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Magic Number Is 1, With Higher Goals In Sight

Posted Dec 1, 2017

Dallas kept the NFC East title race open with a win over Washington on Thursday night, so the Eagles go into Seattle on Sunday knowing the magic number for winning the division is one. Win, and the Eagles are in for the first time since 2013 ...

Dallas kept the NFC East title race open with a win over Washington on Thursday night, so the Eagles go into Seattle on Sunday knowing the magic number for winning the division is one. Win, and the Eagles are in for the first time since 2013.

Yes, the goals are much bigger than simply reaching the postseason, as the Eagles have acknowledged and we all understand. When you’re 10-1 with a nine-game winning streak and a three-game road trip ahead that begins in Seattle on Sunday night, there are immediate goals and longer-range ones.

But for just a moment here, let’s step back and appreciate the significance of being one win away from the playoffs. The Eagles’ franchise has been in existence since 1933 and has played in 40 playoff games. They’ve made the postseason in 24 of 83 seasons (2017 is the 84th season for the franchise).

It just isn’t easy at all to make the playoffs.

 “I appreciate playing on Sunday, no matter what. Whether you’re good or bad, 10-1 or 1-10, I appreciate being in the NFL and playing every week,” said defensive end Chris Long, who won the Super Bowl last season with New England after eight non-playoff seasons with the St. Louis Rams. “It makes things certainly special when you realize you’re going to hopefully play past Week 17. That’s something I didn’t get to do for almost a decade in my career. I wondered sometimes if I would ever get that opportunity.

“This team has a chance this weekend to play an awesome team in Seattle in a playoff atmosphere. That’s what makes this fun. I don’t take this for granted. There are a lot of people in this league who never had a chance to go to the playoffs – some of my friends and mentors. I think a lot of the guys here that I’ve talked to are surprised how much I lost before I won.

“The cool thing with this team is that we’re going into December and every game is going to have a playoff atmosphere. That starts this weekend up against a great team like that, on the road, it’s just going to be a great atmosphere.”

There are enough players on the current roster who were on the 2013 team who know how difficult it is to get back to the postseason. From 2013, quarterback Nick Foles, center Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, tight end Brent Celek, defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, linebacker Mychal Kendricks, punter Donnie Jones, tight end Zach Ertz, defensive end Brandon Graham and linebacker Najee Goode remain (offensive tackle Jason Peters is on Injured Reserve).

“It’s hard to get there so you definitely don’t take it for granted,” said Celek, who was part of the team’s 2008 run to the NFC Championship Game. “The biggest thing is that when you have a chance to play in the postseason, you take advantage of it. "Look at what’s happening here. We’ve put all this work into getting to 10-1, and as you get older you realize it can all go down the drain in a single game. I think we understand that and I think we practice like that and we play like that.

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“Shoot, I thought I was going to be in the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl every other year after that 2008 season. Now, 11 years in I haven’t been back to the NFC Championship and I’ve never been to the Super Bowl. Every chance you get, you have to take advantage of it.”

Graham was a first-round draft pick in 2010, but was injured as the Eagles won the division, so he missed the playoff loss to Green Bay that season. And he was there in 2013, excited to host a playoff game and crushed to loss to the Saints.

It’s been a long time since Graham was in the position of being in a playoff environment.

“It’s hard to get there. I know how close we’ve come and how we haven’t finished strong,” Graham said. “That’s what we need to do this season: keep playing our best football and finish strong.”

Said Cox: “This league, it’s not really about how you start, it’s about how you finish. Our main focus right now is to keep doing what we’re doing. Not making the playoffs since 2013, it really puts a bad taste in your mouth. When you’re young, you might think it’s just going to happen. That isn’t the way the NFL works.”

So the Eagles are one win away from reaching the postseason, and that’s great and all, but there are bigger goals ahead. With Minnesota at 9-2 one game behind the Eagles in the NFC, there is no margin for error.

Winning on Sunday night is all that matters.

“It’s not complicated,” linebacker Mychal Kendricks said. “Every week, it’s about winning in this league. That’s how you’re judged. Our focus is on Seattle and nothing else. We’re just taking it one game at a time.”

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