Next week vs the Dallas Cowboys, we're going to see a lot of Kevin Kolb, Jerome Harrison, Riley Cooper, Clay Harbor, Trevard Lindley, Colt Anderson, Daniel Te'o-Nesheim, etc etc etc. The Eagles are locked in as the 3 seed. Their most likely opponent in the first round of the playoffs is the probably-soon-to-be 6 seed Green Bay Packers, who need only beat the (likely) Todd Collins led Chicago Bears. The Bears should be disinterested now that they've clinched a first round bye. Media criticism will be harsh over the next two weeks, and rightfully so, because the Eagles were downright putrid against the Joe Webb led Minnesota Vikings Tuesday night.
Obviously, the desired outcome was an Eagles win, keeping hope alive for a first round bye. Had the Eagles beaten the Vikings, they still would have had to have beaten the Cowboys next week, and had the Packers take care of business against the Bears. That's now out the window. Gone. Forget it. If you're the Eagles, there's no use dwelling on it - You move on and prepare for the first round of the playoffs. As fans, once you've talked yourself into accepting that this loss isn't the end of the world, allow me to point out some weird positive side effects this loss created:
1) The Eagles should now have 2 weeks to prepare for the Green Bay Packers. In a weird way, that's almost like a bye. In the Andy Reid era, the Eagles are 12-0 in regular season games after a bye week. If you count the 3 seasons the Eagles had first round byes in the playoffs, the Eagles are 15-0 after bye weeks. It's not a guarantee that the Eagles will face the Packers of course, which means they could be wasting their time preparing for them over the next 5 days, but the alternatives would be a team they already know extremely well (the Giants) or the longshot Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
2) The Eagles also know exactly who their 2nd round opponent will be should they advance past the first round. It would be the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. In the NFL, after the first round of the playoffs are complete, the highest seed plays the lowest seed still remaining. It's not like the NCAA basketball tourney, where you can often have the 1 seed playing the 8 seed in the 2nd round, while you have a couple Cindarella teams like a 12 seed and a 13 seed playing each other. Since the Eagles are locked in as the 3 seed, they would be the highest seed remaining if they were to advance to the 2nd round, and therefore would face the Bears, not the likely 1 seed Falcons. The Bears aren't necessarily the better matchup, but there is a bit of an advantage in knowing your exact playoff schedule a few weeks in advance.
3) The Eagles can get healthy. Michael Vick will assuredly sit next week. Ditto that for Asante Samuel, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Trent Cole, and so on. On a side note, the Eagles will also hope to have Stewart Bradley ready to go by the first week of the playoffs. Had the Eagles won tonight, and then again next week against Dallas with the starters going full bore, there's no guarantee the Bears wouldn't just clinch the 2 seed anyway, and the Eagles could have potentially been limping into the first week of the playoffs while playing 3 games in 12 days. A week off at this point in the season is huge, whether you get that via a first round bye, or via sitting all your starters in a meaningless game Week 17.
4) It's never a bad thing to get some of your reserves out on the field for the sake of evaluation and experience. The meaningless game next week will give the Eagles that opportunity, even if it's for an undesirable reason.
In the 5 stages of grief, I guess you could say I was in "denial" sometime around halftime, "anger" after the Adrian Peterson TD to put the Vikes up 10, and the above writeup places me squarely in the "bargaining" stage. "Depression" will set in when I read all week about how bad the Eagles are and how they'll be bounced in the first round of the playoffs, and eventually I'll finally land on "acceptance" sometime around kickoff next week.
But just know, this loss to the Vikings, although a complete disaster of a performance, really isn't the end of the world. Chin up - The Eagles are still the NFC East champs, they have the most explosive offense in the NFL, and can beat any team in the league. Vent however you vent, and know that there's still plenty of football upcoming for the Eagles.