Phil Sheridan: Eagles are wild

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The Eagles' Chris Clemons celebrates his fumble return for a touchdown during the third quarter against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. (Yong Kim / Staff Photographer)

If it seems unlikely the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl, ask yourself this: Is it any more unlikely than what transpired over the course of three hours yesterday in three NFL cities?

You want unlikely? Tampa Bay blew a 10-point lead, at home, to the Oakland Raiders. Chicago lost in Houston. And in Philadelphia, the Improb-Eagles laid a 44-6 humiliation on the Dallas Cowboys.

If all of that can happen, then the Eagles can win three road playoff games. If that sounds overly optimistic, or like someone changing his tune after burying Andy Reid just a week ago, it's neither.

Really, this is just the flip side of the same coin. The reason the Eagles' miserable losses were so excruciatingly frustrating is the same reason they could very well make a deep run now that they've slipped through the side door into the playoffs.

"Especially the way we played tonight," said left tackle Tra Thomas, who has been on a 3-13 team, wild-card teams and a Super Bowl team. "We definitely feel like a team that can make it. We just have to keep riding this wave."

"If we keep playing like that," said right tackle Jon Runyan, "we can do a lot of damage. That's going to be the biggest thing, to keep preparing and playing like that. That performance out there, that's one of the top performances I've seen around here."

Runyan, like Thomas, has seen a lot of Eagles' performances, covering the full spectrum from awful to awesome. Actually, you don't have to have a decade in the NFL for that. The Eagles (9-6-1) hit both extremes in the span of one week - stinking it up against Washington a week before blowing the Cowboys away.

Make no mistake. The Eagles deserve full credit for seizing an unforeseeable opportunity and bullying a Dallas team that also had a playoff berth at stake. Not only did the Eagles claim that final NFC playoff berth, they left their most despised rival in the kind of ruin that almost assures big changes in Big D.

Tony Romo? Wade Phillips? Terrell Owens? Adam Jones? All the cartoon characters in Dallas owner Jerry Jones' locker room are targets now. Romo's annual meltdown can't be ignored. Phillips, who was punting on fourth and 2 while losing 44-3, has to go. Owens has crossed into total buffoonery as the talent that redeemed him fades. The notorious Pacman made it rain points on the Eagles.

As Cole Hamels might say, the Cowboys officially are choke artists.

So it is true the Eagles won the game they absolutely had to, just as it is true the game plan and execution against Washington were egregiously bad. It is true the Eagles went to the Meadowlands two weeks ago and beat the division-winning New York Giants, just as it is true they were wretched in Cincinnati and Baltimore.

If this Eagles team has proved anything in 2008, it is that it can beat anyone or lose to anyone. So it follows they can beat three NFC opponents - especially in this playoff field - to get to the Super Bowl.

Minnesota? The New York Giants? Carolina? Do any of those teams really scare you? It says a lot that the only NFC team taking a winning streak longer than one game into the postseason is the Atlanta Falcons.

The Vikings (10-6) are up first. Yes, they have Adrian Peterson, one of the best running backs in the game. They also have Tarvaris Jackson playing quarterback after coach Brad Childress, the former Eagles offensive coordinator, tried to replace him with 37-year-old Gus Frerotte. The Vikings have the No. 6 ranked defense in the NFL, but the Eagles' is ranked No. 3.

Yesterday's Eagles win that game easily. Last week's Eagles lose and look bad doing it.

If they can beat the Vikings, the Eagles would play the Giants at the Meadowlands again. The Giants will surely be favorites, but it's folly to say the Eagles aren't capable of doing on Jan. 11 what they just did on Dec. 7.

Get to the NFC championship game and it's a very successful season. But get there and play in Carolina, Arizona or at Atlanta and the Eagles would have a more-than-decent chance - yesterday's Eagles, at least.

The team that lost to Washington would have no chance.

"I'm pretty sure you don't want to play a team with this much potential," wide receiver Jason Avant said. "At the same time, no one is scared of us and we understand that."

That sounds like a pretty good description of the Giants as they went into the playoffs last season as the fifth seed in the NFC with a 10-6 record. The Giants won on the road at Tampa Bay, at Dallas, and at Green Bay to get to the Super Bowl.

Then they won that, too. Can the Improb-Eagles? Come on, let's not get crazy.


Contact columnist Phil Sheridan at 215-854-2844 or psheridan@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/philsheridan.