Now, onto the real thing. With the Eagles' 14-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, and the regular season, in the books, the NFC East champions can officially begin their preparations for the Green Bay Packers and next Sunday's wildcard game at Lincoln Financial Field. Heading into Week 17, the Week 1 rematch was the likeliest scenario for the Eagles, but the Packers made their fans sweat en route to a 10-3 victory at Lambeau Field. Still, head coach Andy Reid acknowledged that the Eagles were able to do some extra preparation for the Packers this week.
"We were able to look at a little bit of (film)," Reid said after the game. "The coaches took a peek at (the Packers) over the last couple of days.
"You go back and look at the game that you played against them. You're going to look at that and review it again. Then you take the last few games that they played and you put that into the mix."
As for reviewing that Week 1 27-20 Packers victory, the teams on film from that game are a lot different than the two teams that now head to the playoffs, as Reid himself said that both sides are better now than they were at the beginning of the season. Both teams have had their fair share of injuries, but consider that among the 22 first-team players for the Eagles in Week 1, between seven and nine of those spots, depending on the status of Stewart Bradley and Max Jean-Gilles, will be different next Sunday.
Of course, the biggest difference is at the quarterback position for the Eagles. After Packers linebacker Clay Matthews knocked Kevin Kolb out of the game in the tail end of the first half of that Week 1 game, Michael Vick took the reins of the offense and almost led an impressive comeback. This time, Vick will be under center from the start.
"At the beginning of the season, we were young, but I think a lot of guys have grown up," said cornerback Joselio Hanson. "And Vick only played a half last time, so we're a way different team now."
"They're a very good team, and I feel like when we played them the first game of the year, we had a chance to win that game, especially at the end," said safety Quintin Mikell. "We did some things defensively that we're trying not to do around here. We definitely want to get another shot at them and play better."
Mikell added that it's incumbent upon locker room leaders like him to deliver the message to some of the younger players how much different the playoffs are from the regular season.
"All we can do is explain to the guys that it's a different speed," Mikell said. "It's faster. It's more intense. Every mistake is magnified and there's not any room for error. I think we can tell the guys all day, but you really just have to experience it."
Strongside linebacker Moise Fokou experienced the playoffs last season as a rookie starter, but he wasn't the starter when the Eagles played the Packers earlier this season.
"We're a different team from last time," said Fokou, who became the starter as part of a move to reinforce the run defense. In Week 1, the Packers ran for 132 yards and 4.0 yards per carry, while the Eagles held Aaron Rodgers to less than 200 yards passing and a 73.1 quarterback rating, his third lowest of the season. "We're going to see if we can stop their run, make them one-dimensional and attack their quarterback."
And although the Eagles won't practice until Wednesday, Fokou said the work begins right away.
"We're going to start things up tomorrow," he said. "We'll watch some film and try to get a reaal good handle on what they like to do (in their base offense) especially)."
Both the Packers and Eagles lost in the wildcard round of last season's playoffs, so one team will obviously advance further than they did last season. But while they'll be hoping for a different outcome than their first clash this season, Reid and co. will be hoping that one form of history repeats itself - the Packers and Eagles were both road teams when they lost last January.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 9:39 p.m., January 2