The Philadelphia Eagles struggled against almost everyone last season. Yet Eagles fans like myself remember that NFC East teams, of all opponents, were the rare exception. Although Philadelphia finished 8-8 in 2011 and finished a game behind the division champion New York Giants, it was 5-1 against the entire NFC East anyway.
Of course, that one defeat came to the Giants in the Birds' first NFC East game of the year. Unfortunately, it made the difference between the Eagles losing the division and the Giants winning it and the Super Bowl. Now on Sept. 30, Philadelphia is again hosting New York in the first divisional game of the season - and hopes that only some history repeats itself.
The Eagles don't want to repeat the history where the Giants beat them in Philadelphia, then went on to win it all. But they would like to repeat their other history against NFC East rivals last season, where they won five straight divisional games after that loss to the Giants in Sept. 2011.
A lot of things didn't make sense about last season - and that 5-1 record in NFC East play was one of them. Divisional play is supposed to be the hardest part of an NFL schedule, yet it was the easiest part of it for the 2011 Eagles. If they only had that kind of success with opponents other than the Giants, Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, things might have ended a lot differently.
Then again, two of those five wins came during that four-game December winning streak that meant nothing, while earlier wins over the Cowboys, Redskins and Giants were mirages. The Eagles didn't build on the momentum from beating their arch-rivals, and were quite simply incapable of doing so. Maybe if they hadn't suffered that one defeat to the Giants last September, it might have been a different story.
But 12 months later, the Eagles have a chance to get revenge and a very crucial early advantage over the Giants. However, even if Philadelphia reverses last year's loss to New York, it won't matter if last year's five wins over the NFC East are reversed as well.
There was no one more dominant in NFC East play last season than the Eagles - not even the eventual Super Bowl champions. If that trend repeats itself this year, perhaps Philadelphia can reap the benefits this time. Yet the Giants created one glaring exception to the Eagles' NFC East dominance in 2011 - and that trend cannot be repeated as well.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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