THANKSGIVING DAY was going great - I had two TV segments for MSNBC at 7 and 9:30 a.m. and managed to squeeze in a workout in between to prepare for the day of gluttony that would inevitably follow.
A day of sports-watching got off to a great start when I saw on ESPN that the Villanova Wildcats had demolished USC in college hoops. As I left the gym and made my way over to my son Jesse's house, where the family was gathering for dinner, I realized there was the possibility of a tense situation.
My daughter-in-law Beka's family was in town from Florida, and her dad Jeff and grandad "Papaw" are devout Cowboys fans. As the hated 'Boys fell behind the woeful Raiders, 21-7, Jesse and I could hardly conceal our glee. I was wary, however, as Oakland's putrid defense had let Nick Foles throw for seven TDs only a few weeks ago.
Dinner was served, and it was a great feast. Beka did a great job, with key assists from Midge and her mom, Mary. What tempered my joy, however, was the Cowboys' storming back, as the Raiders showed their true colors. The 'Boys prevailed, but Jeff didn't gloat too much, in part, because he was being polite and, in part, because he knows their defense truly stinks.
That defense, the worst in the NFL, is why I believe the Eagles will win the NFC East and go to the playoffs. The Cowboys will come into the December showdown with the Birds at either 8-7 or 9-6. Their suspect "D" will cause them to be torched next Sunday by the Bears in Chicago, even if Jay Cutler (ankle) hasn't returned (Josh McCown is a great backup). Dallas will beat the demoralized Redskins on Dec. 22, so their record going into the finale vs. the Eagles will depend on how they do against Green Bay on Dec. 15. And that, of course, will be determined by whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers returns from his collarbone injury. If he does, he will shred their pathetic secondary.
It won't matter whether Dallas is 8-7 or 9-6, because I believe the Eagles will win three of their next four games to go 9-6. If they do, they will still have to win at Dallas, because if they don't and both teams finish with the same record, the Cowboys win the division based on tiebreakers.
Our three home games, starting with tomorrow's game against Arizona, are all tough. The Cardinals are hot, have a very good "D," and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald always kills us. With Chip Kelly and the Birds coming off the bye, the team should be ready to play with a well-thought-out game plan.
Next week, the Eagles face the Detroit Lions and the superhuman force that is "Megatron," wideout Calvin Johnson. The Lions have been up and down, including a terrible loss to Tampa at home, and QB Matthew Stafford has proved to be quite turnover prone this season.
On Dec. 22, it's the Bears, and it looks as if Cutler will definitely be back by then. Another tough test to be sure, but I expect us to be playing at such a high level that we should be able to win at least two of these three games. Our lone away game before the trip to Arlington, Texas, for the last game of the season is against the Vikings on Dec. 15. Though running back Adrian Peterson can always go nuts, I am certain the Eagles will outscore the Vikings, so coming into the showdown against the 'Boys, we should be 9-6.
We need to be, because if we go 8-7 and the Cowboys go 9-6 and beat the Redskins, our showdown will be meaningless, (even if we beat them, they will have the tiebreaker with a division record of 5-1 to our 4-2). The same result if we go in with a one-game lead but they beat us to finish with the same record.
So what does it all mean? It means the Eagles control their destiny and can ensure a playoff berth by simply winning 'em all. If we do, we don't have to worry about any scenarios or what anyone else is doing, and we can prepare Lincoln Financial Field to host a playoff game.
Did anybody in Philadelphia, with the possible exception of Kelly, believe this was possible? Anything can happen, and though I feel good about the Birds' chances, I think we can all agree that it sure feels good to be thinking about playoff scenarios in December for the first time in what seems like way too long.
Happy holidays and enjoy the games!