PHILADELPHIA (AP) — By the time the Philadelphia Eagles line up to play the Minnesota Vikings, they may already have clinched the NFC East title.
Doesn’t mean they won’t have anything to play for.
The Eagles (10-4) have their sights set on a first-round playoff bye, so they’ll have to win their last two games and hope Chicago (10-4) loses one of its final two.
“To have a lot at stake and to work as hard as we’ve worked throughout this season and to accomplish so much, it will definitely put a stamp on this season,” quarterback Michael Vick said of the chance at winning the division. “We just have to continue to move forward. It’s just one stepping stone and plenty more hurdles to cross.”
The Eagles would wrap up their first division championship since 2006 before their prime-time kickoff Sunday night if the New York Giants (9-5) lose at Green Bay earlier in the day.
Coming off an incredible 38-31 comeback win over the Giants, the Eagles are in position for a classic letdown. They overcame a 21-point deficit with 7:18 left against New York and won the game on DeSean Jackson’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown on the final play.
Now they have to find a way to focus on a struggling team that may not have quarterback Brett Favre, who was knocked out of Monday night’s 40-14 loss to the Bears with a concussion. Instead, it could be a rookie named Joe Webb taking the snaps for the Vikings (5-9). The Eagles are favored by two touchdowns, and already are 5-0 in night games this season.
Coach Andy Reid, who played a role in developing Favre when he was an assistant at Green Bay, is preparing his team for either quarterback. He even had an eye on Webb before former Minnesota coach Brad Childress selected him in the sixth round of the NFL draft last April.
“We did look at Joe, and he’s a phenomenal talent,” Reid said. “He’s a good kid. He did very well. I was glad that Brad left him at the quarterback position. They were contemplating moving him to wide receiver and those types of things. I think he has a lot of talent and want-to to be a good football player at this level. Like any young quarterback, they develop and it takes time, so that’s what Brad did with him for this year. And now, it’s paid off. He had some great drives the other night, and you saw his ability to run, do the play-pass, the naked stuff, and he’s got an absolute gun of an arm.”
The Vikings, who nearly reached the Super Bowl last year, are reduced to playing spoiler. Their season fell apart a long time ago.
It was supposed to be the other way around when the schedule came out. The Eagles were entering a rebuilding year while Minnesota was considered a strong contender to win the NFC championship.
But Vick changed everything for Philadelphia. He’s having an MVP-type season after beginning the year as the backup to Kevin Kolb.
“Well, it is a great story,” Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier said. “For a guy to go through what he went through in the past and to rebound and really rehabilitate his life, his image, just a great story and really happy for he and his family.”
Players on Minnesota’s defense are quite aware of the problems Vick presents. The Giants contained him for 3 1/2 quarters, took away his deep passes, eliminated his running lanes and battered him.
Then Vick broke free. He had runs of 35, 33 and 22 yards in the fourth quarter and threw a pair of TDs, including a 65-yard strike to Brent Celek that started the rally.
“He is just a dynamic player,” Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said. “Everybody talks about him being up for MVP awards and what not. Special player. Tough guy to bring down. Tough guy to corral. I think the biggest thing we have to do is gang tackle. We are always known for our defense, and we are going to need it this weekend because he will always usually make the first guy miss. We need a second, third, fourth, fifth guy to get there and tackle him down.”
For Frazier, this will be a return to the city where he began his pro coaching career. Reid hired Frazier in 1999 to be the defensive backs coach. He spent four seasons in that role in Philadelphia before moving on to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and then Minnesota.
“Special in the fact that we get a chance to go back and see some old friends,” Frazier said. “We just need a win so bad. That’s what is on my mind more than anything. What can we do to figure out a way to get a win on a good team on the road? That’s where my energy and focus is.”
Reid gave Frazier a strong endorsement to have the interim tag removed and remain coach in Minnesota.
“If I was an owner, and I’m not, I would hire Leslie Frazier,” Reid said. “I think he’s a phenomenal person. You never have to worry about him as a person, the players respect him and he’s a heck of a football coach.”
(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)