While this time last week felt more like a funeral for the Eagles than a celebration of the team’s first division title since 2013, yesterday’s ugly win over the Giants has Philly in position to still earn home field advantage in the NFC playoffs. And if a trip to the Super Bowl has to go through Philly, anything can happen, even with Carson Wentz holding a clipboard.
That said, with the way the defense played Sunday against the hapless Giants — giving up 29 points to the 31st-ranked offense in football — chances are whichever team comes into the Linc for the Divisional playoff round is going to run all over this team.
The good news for the Eagles: In the first game without Wentz, the offense put up more than 30 points, again, and Nick Foles threw for four touchdowns despite showing clear signs of rust. Things can only get better as Foles has more time to gel with the rest of the offense.
The bad news: The defense Sunday looked more like it was on a bye than fighting for one. And while Foles and the offense played well, they lit up the 28th-ranked defense in the league. Things will be more difficult for him the next two weeks, and even tougher in the playoffs.
That said, Oakland lost to Dallas late Sunday night, on that stupid fumble into the end zone rule, to fall out of the AFC playoff race. So a Christmas hangover is sure to come, giving the Eagles an inside track at a win and the No. 1 overall seed.
Here’s an updated look at the possible seeding, and who the Eagles could face in the playoffs. Note: They do NOT want another shot at the Rams.
Eagles need 1 for No. 1
Minnesota’s loss to Carolina in Week 14 was huge for two reasons: First, it gave the Eagles a one-game buffer for the top seed in the NFC. Second, because the loss came to Carolina, the Eagles jumped over the Vikings in NFC tiebreakers.
If the Eagles win out, they’re the top seed.
If they lose to Oakland but beat Dallas, they’ll have a better conference record than the Vikings and get the top seed.
If they beat Oakland but lose to Dallas, and Minnesota beats the Packers and Bears, the two teams will be tied with identical conference records.
Since they did not play head-to-head this year, the next tiebreaker after conference record is common opponents. Both teams played Chicago, Washington, Carolina and the Rams. The Eagles are 5-0 against those teams, but the Vikings have one loss already, against Carolina. And so, the Eagles have a tie-breaking advantage either way. Which means one more win gives the Birds home field and the No. 1 seed.
The fight for No. 2
The Vikings haven’t clinched a bye yet, but one win should do it, as they have wins over the Rams and Saints, who at 10-4 are both currently atop their respective divisions, with one more loss than the 11-3 Vikings. Carolina is also 10-4 and still has a shot at the No. 2 seed, but only if the Panthers win out and Minnesota loses once.
The fight for No. 3 and No. 4
The Falcons play in Tampa tonight, and assuming that’s a win, (Update: they did) they’ll be 9-5 with games left against the Saints and the Panthers, traveling to New Orleans before finishing the season at home against Carolina. The Saints end the year at home against the Falcons then at Tampa. Carolina plays Tampa next week at home then heads to Atlanta for the season finale.
One of those teams will possibly be the No. 4 seed, and will be set up to face the Eagles in the second round.
That said, if the Falcons win out, they’ll be 11-5 and win the NFC South with a conference record of 10-2. The best the Rams can finish in the NFC is 8-4, so the Falcons could go from No. 6 seed to the No. 3 seed by winning all their games, if the Rams lose one.
The Rams finish the season at Tennessee then home against the 49ers. The Titans have fallen apart, but the 49ers are better, though probably not good enough yet to hang with the Rams. It stands to reason the 42-7 blowout win at Seattle was the Rams’ biggest test.
If the Saints win out, they’ll be 12-4 with a 9-3 record in conference, besting the Rams’ conference record, pushing New Orleans to the No. 3 spot and the Rams to No. 4. The Saints beat Carolina twice, so even if the Panthers also finish at 12-4, the Saints will win the division.
If Carolina wins out and the Saints don’t, the Panthers will win the NFC South and finish with the same conference record as the Rams. The tiebreakers are a bit confusing, worded as “best won-loss-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four,” so it’s unclear if that means four different opponents, or just four games against common opponents.
Carolina will have played San Francisco, Minnesota and New Orleans twice, with a 2-2 record, while the Rams played New Orleans, Minnesota and San Francisco twice, with the chance to finish those games 3-1.
Should it get to this, the next tiebreaker is strength of victory, and there’s no use in even trying to figure that out at this point.
But for the Eagles, let’s put it this way. The best-case scenario is they face the Saints in the freezing cold. Yes, facing the team with one of the best rushing attacks and an awesome defense and Drew freaking Brees may be the best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario, the Rams fall to No. 4 or the Panthers win their division and the Eagles have to beat on of those teams twice in the same season.
Come to think of it, there’s really no good option in the NFC playoffs. Unless…
Wild Wild Cards
While all three of the NFC South teams are currently occupying playoff spots, there are four other teams still in the mix for the Wild Card. None of them can win their respective divisions other than Seattle, should the Rams totally fall apart. But chances are that won’t happen.
The Lions, Seahawks and Cowboys are all 8-6. The Packers are 7-7 and somehow still alive for the No. 6 spot. (Update: with the Falcons’ win Monday, the Packers are out.)
Seattle and Dallas play next week, so one of those teams is about to get eliminated, and the Lions play the Packers, so that game will determine if they are still alive. Ultimately their collective playoff hopes come down to how the Falcons fare, as 10-6 may not be good enough to even make the playoffs in the stacked NFC this season.
Right now, of the teams not in the playoffs the Lions have the best shot, though they lost earlier in the year to Atlanta, so the Falcons own the tiebreaker over the Detroit should they both finish with the same record.
But that’s not the Eagles’ biggest concern when looking at potential Wild Card upsets. That would be Dallas.
The Dallas finale could be a playoff game
Dallas also lost to the Falcons, so by the season finale this could be moot, but if the Cowboys beat Seattle at home they could go into the New Year’s Eve game in Philly needing a win to make the playoffs.
Again, a lot would have to go right for the Cowboys to even have a chance at the playoffs by that point, but imagine if they sneak into the postseason because the Eagles rest their starters in Week 17 — like Dallas rested theirs in Week 17 last season against the Birds — and go on to win the Wild Card round at the Rams, Saints or Panthers.
Guess who the Eagles would be hosting in the Divisional playoff round? How ‘bout them Cowboys.
And so right now the Eagles are 12-2 and one win away from locking up the top seed in the playoffs, but they face the potential second-round matchup against:
- 12-win Los Angeles Rams
- 11 or 12-win New Orleans Saints
- 11 or 12-win Carolina Panthers
- 10 or 11-win defending NFC champs Atlanta Falcons
- 10-win Dallas Cowboys with a fresh Ezekiel Elliott
And then if they win against that opponent, the Eagles would get the Vikings, or whichever team is good enough to go into Minnesota in January and beat the Vikings. This is fine. This is all fine.