We all wonder how much the day's events dictate how the Eagles play against Dallas on Sunday. What happens if the Eagles are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention? Or if they are still alive at kickoff? How does that uncertainty affect the team in the days ahead as it prepares for the regular-season finale against Rival No. 1?
We don't know the answers. The players were peppered with those kinds of questions on Wednesday. In the midst of everything that is going on -- Christmas, the aftermath of the tough loss to Washington, a handful of players who have expiring contracts after this season -- the Eagles said the right things about their intentions for this game. They want to beat Dallas. They need to beat Dallas. They hate Dallas just as much as you hate Dallas and as much as I hate Dallas.
There, got that out of the way.
Seriously, though, this is a game that is going to tell us something about the Eagles and the leadership in the locker room and how each player approaches a single game with the ultimate urgency and professionalism. It's fair to criticize the Eagles for bungling some early-season games when intensity and focus came into question at key moments. And even safety Brian Dawkins wondering, during an interesting Wednesday press conference, if every one of his teammates was as urgent and focused as he needed to be against Washington.
I mean, we know a lot about this football team already, and I think we can agree that the Eagles came into this season with very high expectations and that being 8-6-1 is not a happy place. But, to borrow a tried-and-true cliche', it is what it is ...
So, anyway, I want to see how much the Eagles have for Sunday. I hope they bring everything. Andy Reid is going to coach to win. There isn't going to be a time to "look at the kids," no matter what the playoff picture looks like. The Eagles are going to play to beat the Dallas Cowboys and to do so they are going to need every ounce of energy and focus. It is going to be a physical, nasty game against a team the Eagles genuinely dislike.
I'm trying to stay tuned in to Dallas and Dallas only, despite the onslaught of "What about next year?" questions you are asking me on the Discussion Boards. I appreciate the interest. There will be a time and a place to do my best to answer those questions.
For now, I just want to beat Dallas. I ache to beat that team. I sure hope the players, every one of them, feels the same way. Sunday is a tremendously important game. The Eagles need to beat Dallas -- any time, anywhere, no matter the circumstances. It is a matter of civic spirit and professional pride.
* NEWS AND NOTES AND THIS AND THAT *
- Defensive end Victor Abiamiri is out for this game and would be out for four weeks should the season continue beyond Sunday. Too bad. Abiamiri was injured in the first quarter of Sunday's game, suffering a Lis franc sprain in his foot. I see Abiamiri has a player with a shot to be an impact defensive end next season. He was dominating the Washington game until the injury. Rookie Bryan Smith will be active if the Eagles replace Abiamiri on Sunday. They could also go light at defensive line, as they did when Abiamiri was out early in the year with a broken wrist.
- Quarterback Donovan McNabb caused a bit of a stir among the media when he said he thinks he has played "great" this season and that a new contract would fend off the "Is this your last game/season?" questions at his press conferences. I, personally, think McNabb is entitled to say what he wants and that every player should have confidence in his standing. These players make it to the NFL because they are great on the field, competitive beyond belief and because they have supreme confidence in themselves. McNabb has been great at times this season, he has struggled at times this season and he has been OK at other times. Just like this offense. But I know that the media will jump on his comments and make a big deal out of them. They are not a big deal. Beating Dallas is a big deal, and then dealing with the aftermath, whichever way the next step is, is a big deal.
- Brian Dawkins was great, just great, on Wednesday. We know that he 1) Dislikes Dallas intently; 2) Doesn't care what the troubles Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has with the media bashing his December history; and 3) Isn't thinking about what next season may hold. How perfect would it be for Dawkins to have an interception in this game and establish the franchise record for most in a career?
- L.J. Smith (shoulder), Todd Herremans (ankle) and Jon Runyan (knee) also missed practice. The Eagles need those players to be ready to play on Sunday.