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Eagles vs. Cowboys: Wild Card Preview


Sunday’s 24-0 loss to the Dallas Cowboys  doesn’t mean the Eagles can’t beat the Cowboys in the playoff-rematch Saturday night back in Dallas.

What it does mean is chances are the Eagles won’t go too far after Saturday’s game.

Anyone who has ever followed the Eagles knows it’s foolhardy to count them out after a bad loss. If Andy Reid’s  teams have shown anything over time, it’s resiliency.

Figure they’re done at 5-4 and they will roll off six straight wins to clinch a playoff spot.

Then just when you figure they’re in and are going to earn the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye, they lose 24-0 and fall all the way to the No. 6 seed.

And what NFL history tells us is that it’s nearly impossible for a sixth seed to go to or win the Super Bowl.

Sure Pittsburgh did it a few years ago, but it has never happened in the NFC. The Giants won the Super Bowl as the No. 5 seed, but needed a rash of good fortune that included a Tony Romo  meltdown, sub-arctic temperatures, a dropped interception by Asante Samuel  and the most incredible catch ever by David Tyree

For the most part, if you don’t earn one of the two first-round byes, you need to have at least one home game if you’re going to advance far in the playoffs.

The Eagles, if they can beat Dallas in Dallas, will also have to beat the New Orleans Saints  in New Orleans and then either Minnesota, Green Bay or Arizona, at one of those places to get to the Super Bowl.

That’s not easy. Winning three straight road games is as tough as anything a football team is asked to do. It just doesn’t happen very often, even in the regular season, never mind the playoffs.

And for the Eagles it would also mean four straight road games, since they ended the regular season on the road as well.

Look at what happened last year when the Eagles miraculously made it to the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. They beat a Minnesota team that didn’t have a quarterback, then a Giants team that had peaked about a month too soon.

Then on their third try, they lost to Arizona. For those of you still in shock over that loss, it was their third straight road game. I’ll say it again, it’s tough to win three straight on the road, no matter who the three teams are.

Now back to beating Dallas, Saturday night.

That isn’t going to be easy, either.

Sunday’s loss was the second of the season to the Cowboys and the third time in four games that the Eagles have lost to Dallas.

All of a sudden the matchups, Dallas’ pass rush vs. the Eagles offensive line; Dallas’ passing game vs. the Eagles linebackers and secondary and Dallas’ running game vs. the Eagles front four, favor the Cowboys in a big way.

“In games like this, and you see this throughout the playoffs, you see it when two good teams play each other, execution by the offense and defensive line normally have a big part in determining the game,’’ Eagles head coach Andy Reid said. “We have to do better at both of those spots. I always put it on the big guys to get it done. I believe in that and I know they don’t mind taking the responsibility, taking that load there of playing well. It starts there. In this game they did some good things, the big guys did some good things, but there were times that they could’ve done better and then it just worked its way through the offense and defense. When I say everybody had a little piece of that, everybody could’ve done better.”

Now, they have to get back at it just six days after the Cowboys humiliated them, so if they are resilient and they have some kind of character they will fight back.

“A lot of the guys have already come in,’’ Eagles head coach Andy Reid said Monday. “There’s a positive to this amongst the negative. The positive is that you’re in the playoffs and very seldom do you have an opportunity to play a team that just got after you a little bit a second time. We have that opportunity to correct ourselves. That’s an approach I expect the guys to take and I think with the leadership on this team that will take place.”

For a week it might, for the long run it may just be too difficult a chore.

Contact Mark Eckel at meckel@njtimes.com

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