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Sunday, December 28, 2008
Eagles could be dangerous in playoffs

By Dan Graziano
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

PHILADELPHIA -- Some Eagles players and coaches didn't want to hear what was going on in Sunday's 1 p.m. ET games. Running backs Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter went out of their way not to find out.

But inside the team's training room, a group of players including veteran Jon Runyan hung on every play. They cheered as the Raiders overcame a 10-point deficit to take control against Tampa Bay and then the Texans ran away from the Bears. By the time the Eagles took the field, fans at the Linc had been whipped into a frenzy. They'd flooded the concourses to watch the other games, and they were elated to have a second chance at claiming a playoff spot.

The Eagles rode that wave of momentum in a 44-6 beatdown of the Cowboys. After the first quarter ended in a 3-3 tie, the Eagles caught fire when quarterback Donovan McNabb used his improvisational skills to find Buckhalter for a 59-yard catch and run that set up a touchdown.

The defense should receive the bulk of the credit for Sunday's win, but it was Buckhalter, McNabb and rookie DeSean Jackson who made huge plays to put the Eagles in control of the game.

When Tony Romo lofted a ball in the general direction of Roy Williams late in the first half, Sheldon Brown had an easy interception. From there, the Eagles defense rubbed the Cowboys' faces in this mess.

I think the Eagles immediately become one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs. If they can get past the Vikings in the Metrodome next Sunday, then they'll face the Giants again in the Meadowlands on Jan 11. The Eagles won at Giants Stadium on Dec. 7 and there's no reason they can't do it again. If you really want to get crazy, look at who they'd face in an NFC title game. The Falcons are the only team in the NFC that enters the playoffs with more than a one-game winning streak. This Eagles team has the talent to beat either of those teams. In fact, they already have.

But first things first, they will face the No. 6 defense in the league in the Vikings. But the Eagles are the No. 3-rated defense and they've won four of their past five games.

Not sure what took Andy Reid so long to realize it, but Buckhalter can be a great weapon in the offense. He was effective both on the ground and through the air Sunday. And veteran Brian Dawkins, who faces an uncertain future with the team, forced two fumbles Sunday. Throw in the fact that Chris Clemons has risen from the ashes and we're talking about a team that could make some noise in the playoffs.

"We just keep playing but I'm pretty sure you don't want to play a team with this much potential," said receiver Jason Avant. "But at the same time, no one is scared of us and we understand that so we have to go out and play as hard as we can."

The Eagles had two huge things happen Sunday. They ended their hated rival's season and they qualified for the playoffs after being buried following a loss in Washington.

This team is still capable of a howler, but I'm pretty sure the Giants wouldn't look forward to seeing them again.

"I've never been a part of anything like this, obviously," Dawkins said. "For the guys to pull together the way they pulled together after a tough loss where we were basically left for dead. To come back out and play the way that every unit played, it speaks volumes about this team, the character in it, and the belief that we have in one another and the coaching staff."

And just so we're clear, the Eagles are bringing both Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb back next season. I think that was going to happen anyway, but Sunday's reversal of fortune sealed the deal.

Excuse me while I book a flight to Minneapolis.