Saturday, April 19, 2014
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Eagles' future rides on the outcome of Redskins game, or does it?

THIS IS WHERE the Eagles' season pivots. If they expect to have a good chance of winning the NFC East and making the playoffs, this is the game that will tell them. Based upon current valuations, a win on Sunday over the Washington Redskins is the price to dream.

Can you concoct a scenario in which the Eagles lose to Washington and still make it? Sure. In the Land of the Loss, a k a the NFC East, an eight-win team could still be king. A three-car pileup at the finish line is not out of the question, with the Cowboys, Eagles, Redskins and/or Giants in the mix.

At the same time, common sense figures to prevail at some point, and nine wins is the more likely number, and if you add a loss here, the math starts to get difficult - especially when you remember that the Cowboys hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Eagles and have not yet lost a game in the division. If Washington wins Sunday, the Eagles will have lost three games in the division.

There is still a distance to travel, whatever happens. But a win over Washington will leave the Eagles at 6-5 and, at least temporarily, alone atop the division. That we are even having a playoff conversation this deep into November is unexpected. Win Sunday, though, and the talk becomes real.

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    "We know that, hey, if we win this game, it's going to put us in a great position, and that's all we worry about," said quarterback Nick Foles, who insisted that nobody is getting ahead of themselves, that it has been drilled into them since Pop Warner that it is all about the next game, and that everything else will take care of itself.

    But if the players were talking about it? About the playoffs?

    "They can talk about whatever they want to talk about," coach Chip Kelly said. "It doesn't mean anything if they don't win on Sunday, though."

    At which point, when Kelly was asked whether he spent even 2 minutes looking at things such as tiebreakers, the coach went off on one of his now-patented riffs - funny, revealing, the words tumbling out as if from a waterfall.

    "They're inconsequential," he said, about those tiebreakers. "It means absolutely nothing. I've always felt the same exact way. I look at college football, and everybody talks about the BCS talk in October, and it doesn't mean anything. If you lose a game, you're out. I've talked about it all the time: We're going to keep our head down until Dec. 29. I know I personally will, and we'll see how many games we've won. If that's enough games to qualify for the playoffs, then we did a good job.

    "Wishing and hoping and looking at tiebreakers - you should be watching film and breaking down your opponent instead of doing that stuff."

    Just about every coach who has run through here has expressed a similar sentiment, only without the same color. You ask Kelly whether he has a number of games in his head that it will take to win the division and you get Part II.

    "I have no idea," Kelly said. "I don't. Again, for me to spend time looking at what number I think is going to be the number you need to win in games, it means nothing. Just go out and prepare for that game you've got that week, and that's what it should be about and what it's always about. It doesn't matter what I think it is. At the end of the year, I'm going to pat myself on the back? 'I thought it was 10; it was 10?' You don't get anything for it, do you? If you do, I'll start looking at it."

    So, this week. The Redskins are an odd, flawed team (which makes them a perfect fit in the NFC East). That is, they have a ton of offensive potential and a cartload of defensive concerns. A week ago, they looked great in the first half at Minnesota and then died in the second half and lost to a one-win team. And so it goes.

    But this has a chance to be a game in which the two teams trade punches, long into the fourth quarter. How Foles reacted to such a scenario would be instructive, as we all try to guess about the future. How the Eagles' defense reacted to a game in which somebody finally turned all of those yards into points also would tell us something, too. Robert Griffin III is not Terrelle Pryor or Scott Tolzien, after all.

    In all, this is the proverbial "good test" for a team that few thought would still have hope at this point. And while the outcome will guarantee nothing, either way, it will direct the conversation from here forward. The conversation as well as the aspirations, more accurately.


    On Twitter: @theidlerich



    Rich Hofmann Daily News Sports Columnist
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