The breakdown of the so-called "Dream Team" in Philadelphia has been played out similarly to one of the scarce hits by C+C Music Factory.
The Eagles were supposed to make other teams sweat with their summer overhaul of free agents, but they've been delegated to outsiders looking in during this 2011 campaign. But with two games remaining in a rather disenchanting season, the Eagles are still alive and well in a wild series of scenarios "that make you go hmmm."
It's quite difficult to imagine the Eagles are still mathematically involved in the postseason race even though they maintain a pedestrian 6-8 record that very few could have guessed it would be after 14 games. They only have themselves to blame for getting into this mess, with blown leads in the fourth quarter, a spotty defense most of the time even though it has been augmented in recent weeks and questionable play-calling all contributing to that current mark.
With wins in three of the past five weeks, Philadelphia is not about to give up now, however. Pro Bowl-bound running back LeSean McCoy cemented that notion this week.
"We're still alive," said McCoy, who already set the franchise record for total touchdowns and rushing scores in a season. "It shows the type of fight this team has. We're fighting to get in. We have to win these last two games to even have a shot."
McCoy forgot to mention that the Eagles need some help to make it to the postseason for a fourth straight year and 10th time under head coach Andy Reid. It's not a complicated rundown on how the Eagles can make it to the playoffs, either. Philadelphia must beat Dallas on the road this Saturday and defeat Washington at home on Jan. 1. It will also need the New York Giants to lose to the Jets this weekend, then beat Dallas at MetLife Stadium in their last game.
The tricky part to the equation is the Jets/Giants game is slated for 1 p.m. (et) on Christmas Eve. If New York's AFC team does the Eagles a favor, expect Philadelphia to come out like wild banshees in Big D.
A Giants victory, however, will leave the late-blooming Eagles with only pride and possibly the employment status of their head coach to play for.
The subject of criticism throughout the season, Reid does know how to get his players ready for a major challenge, and his players have become fiercely loyal to the longest tenured coach in the NFL. The Eagles, who hold the tiebreaker if all three teams in contention for the NFC East lead finish 8-8, said he will be a fan of the Jets this week and added that his team will be ready to play regardless of the outcome of the New York showdown.
Reid absorbed a few bullets for naming former offensive line coach Juan Castillo the team's defensive coordinator in the offseason. The firing squad then came out in full force when the Eagles' defense struggled from Sept. 18- Nov. 13, when the team dropped six of eight games and were a laughing stock in the league. That doesn't seem to be the case now, since the free-wheeling Eagles have recaptured the attention of the NFL and have recently shown to be dangerous on both sides of the ball.
Rookie linebacker Brian Rolle is positive Castillo will have his unit in the right position to make plays.
"Juan will have a great defensive scheme this week," Rolle said. "They [the Cowboys] do have a bunch of talent that, if you get the wrong matchup on one play, it could be a touchdown. This week, we're going to work hard at whatever scheme Juan sees fit and we're going to execute well."
Castillo could have his hands tied in the defensive backfield with cornerback Asante Samuel hampered by a hamstring strain, however. The Eagles better find a solution to that problem with extra athletic tape or a cortisone shot, because they'll need Samuel on Saturday and for the last game of the year if it means anything. Though not too keen on making contact, Samuel can still read quarterbacks with the best of them and step in front of passes to make plays.
"He jogged a little bit and got sore, that's where it was on Tuesday," Reid said of Samuel. "So we just backed off him and are trying to rehab it, see how it goes from there."
Joselio Hanson and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are other options at left cornerback if Samuel is still hobbled. Rodgers-Cromartie is probably the best choice in that scenario since that's his normal position instead of the slot.
Philadelphia's defense could lose some pounds running around Cowboys Stadium this weekend, but is hoping it can make some stops and also get a few around the league to stay alive in the postseason hunt.
O ROMEO, ROMEO, WHEREFORE ART THOU ROMEO?
He wants it. The players want it, too. But will the Kansas City Chiefs remove the interim tag from head coach Romeo Crennel in the near future?
Crennel was asked if he wanted to be the permanent head coach and he modestly sidestepped the issue, referencing how there are two games left on the schedule and the chips will fall then. Crennel, who took over for the fired Todd Haley last week, got his foot in the door after the Chiefs unseated the previously-unbeaten Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium this past Sunday.
If the Chiefs' front office needed any proof that Crennel was a worthy candidate for the position, or if the players would respond to new leadership, it can look at the film of the 19-14 victory over Green Bay. Crennel said that everyone marked it off as a win for the Packers before the game was even held and credited his players for going out and playing hard.
"When a team wins, everyone wins," said Crennel. "Wins are always good no matter how you get them."
He also injected how he doesn't like to get beat. Crennel has been on the losing end of a number of games in his long coaching career, but also has had the luxury of being on a few Super Bowl-winning organizations. Though the Chiefs are miles away from being a championship-caliber franchise right now, all it takes is some good coaching and players who want to win.
Crennel also noted that having excellent assistants is conducive to success and gave credit to offensive coordinator Bill Muir and defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas for making his transition to head coach an easy one.
Energy and effort from the players is something that can't be coached or picked up in playbooks or game plans. It takes the right kind of coach to generate positive player response, and it appears the roster is on board with Crennel for the long haul. Star outside linebacker Tamba Hali could be a spokesperson for the Crennel campaign after he expressed his feelings towards the possibility of having him run the show.
"Yeah, I think anybody on this team will agree with me [that] if we can keep Romeo as our head coach here it would be great," said Hali. "We love what he does and his game plan."
Hali also mentioned it would be nice to have someone with Crennel's resume to learn from. The powerful pass rusher said Crennel treats his players like men and expects a lot out of them, but also understands how the business works and how the body goes through the rigorous process that is the NFL.
Hali helped Crennel earn his first win with three sacks against the Packers and leads the team with 12 this season.
The Chiefs have the Oakland Raiders on the docket this Saturday, and Hali believes the team will be facing a different Carson Palmer from before. Kansas City smoked the Silver and Black in a 28-0 victory back on Oct. 23 at the Coliseum, where Palmer and fellow quarterback Kyle Boller both threw three interceptions. Kendrick Lewis and Brandon Flowers both returned an interception for a score that day to spoil Palmer's Oakland debut.
Hali also chimed in on Palmer, saying how the signal-caller is more acquainted with the receivers now and that the offense's timing should be better.
Kansas City still has a pulse in the AFC playoff picture, but will need to win out and get some help in order to punch a ticket to the postseason. And Crennel's chances of becoming the Chiefs' next head coach on a full-time basis would increase two-fold if he can make that happen in such a short amount of time.