By Dave Spadaro
Funny how quickly things change in the National Football League, which validates the moniker (N)ot (F)or (L)ong. One year ago, the Dallas Cowboys came strutting into Lincoln Financial Field a playoff team with legitimate Super Bowl dreams, America’s Team all over again.
Now they come into Lincoln Financial Field on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, a team with more questions than answers. Dallas had a chance to play for something real this week, but last Sunday, whole with star running back Ezekiel Elliott back in the fold after a six-game, league-imposed suspension served, stunk it up at home in a loss to Seattle.
Playoff hopes over.
It’s been a neat reversal of fortune in the NFC East once again, a division that has not had a repeat winner since the Eagles of 2003–2004. Each year, something goes upside down in this division, a lesson the Eagles must remember as they go into the offseason at some point (hopefully after winning the Super Bowl). A year ago, the Cowboys were on top and the Eagles were on the bottom. Now? It’s the Eagles boldly preparing for the NFC playoffs.
“Things change so fast in this league,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson says. “That’s what you learn in this league. It can all go away quickly, so you have to keep that mindset in a one-week-at-a-time mode.”
For Eagles fans, this weekend serves as a double celebration. One, the Eagles are heading to the playoffs with a game on Jan. 13 or 14 at Lincoln Financial Field waiting. That’s a great place to be a for a team that only a couple of calendar years ago had a murky future with no quarterback, no head coach, no real blueprint for success. But the hiring of Pederson and then the drafting of quarterback Carson Wentz and some very smart personnel moves have put the Eagles right back at the top of the NFC East for the first time since 2013.
Two, the Cowboys are down in the dumps. For a city that, in many circles anyway, believes the only two things that matter in an NFL weekend are the Eagles winning and the Cowboys losing, this is an especially joyous period of time. One year after winning 13 games and claiming the NFC East with the dynamic rookie duo of Elliott and quarterback Dak Prescott, Dallas is bickering internally. The Cowboys, like the entire NFC East outside of the Eagles, have taken significant steps back in 2017.
The Eagles, meanwhile, surge forward without Wentz, their superstar second-year quarterback. They’ve entrusted the playoff navigation to Nick Foles, a capable veteran who knows his way around the pressure of the playoffs. Pederson has made wonderful improvement in his second year on the job.
The focus is on the now for the Eagles, who are in the same position as Dallas a year ago, truly believing they can win the NFC and get to the Super Bowl and then, as we know, anything can happen.
How about the future? It certainly looks bright as the Eagles have compiled a solid, top-to-bottom roster. But who really knows? As we revel in the at-the-moment demise of the rival Dallas Cowboys, another lesson is learned: Don’t take a thing for granted in the NFL. It just doesn’t last long.