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The Philadelphia Eagles are Legit Contenders - So Why Don’t We Care?

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It took nearly four hours for the clock to finally expire on the Eagles-Colts game last Sunday. That’s almost twice the winning time of that same morning’s New York City Michael VickMarathon.

But, it was almost fitting that the Eagles statement win of the season would come in the form of a marathon effort. After all, it has seemed like an endless stretch of miles since the last time the Birds registered a big win over a legitimate NFL power.

It was a win over Peyton Manning, which the Eagles had failed to do in their three previous attempts. It was also a win over a highly ranked AFC opponent for the first time since….well, let’s just say it’s been at least five years.

The same weekend saw some of the AFC’s other heavyweights looking very ordinary. The mighty Patriots got blasted by the hapless Browns, while the Jets needed an overtime escape to top the one-win Lions.

At home in the NFC, preseason favorites Minnesota and Dallas have been equal parts dysfunctional and dismal. The Saints equaled last year’s loss total in the first seven weeks, and if the playoffs were to start today, the Eagles would be joined by the likes of the Rams, Falcons, Packers, Giants and Saints. The path to the Super Bowl is hardly obstructed by NFL dynasties.

To summarize, we’re now halfway through what was supposed to be a rebuilding year for a young Eagles team, and they suddenly look like they have as good a shot as just about any team in the league.

Normally, this development would be accompanied by a fan base stricken with Eagles fever. In other years, our midnight green engines would be going into overdrive as the second half of the season kicked off.

So, why don’t we seem to care?

Well, perhaps not caring is too harsh of an assessment of the situation. The radio airwaves are still busy with Eagles analysis and the games are still must-see-TV for Eagles loyalists. But, as the Eagles head toward some critical games against the Redskins, Giants and Cowboys, there definitely seems to be a governor on the fan base’s enthusiasm meter.

Maybe we really have become disenfranchised by the front office. For years, we resented the arrogance of Andy Reid and company, who routinely dismissed our concerns about their short- and long-term plans. . Perhaps we’ve reached a point where we fear that the success of the team will reaffirm to Reid and the Eagles front office that Eagles Nation has no business questioning their decisions. In other words, if the Eagles make a run in the playoffs, we can expect that those decade long philosophies will not change (such as a complete unwillingness to run the ball when the opportunity arises, or the idea of devoting a high draft pick to a quality linebacker).

Maybe we still haven’t come to grips with the fact that the mainstay players of the last decade are truly gone. So much of recent Eagles history was tied to players that were revered for their talent, toughness, and identification with the city of Philadelphia. The attachments we had to Brian Dawkins, Brian Westbrook and Jon Runyan have not been reassigned the current stars of the team.

Maybe we can’t produce the same zeal in our support of the incredibly talented Michael Vick. In the midst of an amazing comeback, Vick’s humility during the tumultuous past seven months has been truly admirable. And yet, somehow when the clock expired on Sunday’s win over the Colts and the CBS cameras cut to Vick’s emotional embrace with Marty Mornhinweg, many of us realized that the quarterback of the Eagles had our support, but still not our hearts.

Then there is the Eagles other young phenom, DeSean Jackson, who despite his video game-like talent, has our loyalty-guards up as well. Why? Perhaps it’s because he has always seemed to be one step away from the type of diva status that inspired The T.Ocho Show.

Maybe Peyton Manning’s game ending interception would have inspired a more intense celebration if the ball hadn’t found its way into the hands of Asante Samuel. The Eagles outstanding cornerback is in the midst of an All-Pro season, but seems to find new ways to turn us off each week. Just hours before that clinching Peyton-pick, he put a bit of a damper on otherwise amazing performance. While Samuel didn’t exactly step on unconscious Colts receiver Austin Collie during a penalty-induced tantrum, his histrionics in the wake of a frightening injury had plenty of us feeling second-hand embarassment.

In the end, Sunday’s victory over the Colts was a statement win for the Eagles. And in the end, we are still Philadelphians. What that means is that we support our teams through good times and (the all-too frequent) bad.

If the Eagles can continue to gain experience, improve, and peak over the final eight games of the 2010 season, the reality is that they will enter a playoff field that appears to be as wide open as any in recent memory.

Surely, the excitement of that possibility will be hitting us any day now.

Right?

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net