The Philadelphia Eagles weren't expected to make the playoffs this season. Even in midseason, the Eagles looked utterly lost at 3-5, with no set starting quarterback and a new head coach -- unlike Drew Brees, Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints. Yet on Jan. 4, Philadelphia is hosting New Orleans in the year's second wild card game, and would seem to have all the breaks in its favor.
If this game was in the Superdome, the Eagles would likely be double digit underdogs. Even in a neutral field, the Saints would be regarded as the better team. However, because the Eagles won the NFC East and the Saints coughed up the NFC South to the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans must visit Philadelphia despite being 3-5 on the road this season -- and being winless on the road in its postseason history.
The Eagles had horrible home field luck for a year-and-a-half, having lost 10 straight home games at one point, including the first four this season. But they are peaking in Philadelphia at the right time, having won four straight at Lincoln Financial Field during their 7-1 second half run. In fact, peaking at the right time has been a pre requisite for winning Super Bowls lately.
The 2007 and 2012 New York Giants, 2010 Green Bay Packers and 2013 Baltimore Ravens set the template as mediocre regular season teams who caught fire to win championships. The Eagles needed a near perfect second half just to reach 10 wins and take the second weakest division in the NFL, which doesn't make them look like real champions -- especially with an inexperienced coach and quarterback.
But in an age of Cinderella champions, and in a year where the Eagles already caught a break by hosting the Saints, they may be the ideal team to make a Super Bowl run. Of course, if Philadelphia gets by New Orleans, it will have to visit even hotter Carolina next -- and would likely visit the Seattle Seahawks in hostile CenturyLink Field for the NFC title game.
The odds are against the Eagles for doing any playoff damage, and still may be against them for even beating the Saints, despite their advantages. Yet if there was ever a time for a team like this to defy the odds -- even more than it already has -- this would seem to be it.