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December 03, 2018

Eagles playoff scenarios: How can they win the NFC East? Earn Wild Card berth?

It's been a rollercoaster of a week for the millions of people hoping the Eagles' season doesn't end, you know, before January.

After witnessing the Cowboys emerge as an actual contender in the NFC with a breakout, upset victory over the Saints Thursday, the Birds got a ton of help in Week 13 as the Vikings, Panthers, Falcons, Lions and Redskins — thanks to Philly's 28-13 victory at home on Monday Night — all lost, clearing the field a little bit for the second Wild Card spot.

Essentially, there are seven teams vying for four spots — the two Wild Cards and the NFC East, and NFC South crowns (the Saints and Rams have all but clinched the other two divisions). Here's how those seven teams will be spending their time over the next four weeks: 

  Week 14Week 15 Week 16 Week 17 
 Eagles (6-6)at Cowboys at Rams vs. Texans at Redskins
 Cowboys (7-5) vs. Eaglesat Colts vs. Buccaneersat Giants 
 Redskins (6-6)vs. Giants at Jaguars at Titans vs. Eagles 
 Seahawks (7-5)vs. Vikings  at 49ers vs. Chiefs vs. Cardinals
 Bears (8-4)vs. Rams vs. Packers at 49ersat Vikings 
 Vikings (6-5-1)at Seahawks  vs. Dolphinsat Lions vs. Bears 
 Panthers (6-6)at Browns vs. Saints vs. Falcons at Saints 

The Eagles can, of course, win out, go 10-6, and win the NFC East. Thanks to the scheduling gods, the Eagles play the appropriate teams to control their own destiny. But with a schedule that includes three division leaders in four weeks, with three games on the road, winning out is a tall order.

So here is a comprehensive look at what needs to happen for the Eagles to go 9-7 and make the postseason:

Week 14

In their control: Quite simply, the Eagles need to beat the Cowboys next week. It keeps them in the mix in the NFC East — a loss would all but end that pursuit. It also allows them to have their seventh loss elsewhere as they try to get to 9-7, likely the magic number for the NFC's final playoff spot. This win is much easier said than actualized, as Dallas will be home and fresh off its most impressive win in years against the Saints last Thursday.

Redskins: Washington plays the Giants next week, a game that honestly could go either way. A New York win definitely helps things for the Eagles, but with a "W" on Monday and a second game coming in Washington in Week 17, the Eagles could rectify things if the Giants falter, so this game isn't do or die for Philly' chances by any means.

Vikings: Minnesota will be a thorn in the Eagles' side for the rest of the season, as the tie they got earlier in the year gives them a big boost in the loss column — and they already own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Birds. They face the Seahawks on Monday Night football next week, a game that will see both of the current Wild Card teams from the NFC do battle. Really, there is no preference here, one team will win and one will lose, but a Vikings loss does help the Eagles pursuit of the 6th spot — while solidifying the Seahawks in the 5th spot.

Buccaneers: Tampa faces the Saints here, who will be looking to bounce back after their shocking loss to Dallas. With a lose, the Bucs would drop their eighth game and essentially fall out of contention.

Panthers: On the road against the Browns is no gimmie for Carolina, but a win keeps them alive and lifts them to 7-6.

Week 15

In their control: Honestly for the purposes of being realistic we have to chalk the Birds visit to L.A. as a loss. If the team can step up against the Rams at home, it would be an enormous boost, but it will probably be loss No. 7.

Cowboys: Dallas is in Indy facing the Colts, a team that laid an egg last week and looks to be on the downslide. Lets assume the Cowboys improve to 8-6.

Redskins: This is a big one for the Eagles. They need Washington to lose to the lowly Jaguars in Week 15, or to the Titans in Week 16. One of those two setbacks would put Philly back in the drivers seat. If the Skins win both, it's trouble for the Birds,

Vikings/Bears: The Bears have a brutal schedule from here on in, so Minnesota may be eyeing the NFC North. If they do take control of the division this week with a win over the dreadful Dolphins, Chicago can end Green Bay's season with a win here in Week 16.

Seahawks: Seattle faces the Niners, that's a win for them.

Panthers: If the Saints return to form, they can end Carolina's playoff hopes here.

Week 16

In their control: There are scenarios where this game can be a loss. Perhaps EVERYONE falls apart and 8-8 gets the job done. Maybe they pulled off a miracle on the west coast. There's also a slight chance Houston has clinched and will take it easy here. It's the home finale and a strong finish at the Linc will go a long way toward a title defense.

Cowboys: The Cowboys have the Buccaneers and Giants in their last two weeks. If the Eagles want to win the NFC East, they need Dallas to drop one of these two and then go 9-7. If they are chasing the final Wild Card, Dallas becomes irrelevant as long as the Redskins have been knocked out.

Redskins: As we mentioned above, Washington must drop either to the Titans or Jaguars.

Vikings: The Eagles need some help here. In the last two weeks, Minnesota faces the Lions and Bears. They need the Vikes to drop one of these two while going 9-7.

Bears: The Bears play San Francisco which should be a cake walk to an 11th win and an NFC North crown. The better situation is for Chicago to get it together and take advantage of an easier schedule to win the North.

Seahawks: Seattle is home against the Chiefs and the Eagles could really use an Andy Reid win this week to keep Seattle in reachable territory heading to the last week.

Week 17

In their control: Plain and simple, in most scenarios, they must beat the Redskins in Washington. It might be a little easier the second time, as the Skins will be on their third string quarterback after losing Alex Smith a few weeks ago and Colt McCoy Monday.

Cowboys: Assuming the Cowboys are able to handle the Bucs and Giants in their last two games, this game is irrelevant and they are NFC East champs. If not, the Eagles would win a tie-breaker for the NFC East assuming they pulled out a win back in Week 14.

Vikings/Bears: There is a very good chance this game, between Minnesota and Chicago, could determine the Eagles' Wild Card fate. If both teams are able to play themselves into the postseason it may be bad news for Philly. Meaning, if, say the Bears are in line to win the North but the Vikings can earn a berth as a WC team with a win. Philly fans need to root hard for the division leader here.

Seahawks: Another walk for Seattle, as they play the Cardinals in Week 17, a very likely win.

In conclusion, the Eagles need to go 9-7 to have any reasonable chance at a Wild Card Berth. Going 8-8 would require a LOT more help, essentially every single team they need to lose losing in an improbable and unlikely twist — which we'll explore in the weeks to come if it becomes necessary. 

Though they control their destiny right now, a 10-6 record would mean winning against the Rams in L.A., which means they need some help.

Scoreboard watchers will be made of all of us, with as many as six teams to keep tabs on in the next few weeks all vying for one of the two last spots in the postseason. One thing is for certain, things are trending up, and getting hot at the right time means everything in the NFL.

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