Eagles keep pushing for playoffs

December, 16, 2008
12/16/08
2:10
AM ET
 
 Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
 Donovan McNabb and the Eagles have won three straight.

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

PHILADELPHIA -- Tease or contender?

Playoff bound or delaying the inevitable?

These questions still remain unanswered following the Philadelphia Eagles' easy 30-10 romp over the Cleveland Browns on "Monday Night Football." The Eagles (8-5-1) are playing their best football of the season, outscoring their last three opponents 98-44, but they remain on the outside of the NFC playoff race.

Over the past four years, the postseason has begun in December for the Eagles. This has been both a blessing and a curse during the Andy Reid-Donovan McNabb era in Philadelphia.

For whatever reason, the Eagles in recent seasons have slumped at midseason but found a way to finish strong. Sometimes it leads to a postseason berth. Other times, such as last season, the team falls short.

Philadelphia is trying desperately to avoid back-to-back non-playoff seasons for the first time under Reid. In addition to Monday's win over Cleveland, the Eagles will need to sweep a pair of NFC East rivals -- the Washington Redskins (7-7) and Dallas Cowboys (9-5) -- to have a chance.

"The players understand what's at stake," Reid said of the final two weeks. "You saw that by their effort tonight. They played a very aggressive game on both sides of the ball and special teams."

But don't read too much into Monday's victory.

Cleveland, losers of four straight, was the perfect prey for the surging Eagles. The Browns (4-10) have a coach in the hot seat, two injured quarterbacks, and they haven't scored an offensive touchdown since Nov. 17.

The Eagles were sloppy at times with three turnovers. But Philadelphia took care of business by jumping out to a 17-3 lead and never looked back. The 20-point win could have been more lopsided had the Eagles not thrown two interceptions in the end zone and pulled their starters early in the fourth quarter.

"Our guys tried," Browns head coach Romeo Crennel said. "But I don't think we have enough ammunition to match up with them."

The Eagles have been among the most schizophrenic teams in the NFL this season. The same team that blew out the Arizona Cardinals by four touchdowns on Thanksgiving lost to the Baltimore Ravens by 29 points and benched McNabb five days prior.

Now McNabb is back. He looks far removed from the lowest point of his career and put up another stellar game Monday, completing 26 of 35 passes for 290 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 105.7 passer rating.

"He's playing like he does," Reid said. "This is what Donovan McNabb is all about."

McNabb and the Eagles need to maintain this level of play. McNabb is once again playing confident football and the vintage smile is back on the face of the veteran quarterback.

"I'm always happy. I'm happy to be out here just playing football and that's the most important thing," McNabb said. "That's something I told myself no matter what situation I'm in, I'm going to have a ball out here and the people around me are going to enjoy it, too."

The Eagles will need to upend two teams that beat them earlier in the year in Washington and Dallas. Philadelphia believes it's a different team now, but a pair of wins still could leave the team sitting at home.

The Eagles also need help in the form of a loss by either the Atlanta Falcons (9-5) or Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-5) in the final two weeks.

But this is usually the type of situation that brings the best out of the Eagles. Whether it works this year or it's too late remains to be seen.

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