You know how it is when a team has a rash of injuries and everyone -- everyone -- outside of the immediate team thinks Sunday is predictable. You know how it is when you think the Eagles have the path paved for a victory.
You know how difficult it is to actually go out and win that game.
There have been numerous instances in modern Eagles history when we have all been caught in that trap. Oakland a couple of years ago comes to mind. The Colts, with the unknown James Mungro at running back, trampling the Eagles at Veterans Stadium in 2002. Arizona out in the desert years ago when the Cardinals couldn't hold the Eagles' collective jock.
You learn one thing about the NFL, and that is to not take a single thing for granted.
"I don't think that anyone here is looking at it that way about their injuries and those sorts of things; we're still seeing the New York Giants and we're still seeing a great football team and a team that loves to try to beat up on the Eagles because of the rivalry," said cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. "So I don't think anyone is looking into the injuries or anything like that. So there's no danger in it, we're seeing it for what it is, a good football team."
One thing the Eagles know is that the Giants aren't going to lay back and wait to take a beating. They are going to go after the Eagles and blitz Michael Vick, something they did with success last season.
If there is any sense that the Eagles offense can just show up and dominate, well, the reality is that New York is going to do what it can to force turnovers and short fields for the Giants offense.
"They attack. I mean, it's an attack defense. They can do both, they're going to throw both at you," said head coach Andy Reid. "Where they come after you they do a nice job of playing zone coverage, they mix in straight man coverage without the blitz, and then man with the blitz and zero blitz. I mean you get the whole gamut when you play them."
This is a terrific test for the Eagles on every level, including the maturity factor. How does this team respond after a loss? How much intensity do the Eagles bring to the field knowing the Giants are down so many injured players?
Is there urgency with this football team on a week-to-week basis?
We see it all the time in the league. Teams just don't show up ready to play their best game. When that happens, they too often lose a game that comes back to bite them at the end of the season. Last year, for instance, the Eagles lost a few games they had no business dropping. They fell in Donovan McNabb's return to a lousy Washington team. They blew a second-half lead and lost big in the fourth quarter to a Titans squad that ended up being pretty lousy. And they couldn't get out of their own way early in a loss to Chicago, even though they mounted an impressive late-game rally to make it close.
Maybe the perfect example was the loss to Minnesota at Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles had just clinched a playoff spot with their dramatic come-from-behind win over the Giants. The kickoff against Minnesota was moved back two days after a blizzard blanketed Philadelphia, and the Vikings were weary road warriors by the time Tuesday night rolled around.
There was no way the Eagles would lose to the Vikings, who were led by interim head coach Leslie Frazier and unproven quarterback Joe Webb in his first NFL start. All Webb did was complete 65 percent of his passes and run for a touchdown in a hugely-damaging Eagles loss that triggered an end-of-the-season swoon and, perhaps, set in motion the grand plan to overhaul the coaching staff and the roster for 2011.
There are enough veterans on this roster who have been down that unpleasant road in the past. Let's hope the locker room leadership asserts itself and that the Eagles have the proper focus and desperation to win this NFC East opener.
Otherwise, it's going to be a sign that this Eagles team just isn't ready for success. A win here is essential. Given the circumstances, and even though it isn't *technically *true, it's a must win for the Eagles.