I'm sitting in the press box five hours before the kickoff against the 49ers, and the playing surface at Lincoln Financial Field couldn't look better. The field has new side from number to number all the way down the field. The end zones have been freshly sodded. The snow is all but cleared from the stadium, a huge credit to the Eagles and the workers who shoveled and cleared an official 23.2 inches of snow from the stadium all day and night Saturday and through the morning on Sunday.
A lot has happened in the last couple of days. Dallas' win over the Saints on Saturday night opened eyes, and it also opened the pathway to the playoffs for the Eagles. A win today and they are in for the eighth time in Andy Reid's 11 seasons as the head coach. Of course, nobody on this football team is content with that kind of thinking. The goals are greater, but first things first: The Eagles must beat the 49ers in weather conditions that, come 4:15 p.m., could have an impact.
While the field is ready for action, Mother Nature has brought forth a typical winter's day: It is expected to be around 20 degrees by kickoff. The winds could be whipping around Lincoln Financial Field enough to deter an all-out passing attack.
Certainly, as they put the finishing touches to the game plan, Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg are considering an alternative game plan should the winds prohibit a lot of throwing. The Eagles, fortunately, have reached the point in the season where they have a ground game upon which they can rely. LeSean McCoy, Leonard Weaver and Eldra Buckley provide some versatility, some power, some speed. The Eagles can dust off the Wildcat, should they desire. And they can always get the ball to Michael Vick with direct snaps if they think the quarterback can run around and take advantage of his speed on the edges.
The Eagles have options. That's the point. They have reached the level offensively where they can beat defenses with the passing game and they can beat teams on the ground. San Francisco has a quick, smallish defense. Patrick Willis may be the best middle linebacker in the league. The 49ers can get up the field with their pass rush and cause havoc.
Defensively, the key is to stop Frank Gore and the running game and then make quarterback Alex Smith win the game with his arm. The coverage on tight end Vernon Davis is key. Michael Crabtree is a vibrant talent.
But all of that is moot if the Eagles get off early and get a lead. They have scored nine times on their opening drive. They have been able to play with a lead, and that will help enormously today.
It is all there for the Eagles. The path to the playoffs is clear, just like the gorgeous field at Lincoln Financial Field. It is time to play football in the bitter cold, to beat the elements and the 49ers and reach 10-4 and take another step in the right direction.