Somehow, playoff chances exist, even if the statistical reality is minute. A chance is a chance. And you have to take advantage of chances. Can the Eagles do that? Can they feel that heartbeat and go and beat a Miami team that has won four of its last five games and is certainly playing inspired, hard-nosed football?
That's what we're looking for, right? Can the Eagles move on from what has been and begin a re-invention of themselves? This is an exciting trip for me, with thousands of Eagles fans waiting in South Florida? This is the road trip Eagles fans circled the moment the schedule was announced.
So what kind of show will the Eagles give to these fans? Some thoughts ...
- Not sure what to make of the downgrading of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin from probable to questionable, other than it's not good news. Maclin practiced from Wednesday on after missing three games with shoulder/hamstring injuries and seemed to have no restrictions on Friday. Head coach Andy Reid addressed the media after practice and Maclin's status was listed as probable and there seemed little question that he would play Sunday. Maclin was downgraded to questionable on Saturday, so whatever happened between Friday afternoon and Saturday means Maclin is now 50/50 to play. If he can't go, or if he is limited, Riley Cooper steps up, along with Chad Hall. Steve Smith is nowhere to be found in this offense.
- Looking to see how the Eagles deal with pass rusher Cameron Wake, who spearheads Miami's defense. He is fast and physical off the edge. Do the Eagles double him?
- I really think the first quarter of this game is going to tell the tale of just how focused a pair of 4-8 teams are here, the Eagles particularly. The Eagles need some good things to happen in the first quarter of the game, get a lead, and then play with confidence.
- What do I want from Michael Vick? I want to see him let loose with his arm and his legs and not play tentative football. I want to see him trust his receivers and throw the ball on time. I want to see him avoid hits. I want to see him quick drops and quick releases and if he decides to run, quick decisions. I want, obviously, a win.
- You're going to watch the LeSean McCoy touches, as will I. Miami has a very strong run defense, so will the Eagles go with the run and stick to it or will they try to go to better matchups if the Dolphins play eight men in the box? McCoy is now second in the league in rushing yards, and from a personal standpoint, it would be great to see him win the rushing title this season.
- Rookie linebacker Casey Matthews has worked very hard to get some increased reps and he is expected to play more in certain personnel packages against Miami. Good for him. The kid didn't get knocked down after his early-season roller coaster -- starting middle linebacker to limited reps -- and that's a great sign. Being tough mentally and gaining an edge that way can really go a long way in the making of a productive player.
- Bobby April is without his best coverage player, Colt Anderson, who led the charge in the Eagles' outstanding performance in that phase of special teams. This is a coaching challenge for April, and Miami's return game is strong. Newly signed Tom Nelson, it appears, will get an immediate chance to impress.
- Give Brent Celek a chance to make some plays. Miami has terrific cornerbacks and an aggressive scheme. Miami has a healthy, cohesive defense. This is going to be a game in which the Eagles must be physical and bruising, so Celek is the perfect guy to set a tone offensively. He is having a very fine season.
- I spoke with Trent Cole on Friday for our Eagles Nightly show and in addition to wearing a snazzy bathrobe, personalized of course (Sportrobe.com), Cole said something interesting about Miami running back Reggie Bush. He said Bush was a "tougher" player in his style now, and that's why he has had success as Miami's go-to running back. This is a very difficult matchup for the Eagles, who have given up a lot of yards to running backs in the passing game at times this year.
- Looking for a bounce-back game for safety Nate Allen. He looked like he turned a corner with excellent games midway through the season, but then Allen struggled in the last couple of games here with too many missed tackles and assignment mistakes. He's a pro, a young man who does things the right way. Both he and Kurt Coleman, another great kid who does it right, are going to be challenged as Miami goes after the Eagles' safeties.
- Finally, how do the Eagles cover wide receiver Brandon Marshall? I would be surprised if Nnamdi Asomugha follows him all over the field as the Eagles haven't done that all season. Marshall, Bush, tight end Anthony Fasano and wide receiver Brian Hartline present some real challenges.