Heading into Sunday's NFC East showdown with the Washington Redskins, the Eagles are fully aware that they are playing for their season. Any road to the playoffs for the 1-4 Eagles will likely need to come through the division, so picking up a division win heading into the bye would provide some hope for a team that came into the season with big plans. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that a team has rallied from a 1-4 start to make the playoffs.
Since the current playoff format was implemented, five teams out of 100 that began their season 1-4 made their way to the playoffs - all as division winners. In fact, two current Eagles have already accomplished the feat. The most recent team to achieve the 1-4 rebound is the 2004 Green Bay Packers. Not only was Eagles quarterbacks coach Doug Pederson the backup quarterback on that squad, but defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins was a wide-eyed first-year player who would contribute 4.5 sacks as the Packers fought their way to a 10-6 record.
"I remember we won the first game and then things went kind of south for us," Jenkins said, taking a trip down memory lane. "It was my first year making the team and you got this sense from all the players just from being around there that they looked at it for what it was, a rough time, a dry spell. That's the same approach that we should have around here right now. It's a winning organization, they've been winning for a while. We just have to look at it as what it's been, a rough spell. We've been in every game, had a chance to win every game. Things just haven't gone our way. A lot of it is self-inflicted, but we have to understand and do a 180 and get some wins out of this now."
Jenkins, who was reportedly one of four players to address the team earlier this week in an impromptu "players-only meeting," believes that the Eagles' track record of success will play a big role in a potential turnaround.
"Everybody around here has pretty much been around winning before and expects that, so it's a matter of getting the momentum," he said. "I think getting a win this Sunday would give us confidence and build momentum, so that's what we have to be focused on."
As Jenkins points out, a win this Sunday is imperative. All five of the teams to rally from a 1-4 start won their sixth game. One of those teams was the 2002 Tennessee Titans, where Jenkins' defensive line-mate Juqua Parker was a young contributor as well (coached, of course, by Jim Washburn).
"Oh, it can be done," said Parker, speaking from experience. "If we put it together, we can do anything we want."
There's a long history of teams rallying from poor starts or bouts of play to make a deep playoff run. In 2000, the Baltimore Ravens lost three games in a row before ripping off an 11-game winning streak that culminated with a Super Bowl win over the New York Giants. Brian Billick, the head coach for that Ravens team, doesn't think that kind of run is out of the question for the Eagles.
"The things plaguing the Eagles right now are very fixable," said Billick as a guest on Eagles Live!, "It depends on when and why it happens, but yeah, you can overcome that."
Of course, any thoughts about the playoffs are far on the horizon for this Eagles team. If they don't come out with a win Sunday at FedEx Field, history suggests that the Eagles would be all but out of the playoff picture. But you could also make the case that Sunday is a playoff game in itself for the Eagles.
"This is it," Jenkins said. "You have to focus on getting that first one first."