Derek: I'm not much of a believer in the idea that momentum can be carried over through eight months of bringing in new players, practicing in random locations, and playing four weeks of try-not-to-get-hurt preseason football. It's possible, but too many Super Bowl winners and other late-season surge teams flame out the next fall to think it's likely.
When Andy Reid talks about the end of last season and Donovan McNabb, I think he's really just saying that it's about health. McNabb was finally healthy at the end of last season and that's what carried over. Not that he achieved any kind of new level in his play, since we've seen McNabb doing this sort of thing for years.
Although it's amazing how quickly people forget.
As for the Rams game, I'm sure it was the typical NFL deal where things are never as good or as bad as they look. I'm sure the Eagles aren't that good (at least at this point in the season), and the city of St. Louis shouldn't worry that their team will be able to pull off the perfectly putrid season that slipped through Miami's grasp last year.
With that said, once it was clear Stephen Jackson wasn't going to have his way with us, there wasn't one thing remotely scary about that offense.
Sportz: McNabb looked awesome. What kind of season are you really expecting from him this year ... provided he can stay healthy?
Derek: It seems like I spend at least some part of every day defending McNabb, his track record, and what he does on a football field (although, strangely, the baggers are quiet right now...), so I'm clearly high on the guy. The thing is, though, that McNabb actually has two chinks in his armor, not just one.
The first is obviously the injury thing. If there's anything good about the injuries to Manning and now Brady (other than the massive karmic retribution so SUCK ON IT pats fans) it's that it demonstrates that these kinds of things can happen to anyone. And yeah, Manning played this weekend, but he sure didn't look that good out there. Almost like a hobbled McNabb.
But Don does seem to have had more than his fair share of serious injuries, so we'll give him that knock. The other issue, though, is that Donovan has this weird tendency to go into these little funks where everything just seems a bit off. He always pulls out of it eventually, but when it happens for a game or two stretch, the Eagles' offense looks can't-get-out-of-its-own-way ugly.
The trigger is usually a game where that year's version of Philly's typically underwhelming wide receiver corps just doesn't seem to be able to get open against a defense playing tight, aggressive coverage. Paradoxically, as the throwing windows get smaller, Donovan seems unwilling to let it fly unless he sees a guy is really, really open. Given that this offense is all about a consistent, across-the-field passing attack, once that all happens, things fall of a cliff.
All of which is a long way of saying that I think McNabb is capable of an MVP season this year. I really do. But it's going to come down to the group of weapons he currently has (which does not include Kevin Curtis for a couple months) continuing to look like it did on Sunday. That could be a lot to ask for 16 straight weeks.
Most likely scenario for McNabb: six great games, six good ones, two fair, and two whatthehell's?!?!
Sportz: What is your most memorable Philly-Dallas moment in the rivalry's history?
Derek: Roy Williams
Sportz: So what advantage do the Eagles have over the Cowboys on Monday.
Derek: As I mentioned on the blog earlier this week, I really see this as a must-win game for the Cowboys. Not because they couldn't lose this one, win 14 straight and coast into the Super Bowl, but because losing this game at home when they have so many advantages against a team they're already catching glimpses of roaring up behind them in the passing lane would be a devastating psychological blow to the organization and its nationwide network of ever so charming fans. (Little-known fact: The further a Cowboys fan lives from Dallas, the more obnoxious he is. Philly folks wouldn't even recognize the version they'd actually meet in Texas.)
So the biggest advantage the Eagles have is simply that they can play with nothing to lose, while Dallas just might tighten up a bit if things don't go their way early.
I think the other, un-discussed, advantage the Eagles have is just how new so many of their guys are. Continuity is great, but one of the problems the Eagles have had the last few years is that everyone in the division knew exactly what they were going to try to do at all times. You can go too far in making a virtue (novelty) out of a weakness (inexperience), but this particular Eagles' team gives you more things to think about than previous models have.
For example, you think there's any chance the Eagles would have waited six plays to let Westbrook touch the ball last year? Not likely.
Sportz: How about the Cowboys advantage over the Eagles?
Derek: They're a better team.
They may not be better come December, but right now, if you go up and down both rosters, the Cowboys have more guys with track records than the Eagles do. We're still looking to see how some of the young 'uns in green are going to develop. Dallas had its germination period over the last couple seasons.
The other thing I really worry about is Dallas' offensive line. With that line healthy and the way Tony Romo moves around in the pocket, this isn't going to be a game where we can expect much front four pressure. So we're going to have to blitz, which will open up the middle of the field, which happens to be owned by a guy named Jason Witten, etc., etc...
We'll see how that goes.
Sportz: I read in your blog about how the Eagles aren't expected to win ... but what if they "don't lose"? So ... what if the Eagles win this game?
Derek: Obviously, it's a huge confidence boost to the team. And the division win could be enormous in January when we're looking at playoff tie-breakers. But it won't really change the fact that this is still a young team plenty capable of beating anyone on any given Sunday Monday, but still not battle-tested enough for us to be confident they'll make it through the year without a couple of hiccups.
From a fan perspective, a win this week basically gives the team a free pass against Pittsburgh the following week. That's big because, as you may have heard, we Eagles fans have a tendency to go just a bit overboard in our ping-ponging devotion/hatred of our beloved Eagles each week.
We'll almost assuredly lose at least one game to the Giants this year, but this two-week stretch looks right now to be the toughest thing we have on the schedule. Come out of it with at least a 1-1 record and I won't have to spend the next three weeks writing a "they'll be fine" post every other day just to do my part to keep folks off the ledge. That would be great.
Sportz: Thanks Derek for your breakdown of the Eagles and this big NFC East showdown on Monday. Again, you can check Derek out at the Iggles Blog.