It's been a long, lonely start to the fall, but business is about to pick up. Philadelphia Eagles fans have awoken from their Kevin Kolb-induced slumbers, ready and willing to watch their team run roughshod over the National Football League. The Michael Vick Experience is greased up and ready to roll.
When Vick got hurt in Week 4, the media had a field day.
"How will Kolb respond in his return to the starting role?"
"After relying on Vick so heavily this year, can the Eagles survive without him?"
"If Kolb plays well, will Vick even have a starting job to return to?"
But that's all out the window now. Kolb played well, but not well enough to win his job back. At 4-3, the Eagles have a very legitimate shot at the playoffs. And Vick and Kolb are apparently best friends forever.
All that's left now is to win games.
Vick returns at an interesting time in the season. Five NFC East games remain, including two each against the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys. The offensive line has congealed a bit and the run defense has been spectacular, but teams have been passing on the Eagles like there's no tomorrow. Sitting the injured Ellis Hobbs should help somewhat, but expect to see a shootout this Sunday when Peyton Manning and company come to town.
And that's why we should thank God for the return of Vick. As well as Kolb was playing, you can't expect him to out-duel Manning. But a healthy Vick made the Eagles offense as dynamic as its ever been, and the Colts defense is nothing to write home about. If Vick can open up the field with a few downfield throws (an additional "welcome back" to the should-be-dead DeSean Jackson), LeSean McCoy should have his first dominant game in a while.
It's almost funny how all the storylines from earlier in the year have boiled down into one. There's no question in anyone's mind that Vick is, and should be, the Eagles starting quarterback. I'm sure DeSean and Jeremy Maclin are salivating at all the deep balls that'll be coming their way, and Vick's legs should open up some extra lanes for Shady, too. He's the team's best, and maybe only, chance at a really deep playoff run. For better or worse, it's all about Michael Vick now.
But of course, you gotta make the playoffs in the first place, and that will require continued Herculean efforts from several non-Michael Vick players, guys like Antonio Dixon, King Dunlap and Owen Schmitt. Luckily, the NFC is wide open. It's the fucking Grand Canyon. The Eagles are a pretty big question mark right now, but I don't think you'd hear much argument if you ranked them as better than other "contenders" like the Redskins, Bears, Seahawks, Rams and Buccaneers. Tough schedule or not, five more wins should get them in. Redskins, Cowboys (twice), Giants, Bears, Texans, Vikings. That's seven should-wins, and that'll get you the division.
Of course, as my good friend (and Bucs fan) Ryan Caswell enjoys reminding me, the best team doesn't always win. The Eagles remain inconsistent, frustrating and (some would say) poorly coached. The return of the mack, of the most exciting quarterback in the NFL? He'll help, but as usual, it'll be up to the Eagles not to beat themselves.