The NFL season, compared to virtually any other team sport, is incredibly short. That's really a large part of what makes it so great, that every game is meaningful. That said, there are two distinct halves of the season. There's everything leading up to around Thanksgiving and then what comes after. The pre-Thanksgiving period serves mostly to just separate the wheat from the chaff. We've now finally got an idea of who stinks and who is a real contender. I think Jimmy has done a nice job illustrating this with his weekly NFC obituary.
Now, a second season begins. It's now time for the teams that survived the first half to make their run. The interesting thing is that we've seen the NFL really emphasize this second half in recent seasons with their scheduling. Every team has division games packed at the end of their season. It's no coincidence that we seem to end every season playing Dallas. This stretch run of the season has basically become a tournament where, for the good teams, every game becomes about playoff positioning and tiebreakers.
Sunday night's game is for all intents and purposes a playoff game between the Eagles and Giants. For one, it's literally for first place in the NFC East... but it also gives the winner an improved division record, conference record, a head to head win, improved strength of schedule. Aside from the tangible effects, think of all the intangible things that are at stake this weekend.
An Eagles win gives them their 3rd victory over a legit playoff contender and will be seen as proof that the Eagles are looking like an NFC juggernaut. The Giants loss to the Cowboys will be seen as the start of a tailspin in which the Giants "choke" away the NFC East. They'll be peppered with questions & speculation all week about how their season is slipping away. On the other hand, if the Eagles lose then their beating of the Redskins will retroactively seen as just a big win over a bad team. Sure, the Eagles can whip up on the Redskins but when the Giants came to town they folded. For the Giants, the loss to Dallas was just an aberration and after slaying the great Michael Vick they're back on track and seen as one of the NFC's elite.
I really can't overstate how important this weekend really is.