Eagles chasing 'it'

In the National Football League, it is so ephemeral. You know, "it": what the Giants had until a couple of weeks ago, what the Panthers have now, what the Eagles are desperate to wrap their arms around, a quest that continues Monday night against the Cleveland Browns.

It. Think about the Giants for a second. Two weeks ago, they were 11-1 and being anointed as Super Bowl favorites. Since then, they have taken a bullet to wide receiver Plaxico Burress' thigh (a big deal), a knee injury to monster running back Brandon Jacobs (a bigger deal), and now a couple of knocks along the offensive line (maybe the biggest deal of all). The whole gun thing with Burress was a pretty colorful episode, pretty unusual, but the rest of it is just garden-variety stuff that happens to every NFL team. The Eagles have fought through the same stuff with Brian Westbrook and three different right guards. Every team in the league is confronted by the same problems. Yet the Giants have been rocked here, losing to the Eagles and now the Cowboys. Whatever "it" is, it's gone.

That is the league in 2008. People refuse to acknowledge it but the end of the season is all that matters as long as you don't shoot yourself out of it early (you should excuse the expression, Plaxico). We all talk and give opinions for a living, or just for fun in the bar, but it is beyond meaningless. It's all about now. When you look around the NFC and try to pick the favorite to get to the Super Bowl, well, good luck with that. I guess it's Carolina right now. Then again, they play the Giants next Sunday night at the Meadowlands. Maybe Jacobs will be back by then. Maybe the line will be healed up. Maybe.

The point is, nobody knows right now. Which bring us to the Eagles. They are not a nice little story yet -- they are trying to turn themselves into one. The results on Sunday did not make their lives any easier. With Atlanta's win over Tampa Bay, with the Cowboys' win over the Giants, it is very clear now that the Eagles will need to get to 10 wins to have a shot at the final NFC wildcard -- and it still might not be enough.

But if they get there, if they win their last five games of the season, "it" will be theirs. If they get to the point where they beat Dallas in the last game of the season to make the playoffs, "it" will be theirs. There will be nothing false or fortunate about it. In the NFL in 2008, if the Eagles win out, they will be regarded as a serious team again -- and rightly so.

It is so fleeting, so infuriating, so unpredictable. But it is the reality.

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