’ve had one blip since late October, and that was in Minneapolis when Chip Kelly kept having Alex Henery kick off to midfield, LeSean McCoy had only eight carries and Matt Cassel enjoyed the game of his life.
How did they respond? With a 43-point annihilation of a playoff-hopeful Bears team and a 24-22 thriller in a must-win on the road in front of more than 91,000 fans against the Cowboys in a nationally televised winner-take-all NFC East showdown Sunday night at AT&T Stadium.
So now it’s off to the playoffs, and it all starts this weekend with the Saints, who are 0-5 in franchise history on the road in the postseason (see story).
In the Superdome, the Saints are virtually unbeatable. Get them outdoors late in the season, and it’s a game the Eagles should win.
The Saints went 8-0 at home this year, outscoring the opposition by an average of 34-15.
On the road? They were 3-5, outscored by an average of 22-18.
And they’ll get an Eagles team that went 7-1 in the second half of the season for only the third time ever -- the 1991 and 2003 teams did as well.
They just keep getting better.
“This is a scary team right now,” Cris Collinsworth said Thursday night on NBC Sports Radio with Amani Toomer and Eytan Shander. “There aren’t many teams lining up saying, ‘Oh boy, I hope we get to play the Philadelphia Eagles.’”
Collinsworth is right. Nobody wants to face the Eagles in the playoffs.
They’re healthy, they’re hot, they’re confident and they’re loose, unencumbered by expectations.
There’s still football to be played, still games to be won. Why stop now?