In the NFL, they say, you approach each game with the same fervor and responsibility and attention to detail. You respect every opponent and understand that on, and here we go with that most famous sports cliché, "on any given Sunday ..." Yet, every week in the league there are teams that for whatever reason sleepwalk their way through a game and, inevitably, drop enough passes and commit enough penalties and miss enough tackles and go away dumbfounded that 60 minutes slipped away.
The Eagles face an interesting situation on Sunday in Seattle. They play a Seahawks team that has an incredible injury list -- quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and wide receiver Deion Branch have already been ruled out, while defensive end Patrick Kerney is a major question mark and starters like linebacker Lofa Tatupu, fullback Leonard Weaver and wide receiver Koren Robinson are spending more time in the athletic training room than on the practice field this week.
Seattle is 2-5 after a win over San Francisco last week. The Seahawks, a team many thought would contend for the Super Bowl this season, have battled to find any kind of rhythm. There have been too many injuries, too many inconsistencies, too many question marks.
Is this, many on the outside ask, an easy game for the Eagles?
Oh boy, I hope there isn't a shred of thought anywhere from top to bottom of the roster and in the coaching staff like that. Seattle is going to be a battle, no matter who is missing from the Seahawks starting lineup. Seneca Wallace is not in Hasselbeck's class, but he has dangerous skills as a mobile quarterback and he had a huge game last week against the 49ers. Branch isn't going to play, but Bobby Engram will, and he is a crafty, skilled veteran who runs great routes and has good hands and is a good football player.
Hey, things are so nutty in the NFL that many times it doesn't matter who plays where. Scheme matters. Execution is king. And emotion and intensity carry the most weight of all.
The Eagles are on the road on Sunday. They're making their second road trip in three games. They play a giant NFC East game a week later when the Giants come to town.
There are plenty of reasons to feel on edge about Sunday. This is another in a rest-of-the-season line of must-win games. I honestly feel that way. Nothing should be taken for granted with a football team that has yet to establish a level of consistency, other than inconsistency.
Look, everything I've seen this week is right. The mood in the locker room is good. The practice tempo and execution is excellent. The Eagles are reasonably healthy. They are hungry. They seem to understand the importance of their situation with a 4-3 record in the ultra-competitive division they are in.
This is the midway-point of the season, and a 5-3 record puts the Eagles smack-dab in the thick of things in the conference. The Eagles simply can't lose this game. Seattle is going to play hard, play inspired and be a desperate team on Sunday.
I'm telling you, Sunday is a test for Andy Reid and the message he gives to his team and how his team absorbs the message. Reid believes in his team, believes in his locker room, and thinks that the veterans on this team are going to make sure the message gets through.
We're going to find out early on Sunday. The Eagles started slowly in Dallas and then came on and led by the middle of the first half. They fell behind in Chicago and never caught up. They nearly bombed out in San Francisco before storming back in the fourth quarter.
Can the Eagles avoid the drama on Sunday? They have two straight wins and a mini-dab of momentum, so will they take it and go on Sunday? Start fast and finish strong?
Sunday answers the question and, the game, in its own way, tells a lot about the state of this team between its collective ears. The Eagles have gone bump, bump, bump for the last couple of seasons. They actually have a chance to enjoy some prosperity. How will they handle the opportunity?