It came like a bolt from nowhere for many fans: Sports Illustrated is picking the Eagles to win 12 games and represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Suddenly, there is some national cred here. People are paying attention to what the Eagles did late last sason, how they approached the months since, how Donovan McNabb's health and good spirits mean so much to this football team.
Suddenly, the Eagles are legit.
I can't tell you how many fans I've come across in the last couple of days who have mentioned the Sports Illustrated scouting report. "The Super Bowl? Are we that good?" is the general line of conversation from the fans.
Surely, it remains to be seen how good the Eagles are going to be this season. We all know how long the season runs and how the many, many variables impact the wins and losses. And opinions from the media are, frankly, completely meaningless. Who really cares?
What makes the Sports Illustrated prediction so interesting, though, is that it clearly opened the eyes of some fans who may not have recognized how good this team can be. All of a sudden, I sense, some fans are sitting up and taking more notice.
I've always pooh-poohed these kinds of things, but right now I'm feeling such a good vibe from this team, and such a positive chemistry. There is a lot of forward momentum heading into the regular season. The Eagles are a together team, hoping to carry over into September 7 the winning ways that last December brought.
I guess right now, siting around and waiting for the final cuts to be made, keeping my eye on college football just a bit, feeling that feeling that all of us have right now, that the season is finally here and that next Sunday just can't arrive fast enough, I believe the Eagles can beat any team, anywhere. I have a great belief in this team.
Yeah, I'm giddy. The season is a series of stages to me, and every bit and piece of the off-season was fascinating. I loved the first weekend of free agency and the dribs and drabs that followed thereafter. The anticipation of the draft and then the actual weekend was a roller coaster of moves and reactions. The post-draft camps were part of the process, and then training camp kicked the on-field part of things into a new gear.
Preseason games? Sure, I jumped around on the sidelines when Quintin Demps returned a kickoff for a touchdown and then DeSean Jackson returned a punt for a touchdown on back-to-back returns. Preseason was promising. Nobody was injured to the point of being lost for the entire season.
Now, though, this is the real thing. It is within reach. The Eagles are the low men on the NFC East totem pole, so there is plenty of motivation to get off to a good start and stay at the top of the division.
I was already pumped before Sports Illustrated came out with Donovan McNabb on the cover. Now, well, I'm bordering on insane. It is a long week ahead, however, and the words of Rich Kotite keep ringing in my ears: "Don't leave your game in the locker room."
See how crazy I am right now?