PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Michael Vick and the rest of the Falcons hope their season doesn’t end in Philadelphia once again. Only this time, a win won’t guarantee Atlanta another game.

While the playoff-bound Eagles (9-6) are playing for first place in the NFC East, the Falcons (7-8) will know before they take the field today whether they have any postseason chances.

Five 7-8 teams are fighting for the last wild-card spot in the NFC. If the New York Giants win at Washington on Saturday night, Atlanta would be eliminated. The Falcons get in if they beat the Eagles and the Giants, Carolina (at New Orleans) and Green Bay (at Chicago) each lose.

“The main thing is to go out and win this game this week,” Vick said. “If it’s going to happen for us, it’s going to happen. The only thing we can do is score more points than the Eagles this week.”

Atlanta hasn’t had much success in do-or-die games in Philly. The Eagles earned a 20-6 win at Veterans Stadium in the 2002 playoffs. Two years ago, the Eagles advanced to the Super Bowl by soundly beating the Falcons 27-10 in the conference championship game at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I just think they have outplayed us,” said Vick, who led Atlanta to a 14-10 win over the Eagles in the 2005 season opener at the Georgia Dome. “Regardless of the elements, the field conditions and the temperatures, it is still football. If you don’t do the things to outplay your opponents, then you’re not going to win. I think our execution was the biggest thing and we didn’t execute.”

One month ago, it was very unlikely the Eagles would be in better position than the Falcons going into this matchup. First, Donovan McNabb went down with a season-ending knee injury in a loss to Tennessee. A week later, the Eagles were dismantled in a 45-21 loss to the Colts that left them at 5-6.

But Jeff Garcia has filled in nicely for McNabb and led a remarkable turnaround that has Philadelphia on the verge of clinching its fifth division title in six years. The Eagles have won four straight games, including three in a row on the road against division opponents.

A convincing 23-7 win at Dallas on Christmas Day put the Eagles in the playoffs after a one-year absence.

and legitimized their status as contenders in a conference lacking a truly dominant team.

No one is satisfied with simply making the playoffs, though. The Eagles want to win the East, earn the No. 3 seed and be home for their first-round game. If Dallas somehow loses to lowly Detroit earlier in the day, the Eagles would clinch the division no matter how they fare against the Falcons.

“We are hitting a high point just at the right time, being able to finish off strong like we have over the past four weeks with wins, putting us in the position where we can compete for a division title,” Garcia said. “It’s just a great transformation by this team, great dedication by the team to overcome the obstacle that was presented in front of us. Now we are in the position where we can control anything and everything within ourselves. And it’s just important that we continue to maintain the focus throughout this week.”

Garcia’s stellar performances gets much of the attention, but the key to Philly’s recent success has been a rejuvenated defense that struggled mightily earlier this season. The Eagles were solid against the Giants in a 36-22 win two weeks ago, and shut down Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo, Terrell Owens and the rest of the Cowboys on Christmas Day.

After giving up more than 200 yards rushing four times in six games, the defense held the Giants and Cowboys under 100 yards in consecutive games.

“I think our tackling has really been good,” defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. “We haven’t missed a lot of tackles. For a while there, we had a lot of missed tackles, broken plays. Our tackling has been really good, especially the last two weeks.”

If the Falcons find a way to prolong their season, they’d be delaying the inevitable questions surrounding coach Jim Mora’s job security. Team Arthur Blank said last month a second straight 8-8 finish is unacceptable. Mora later angered Blank when he told a Seattle radio station he would pursue the University of Washington job, even if the Falcons were in the playoffs – and without the job being open.

Mora apologized for his comments, saying his intended sarcasm in the radio interview was not understood. But the damage may be irreparable unless the Falcons end up going deep in the playoffs.

“There is still an outside shot of doing something this year depending on what happens to everybody else,” Mora said. “Our focus is on just taking care of our business. We have to focus on taking care of our business and that is all we can control.”

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