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An Eagles playoff berth is as much about the 2019 season as this year

Going to the postseason this year would be great, but the effect on 2019 could be even bigger.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was just moments after the Philadelphia Eagles had completed their slow trek down Broad Street on a brisk, sunny, early February day earlier this year, the end a Super Bowl-celebrating parade replete with beads, confetti and crazy center dressed as a Mummer, when Doug Pederson stood at a podium on the Art Museum steps and uttered the phrase to gathered horde, “Get used to this, this is the new normal.”

Pederson was, of course, talking about Super Bowl parades. You see, the Eagles had never had one of them before, and it was kinda cool. Never before had the Philadelphia football team won a Super Bowl, not in 51 previous attempts, and now, this man who had called “The Philly Special” and made ballsy calls all season long was telling fans they were about to witness a dynasty.

That sounded pretty fun and we were up for it. But it’s clear the 2018 season hasn’t been the start to that dynasty that Pederson or the fans were hoping for.

Yes, the Eagles’ 28-13 win over the depleted Washington football team on Monday night was a must-win game that the Birds managed to win. The offense moved the ball at will, but it was only the second time this year they scored at least 26 points. The defensive secondary is still a MASH unit, and the play of the defensive line and linebackers has been uneven. The defense hasn’t forced turnovers and the big plays haven’t been there on offense.

It took until Week 13 for the Eagles to win two consecutive games. This entire season has been a struggle, and it’s not what we were expecting.

And yet, with four weeks left in the season, the playoffs are still a possibility.

If the season were to end right now, the Eagles would be on the outside looking in. They trail the 7-5 Cowboys in the NFC East and are currently behind the Seahawks (7-5) and Vikings (6-5-1) for the two wild card spots. In fact, the Panthers (6-6) are ahead of the Eagles too, based on the head-to-head match-up the Eagles choked away last month.

And yet, if the Eagles beat the Cowboys on Sunday, they control their own destiny to win the division title.

No NFC East team has won back-to-back titles since the Eagles did it in 2003-04. If the Eagles are to pull off that feat, they’re going to have to go 3-1 in their last four games, and they’re going to have to beat some good teams to do it. They have to go into Dallas and win, then win two games against either the Rams in Los Angeles (highly doubtful), the Texans at home (Houston has won nine straight) or the Redskins in Washington (easy).

That’s a tall ask. But if the Eagles can do it and somehow finish 10-6 or 9-7, they would end the season on a 5-1 run, a major accomplishment given how the season began.

It’s clear this Eagles team isn’t as good as the Rams or Saints, and they’re probably not as good as the Bears or Seahawks right now either. On home turf, games against the Cowboys and Vikings would be a toss-up if they were played right now.

This is not a Super Bowl team. We can all see that. Even if they make the playoffs, they aren’t winning the whole thing, but that’s OK. It was unreasonable to expect this team to easily repeat, and sometimes a step back is needed before another step forward can be taken.

A postseason berth this year, either by wild card or division title, would not only put a nice coda on what seemed to be a lost 2018 season, but would springboard the team into 2019 as well.

Imagine the Eagles come off a late-season rally and then have an entire off-season to get healthy and a full draft in which to gain some depth. They also make some key free agent acquisitions and trades, and start training camp next year knowing that, even though they struggled to play well with a target on their backs this year, they are stronger and ready to make another run at the Lombardi Trophy in 2019.

This mindset is certainly helped by the fact the Eagles have already won that long sought-after Super Bowl title. Waiting another year for a real crack at it again isn’t so painful.

But that’s the beauty of these last four weeks. If they make the postseason, they can springboard themselves into the off-season feeling good about their finish and their ability to get back to the top of the NFC once again next year.

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