By Jim Thomas
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/17/2005
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It's the third weekend of December, with playoff races heating up all over the NFL, and here the Rams sit with the same record as Philadelphia. Most Rams fans - even most Rams players - gladly would have taken that position if offered back in August or September.

"Right, right, right," linebacker Trev Faulk said. "It definitely would've sounded good."

The Eagles, after all, have been the gold standard of the NFC in recent years, with four straight appearances in the conference title game, plus a trip to the Super Bowl in February.

Unfortunately, equal footing with the Eagles doesn't count for much these days. Like the once-proud Eagles, the once-proud Rams are saddled with a 5-8 record. In five of the past six seasons, either the Eagles and/or the Rams have played in the NFC title game.

That won't be the case this season; both teams were eliminated from playoff contention with losses last week.

"Anything can happen in this league," wide receiver Torry Holt said. "I would've thought the Eagles' record would've been a lot better than it is, with everything that they had coming back. But in the National Football League, nothing is guaranteed."

The same could be said for the Rams. Defensive end Leonard Little thought this was the most talented Rams team he has been part of in a while. But like the Eagles, the Rams were hampered by injuries and controversy.

Philadelphia has 12 players on injured reserve; the Rams have seven. The Eagles are down to their No. 2 quarterback; the Rams are working with No. 3. In terms of controversy, Philadelphia had Terrell Owens; the Rams had Mike Martz's illness and a season full of palace intrigue and front-office feuding.

"There's a lot of similarities," Holt said.

"I think it's been a crazy season for both sides," safety Mike Furrey said. "They've got one guy (Owens) doing stuff. We've got a bunch of stuff going on here. But it's one of those things where every week, you've got to put it behind you, and go out and do your thing. ... And just keep plugging."

What else can they do? Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams and Eagles meet for the fifth time in five seasons. There's nothing at stake this time but pride.

"Yeah, it's a little different feel," center Andy McCollum said. "Because normally, we're fighting with them for a playoff spot and maybe home-field advantage, or something like that. Or we meet 'em in the playoffs. But we've both been struggling this year - both teams."

If the Eagles lose Sunday, they will be assured of their first losing season since 1999, Andy Reid's first year as Philadelphia head coach. After a 4-2 start, they have dropped six of their past seven contests.

A Rams defeat would make this only the second losing season in St. Louis since 1998. The Rams, once 4-4, have lost four of five since their bye week at the start of November. And it took a miracle comeback in Houston to avoid 0 for 5 since Halloween.

"It's not where we want to be," McCollum said. "But you've got to be able to make the best of it. Keep trying to get better. Keep trying to win. Our goal is to finish up 8-8, because that's the highest we can do right now."