If you're looking for an example of how quickly things can change in the NFL, one need look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
Last November, the Birds demolished the Skins 59-28 in their second meeting of the season, a game that was not nearly as close as the final score. Michael Vick posted a historic performance that had many believing he was becoming the new quarterback prototype before our eyes, laying waste to an opponent that was playing at half speed and seemed to quit the moment they fell behind. The action on the field more closely resembled a top five college program rolling over some mid-major cupcake than the typically hard-fought NFC East rivalry.
Even right until this season started, Washington was a joke, electing to go with a turnover-prone signal caller whose best football was never very good, and narrowly beat out a 30 year old with four career starts for the job. The Eagles, as we know, were the prohibitive favorite coming out of the division, their summer of free spending still being celebrated as a major coup for the organization.
Now the Redskins are 3-1, and currently reside in first place, converting a few believers on their quest to shock the world. And Philadelphia, well... you get the idea.
For another example of how quickly things can change in the NFL, we jump back to present day, where a picture of the standings could shift dramatically before the afternoon is out -- that is if the Eagles actually finish a game. But with a win today, and at least a New York Giants loss, the Birds would dive right back into the postseason hunt, as no club in the East would have larger than a one game lead heading into the bye week. Plus, at 1-1 and four division sets remaining, they still control their own destiny
I don't suspect such a scenario would do much to energize a fan base that's lost almost all hope, many of whom would just as soon detach themselves from the whole operation, if they only knew how. And really, we're talking about getting to 2-4. There is a long way to go before most people are willing to seriously entertain the notion that this team has a run in them.
Every turnaround has to begin somewhere though. Win or lose, this may not feel like the biggest moment of the 2011 season today, but it is. A loss would be be surprisingly devastating, the Eagles not suddenly mathematically out of it as a result, but their path to the playoffs no longer clearly visible. On the other hand, a W breathes new life into the franchise and their faithful, and if something special should happen down the road, we'll look back on this victory when we talk about where it started.
It won't be easy. The defense is without Trent Cole again, and King Dunlap's injury has created another shuffling along the offense line -- with Jason Peters also out, Todd Herremans slides over to left tackle, while Winston Justice makes his first start since last year on the right side.
And the Redskins are a quality opponent to say the least. They have a well-coached offense that plays to its strengths, and a top 10 defense stacked with talent at every position. By no means will winning come easy today.
Regardless, we're about to find out what kind of character the Eagles truly have. The talent is not really what's in question here. Their will to win, will to scrap, will to fight for 60 minutes are in doubt. But if they can just get that one win, maybe we'll learn something about this team, and just maybe this season isn't over.
Let's hit the reset button.