A year or two ago, this matchup might have been taken lightly. But Sunday's road contest against the 2-0 Detroit Lions is a formidable challenge for the undefeated Eagles and head coach Andy Reid.
And while no one in Philadelphia is taking Detroit lightly, it is the upstart Lions that view the Eagles as their measuring stick.
"Chicago and (Houston) are good teams -- every team in the NFL is a good team -- they're more on our level as far as being younger teams trying to build their programs," said Lions' quarterback Joey Harrington, referring to the two teams Detroit has defeated thus far. "Philadelphia is the established one, the Goliath, the team that's been there for three years in a row. Who better to measure your status against than a team like that?"
Three consecutive appearances in the NFC Championship game is now an afterthought for the Eagles, whose target is clearly the Super Bowl. But for an organization such as Detroit, which hasn't made an NFC Championship apperance since 1991, the ability to challenge a "goliath" allows the team to grasp exactly where it's at on the totem pole. A pole the Lions are quickly climbing.
"The Lions are going to be a very good football team," said head coach Andy Reid on Wednesday. "They're a real football team in all areas. You take their defensive line. Those guys are playing out of their minds. Their offense has clicked. Their special teams are scoring touchdowns. That's a good football team.
"For them to use us as a measuring stick, we understand that. We're very honored that people think that way."
Quarterback Donovan McNabb concurred.
"Everyone kind of uses us as their red letter game," said McNabb. "We definitely appreciate that and there is a reason why they do that... Everyone talks about this young Detroit team. It may not be their time, but they feel like it is their time now. We definitely feel that it is our time as well."
Brimming with confidence after a 2-0 start, a young quarterback that is grasping the West Coast offense, and clever head coach Steve Mariucci, who was formed in the same mold that created Andy Reid's coaching philosophy, the Lions certainly share some eerie similarities to the Eagles of a few years ago.
The Eagles just hope the Lions don't plan on playing the role of David on Sunday.
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