Wow. Seriously, wow... can we all just take a moment to appreciate what has unfolded for the Eagles in the last 3 weeks? The sheer unbelievableness of the path they took to make their 5th trip to the NFC championship game in the last 8 years is, well... unbelievable. While you'd think the luster of this game would be lost after having been there so many times, there is something special this time around. Where in previous years, a trip to the NFC championship was nothing short of expected, this season finished with an against-all-odds, Rocky Balboa flight into the playoffs, where I don't take a single game for granted.
Don't get me wrong... this team is good. They were good going into week 17, when they needed a handful of miracles and an act of god to make the playoffs, because you just knew that if they could somehow get into the postseason, they'd make some noise. It's saying a lot when a 6-seed is a favorite on the road in the conference championship game. This team is not the '07 Giants, because they've already earned respect despite their Wild Card status, and because they've already beaten 2 of the last 3 teams remaining in the playoffs, and because they've essentially been playing for their playoff lives since week 13... and of course, they're not the '07 Giants because the vast majority of those guys will be watching the remainder of this year's playoffs from their couches.
It's so interesting now that the Eagles will face the Arizona Cardinals as the last roadblock between them and the Super Bowl, in a rematch of that Thanksgiving night thrashing when the Birds pummeled the other birds 48-20. The very game that righted the sinking ship that was the then-5-5-1, nearly playoff-eliminated cesspool of a team that had just tied the Bengals and got beat up by the Ravens. A fitting rematch, no? Make no mistake about it though, the Eagles are not taking this squad lightly, as the Cards seem to have no found new life since they entered the postseason.
Nevertheless, I think Arizona will find that this team aint no Falcons and they aint no Panthers. Frankly, that brutality that took place in Carolina a few days ago showed me more of how bad the Panthers were rather than totally convinced me of how good the Cardinals are. The Cards' newly-improved D will have its toughest test of the playoffs against McNabb, Westbrook & co., and their hot passing game will have to find a way to get past Asante, Dawk, Sheldon & Mikell, no easy task. I think it'll be a tough, much closer game than last time, but I think that it's one that the Eagles can and should win. I'm not discounting how hot Arizona is right now, but we're even hotter. This defense is playing lights-out, and honestly, I think the Cards' D will be a bit of a breather for the Eagles O after facing the Vikes and G-men the last 2 weeks.
Word on the street is that Eagles fans are flying out to Glendale in droves, so hopefully we can look forward to hearing some E-A-G-L-E-S chants on TV this Sunday. I'm hardly counting this game as a cakewalk, but I'm optimistic that Philly has a very good shot at making it back to the Super Bowl. The playoff experience on this team is aplenty, and I think if they can make it to Tampa (same place the Phils started their World Series thumping... just sayin..) they can make something happen there.
Later in the week, I'll take a look back at what went right in the Giants game, and more importantly, look ahead to some factors to watch for in the upcoming game at Arizona. Fly Eagles fly!!