Nobody stood up during the week and said anything about a "must-win" game against Washington. Reporters haven't written eloquently about the importance of beating the Redskins in this NFC East game at Lincoln Financial Field. In fact, this has been kind of a matter-of-fact week for some.
Truth is, the Eagles have to beat Washington. Have to. No question about it. At 6-4, the Eagles are in the game in the NFC playoff picture. They are far from having a secure feeling. Any slip-ups now could be fatal to the postseason hopes.
So, yeah, this is a must-win game. I'm saying it. See if the headlines follow ...
The Eagles know how good Washington is and how good the Redskins can be. It has been a tough season for the Redskins at 3-7 with an offense ravaged by injuries and inconsistency. Washington doesn't score a lot of points, simply put. But Washington's special teams and its defense can win a game, so the Eagles need to be on top of their game to sweep the Redskins this season.
How do they do it? They play Eagles football. They protect Donovan McNabb and he steps up and plays well. The offense protects the football. The defense comes to the party and plays fast, physical football. The special teams avoids penalties. The Eagles play a smart, urgent game.
I'm looking at a team that has major personnel advantages here. The Eagles are the better team on paper, as if that means a thing. McNabb is going to drop back and throw the football and the Eagles are going to use three and four wide receivers and look to take advantage of the injuries that have impacted Washington's defensive secondary. On defense, the Eagles have to play downhill and attack Washington's injury-plagued offensive line and make sure the talented receivers don't get behind the secondary for big plays.
The formula is a familiar one against a team the Eagles see twice every year. There aren't going to be a lot of surprises. The Eagles don't have too many tricks up their sleeves, nor do they have reason to pull the rabbit out of their hats in this game.
All the Eagles have to do is play a good football game. Their best game of the year. This is the time of the year to begin to peak, and the good teams kick up their games a notch right now.
Are the Eagles a good team? I think so. They have a chance to show it by getting on a roll as December nears. The best Andy Reid teams did that, played their top football "once the snow flies," as head coach Buddy Ryan used to say.
The Eagles beat Washington, let's say, and then they go to Atlanta for a critical game and then to New York after that and ...
It makes no sense to look ahead. The Eagles have a different kind of challenge this week. They rose to the occasion last week in Chicago and must show a different kind of maturity here. The Eagles must play a great game. They must demonstrate they are ready to peak now, rather than play the one-up, one-down kind of games they have played this season. Reaching 6-4 means the Eagles are alive in the playoff chase. Get to 7-4 and head into December and then we shall see what this team is truly made of.
So it is a must-win game here. The Eagles need to realize that, even if nobody has said it out loud.