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Eagles' playoff hopes have improved vastly

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PHILADELPHIA (AP)

Andy Reid and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles are hoping the team they just whipped helps them out in a big way.

The Eagles (6-8) are still in the playoff hunt in a mediocre NFC East following a 45-19 rout over the New York Jets on Sunday. Now they'll need those same Jets (8-6) to beat the New York Giants (7-7) on Saturday to keep them in contention.

''I'm a big Jets fan this week,'' Reid said Monday.

So is everyone else in Philly.

The Jets-Giants game should be over before the Eagles kick off against division-leading Dallas (8-6) on Christmas Eve. So, there will be plenty of scoreboard watching during pregame warmups.

''You control what you control,'' Reid said. ''You have to play the game whether that team wins or loses.''

For the Eagles to repeat as NFC East champions, they must beat the Cowboys on the road and defeat Washington at home on Jan. 1. They need the Giants to lose to the Jets and then beat Dallas in their last game.

If all four scenarios work out Philadelphia's way, the Eagles would win the division in a three-way tie at 8-8 because they would have the best record in the East at 5-1.

''It feels good that we are still alive,'' tight end Brent Celek said. ''That is all you can ask for at this point. We are not where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season, but we are doing all we can do with what we have. We just have to play together as a team and go up there, fight and beat Dallas.''

The Eagles weren't supposed to be in a position where they had to scratch and claw and hope to make the playoffs. Many experts picked them to contend for the Super Bowl this season after an offseason spending spree brought several star players to Philadelphia, joining an already strong core that included Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Even management declared this an all-or-nothing year.

But a 1-4 start doomed the Eagles and they've failed miserably to live up to those enormous expectations. Consecutive lopsided losses to New England and Seattle dropped the Eagles to 4-8 and seemingly ended their playoff chances. Fans were calling for Reid to be fired, and for offensive line coach-turned-defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to go with him.

Now it appears both Reid and Castillo have secured themselves another season. Players have rallied around Castillo, saying they have more confidence in his schemes and calls. The results support that. The defense has shown vast improvement recently, holding both Miami and the Jets to under 250 total yards and getting 13 sacks.

''You have to understand that we really didn't have training camp,'' Castillo said. ''And I think initially I started too fast and what I found out is I had to go backwards with some of those guys because they had missed some of that and we were making some mistakes just on fundamental stuff. You know, now as we understand all of our packages, we're able to add as we keep going. And there is still a lot to add, but the first thing we have to understand is how to handle our fundamental packages.''

Tagged: Jets, Eagles, Giants

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