Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/18/12

SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 15: Andy Reid head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles points to his defensive line as he yells instructions against the San Diego Chargers late in the fourth quarter during the NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 15, 2009 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
I’ve watched enough Eagles football in the Reid era to realize that coach’s style can be termed, “Inadvertant Trial and Error.”

Despite having led Philadelphia into the playoffs in nine of his first 13 seasons, Reid’s record on opening day is 6-7.
 
Among those six wins, the Eagles didn’t beat a single playoff team (2000 Cowboys, 2004 Giants, 2006 Texans, 2008 Rams, 2009 Panthers, 2011 Rams).
 
In those seven losses, the Eagles lost to four playoff teams (2001 Rams, 2002 Titans, 2007 and 2010 Packers), all of which made it at least to their championship games that season.

They also lost to three teams that missed the postseason entirely: the 1999 Cardinals, 2003 Buccaneers, and 2005 Falcons.
 
The yin and the yang of the Eagles’ playoff runs is that, while the Birds are capable of busting off hot streaks to solidify their berths (2000, 2006, and 2008 come to mind), the dual reality is that, if not for those streaks, a playoff run may not have happened.
 
They had to go undefeated in November 2000, which improved their record from 5-4 to 9-4, to help secure that wild card.
 
Behind Jeff Garcia, the Eagles had to go from 5-6 to 10-6, winning five games in December 2006 (including three road games against their NFC East rivals) to miraculously win the division.
 
In 2008, with Donovan McNabb benched at halftime of a 36-7 loss to Baltimore, a point in which the Eagles tumbled to 5-5-1, a rejuvenated No. 5 led the team out of the cellar, going 4-1 the rest of the way. Both Chicago and Tampa Bay had to cough up games in week 17 for the Eagles to remain in the playoff hunt, and that’s exactly what happened.

With their game against Dallas meaning something now (the winner got the sixth and final spot), Philadelphia obliterated the Cowboys 44-6, and somehow nearly streaked their way into Super Bowl XLIII.
 
Like I said, some will say the Eagles are a dangerous team when they get hot, and hard-bitten Eagles fans will tell you that they should have gotten hot a lot sooner.
 
Between early-season futility, late-season rallies, and needing that lucky push in between, the Philadelphia Eagles have had talented enough teams to where fighting for their lives come Christmas shopping season shouldn’t be necessary.
 
Those dominant years in 2002, 2003, and 2004, where they were a combined 37-11 in the regular season, netting home field all three years, came when the NFC East was a total farce, except for paltry wild card efforts from the Giants in 2002 (I think we all remember that game) and the Cowboys a year later.
 
That luxury of being the lone threat in the NFC East, the valedictorian in a class of summer school kids, is no longer there. The Giants are defending champions, Dallas has a solid overall team, and the Redskins, while a laugh riot in the Snyder era, finally have a dynamic quarterback that can be hard to figure out.
 
The Eagles need to start winning earlier.
 
That’s why, on Sunday night, September 30, when the Eagles host the World Champion New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field, they have to win that game.
 
Broadcast on NBC before a huge viewing audience, the Eagles have to erase the notion that they can make up for early losses later. They have the crowd on their side, history at their back (Andy Reid is known his great record in prime time games, 38-21), and a chance to muscle down a division foe early.
 
For once, it could be the Eagles who coast to a playoff berth, while New York, Dallas, and Washington are forced to play catch-up. With the disappointment of the “Dream Team” year lingering, and their Philly Phaithful screaming by the thousands, this is an opportunity that must be converted.
 
If they fail here, it could be another season of cold November nail-biters, and frigid December rationalizations. No one associated with the Eagles, on the team or among their fans, would want that.

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