The Philadelphia Eagles clinched their first playoff berth of the century without Andy Reid on Dec. 29. Nine weeks ago, when the Eagles were 3-5 and Reid's Kansas City Chiefs were 9-0, it looked like Reid was having the last laugh on Philadelphia. As it turns out, both Reid and the Eagles will kick off the NFL playoffs together on Jan. 4, albeit on drastically different paths.
The limping Chiefs will play the first game of the postseason in Indianapolis, against a Colts team that had their way with them in Kansas City on Dec. 22. Reid and the Chiefs ended the year at 2-5, although the fifth loss came when they rested their starters against a San Diego Chargers team fighting for a playoff spot. Still, Kansas City's backups nearly won anyway, only falling after a last-second missed field goal and a debatable fake punt conversion by San Diego in overtime.
Instead of going into the postseason with momentum, the Chiefs will come in as underdogs to the Colts. It is the direct opposite of the hotter Eagles, who will play their first playoff game in over a decade without Reid, right after his first playoff game with the Chiefs. Yet while the Eagles are playing in Philadelphia as NFC East champions, they likely have a tougher route.
The New Orleans Saints finished one game better than the Eagles, but are visiting them as the No. 6 seed. If the Saints got to play at the Superdome, the Eagles would be massive underdogs, given the Saints' 8-0 record in New Orleans. Yet thanks to winning a less daunting division than the NFC South, the Eagles start the playoffs at home with better odds.
Reid's final playoff game in Philadelphia was against a tough sixth seed, as the Green Bay Packers knocked off the 2010 NFC East champion Eagles before charging to the Super Bowl. Few would be shocked if the Saints did the same thing, although it would require a rare three-game road winning streak.
This year has been a new beginning for Reid and the Eagles, and now the payoff will come in a playoff opening doubleheader. Will Reid take the first big step towards the Super Bowl he could never get in Philadelphia, or will the Eagles take that first step without him -- or will both have their customary January letdowns?