The expectations game

Whodie's fanshot about Matt Mosely's statement about the Eagles "exceeding expectations" got me thinking.

What were our expectations for this team?

I think before the season most of us expected the Eagles to be in the postseason. When the other NFC East bloggers and I did our division roundtable I did pick the Eagles to get a wildcard berth. So going by preseason predictions you can certainly say that this team is simply living up to expectations.

That certainly isn't the story being written this week. All we hear is that the Eagles are "exceeding expectations" and "playing with house money."

The problem is that expectations change week by week...

- After the first 3 games of the year the expectations for this team were still pretty high. They'd blown out the Rams on opening day, lost an absolute shootout in Dallas, then beat up the Steelers at the Linc. Expectations = High.

- In that Steeler game Brian Westbrook gets injured. So we head to Chicago to face a 1-2 Bears team and lose. I'm still having nightmares of those goal line 4th downs... Never mind that in addition to losing Westbrook for that game we were also without Curtis, LJ Smith, Reggie Brown(who was still considered a starter), and Shawn Andrews(who had just been lost  2 weeks prior). Then we head home to face the Redskins, go up 14-0 in the first quarter but then proceed to lose the game. Our offense could only muster 3 points in the last quarters and our defense got manhandled in the run game. Afterward, sports writers were already writing our obituary.

The Eagles (2-3) are close to having to look ahead to next season. They were the only NFC East team to miss the playoffs in 2007, finishing last for the second time in three years. With Donovan McNabb healthy coming into this season, they were hoping to make a run at the Super Bowl. Instead, they’re buried in last place again.

I think it's safe to say that by that point... Expectations = Low

- Then, the Eagles started to get a little healthier and ripped off three straight wins. Two were blowouts against poor NFC West teams(Seattle, San Fran) but there was a good win over a solid Atlanta that would go o to make the playoffs in there. At that point the rest of the NFC was still playing well, but we were back above .500 and expectations were looking up a bit. The team's play over the most recent games kinda made us believe that the previous poor stretch was mosty due to inujries. Expectations = Average

- Then came the home matchup with the Giants. We had won three straight, we were feeling pretty good, and we had the division leading superbowl champs at home. A win there would have sent the expectations through the roof. Instead, that game was the start of the low point of the season. We lost to the Giants, then went on the road and tied the lowly Bengals, and finished the three game stretch by getting blown out by the Baltimore Ravens on the road. The Eagles were 5-5-1, McNabb was benched, and they were done. Expectations = Nonexistent

- Then a funny thing started to happen. The playoff bound Cardinals came to the Linc on Thanksgiving and got smoked. It was a ton of fun to watch, but I'm not sure anyone thought that was the start of a run to the postseason. However, when the Eagles beat the Giants in NJ the following week, eyebrows started to rise. The Eagles were 7-5-1 with a very winnable game against Cleveland coming up that would put them back in the thick of the playoff race. By that Monday night, thanks to a Tampa loss, the Eagles had a chance to gain control of their own playoff destiny. They blew out the Browns and moved into the pole position for a wildcard berth. If they beat a freefalling Redskins team and the Cowboys at home, they were in! Expectations = Cautiously optimistic

- So here we are in week 16 of the NFL schedule and the expectations of most Eagles fans were that this team would be in the postseason. All they needed were two wins and they were in. Unfortunately, the Eagles came a yard shy of tying the game in the final second and lost a dismal 10-3 affair to the Redskins. All off a sudden, the Eagles went from controlling their own destiny to needing two other teams to lose along with a win of their own. Aside from the unlikely set of events that would need to happen, the expectations were hrt by the fact that the Eagles just looked like crap against Washington. The offense could only muster three points. Not only did the playoff math look bad, the Eagles just didn't play like a team that were going anywhere. Expectations = All but dead

The rest is history. The stars aligned on that final day, the Eagles destroyed the Cowboys and grabbed an unlikely playoff berth.

So after all that... Are the Eagles a team that has exceeded expectations? What expectations are most important? Preseason? Midseason? Late season?

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