Andy Reid might be saving his job and Romeo Crennel may be about to lose his.
As bad as Reid’s team was the last time it faced a woeful opponent from Ohio, Crennel’s crumbling Cleveland Browns are not expected to get in the way of the Philadelphia Eagles’ sudden playoff push Monday night.
This game matches two of the three teams to beat the defending Super Bowl champions this year, but while it appears that was just an aberration for the Browns (4-9), the Eagles (7-5-1) gave notice they’re still contenders in the NFC with a 20-14 road win over the New York Giants last Sunday.
Many fans had written off Philadelphia’s postseason hopes in mid-November after a 13-all tie at Cincinnati - the Bengals have won one game this season - and the following week’s 36-7 loss to Baltimore.
Much of the scrutiny fell on Donovan McNabb, criticized for admitting he didn’t know games could end in ties and benched for the second half of the Ravens loss, but Reid also deserved plenty of blame and it appeared his job was in jeopardy. However, the Eagles have bounced back to the last two weeks to beat the only NFC teams that have clinched playoff spots.
“Anything can happen in the NFL, so you just have to make sure that you take care of your business and you can’t worry about really anything else,” Reid said.
The Eagles trail Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Dallas - all currently 9-5 - for the NFC’s two wild-card spots, and can move within one-half game of them with a victory.
Cleveland is already out of the playoff picture and it appears Crennel might be out of the Browns’ future plans. Rumors have run rampant that the team will not bring him back next year, with Cleveland already having clinched its third losing record in Crennel’s four seasons.
“I can’t be worried about that,” he said. “Rumors and stories, they’re going to be out there. When you lose, that’s what happens. Not only for me but for other people in the league.”
The Browns offense has averaged 7.0 points and 203.7 yards during its current three-game losing streak, failing to score a touchdown in those games. The Browns have never gone four consecutive games without getting into the end zone and no team has done it since 2000, when Baltimore went five straight without a TD but won the Super Bowl.
It might be hard to blame Crennel for the passing game accounting for just 380 yards during that span because he’s had to start a different quarterback each week.
After losing Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson to season-ending injuries, Cleveland will give Ken Dorsey his second straight start Monday after he posted a dismal 49.6 quarterback rating last Sunday in a 28-9 loss at Tennessee. Dorsey was 22-of-43 for 150 yards with an interception, and the ground game provided no help with a season-low 35 yards on 19 carries.
The Eagles running game is in much better shape behind Brian Westbrook, and Reid might continue relying on it more despite usually employing a pass-heavy approach. Apparently back at full strength after missing time with ankle and rib injuries, Westbrook tied a season high with 22 carries for 110 yards in a 48-20 Thanksgiving win over Arizona before rushing a career-high 33 times for 131 yards against the Giants.
Westbrook has totaled six touchdowns over the past two weeks while Philadelphia has run for 329 yards on 81 attempts - two fewer passes than McNabb has in the same span.
“We’re in a position now where we have to win them all,” Westbrook said. “We’re going to take them one week at a time but we have to win them all to get into the playoffs.”
Westbrook will face a Cleveland run defense which ranks 28th in the NFL, allowing 148.5 yards per game. The Browns gave up a season-worst 235 rushing yards last week versus Tennessee.
Half of Cleveland’s wins this season have been on Monday night - 29-27 at Buffalo on Nov. 17 in its most recent victory and 35-14 over the Giants in Week 6.
However, the Browns have lost five of six.
“What we’re doing is not enough,” Cleveland linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said. “Guys have to do a little extra. I wish I had a magic wand to wave and fix all of the problems, but I don’t. That’s the life for us this year.”
McNabb has thrown for at least 375 yards and four touchdowns in each of the Eagles’ two wins over Cleveland this decade. The Browns have not visited Philadelphia since a 26-7 win in 1994, and haven’t lost in four games there since 1967.
Safety Brian Dawkins will play in his 181st game with the Eagles, breaking a tie with Harold Carmichael for the franchise record.
Dawkins goes further back with Philadelphia than even Reid, who has one of the NFL’s best December records of the past 10 years at 29-17 - 9-2 the past three seasons.
“Anything can happen. We’ve got three more games that we have to take care of business with,” Reid said. “It’s not a time to sit back and relax.”