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November 21, 2018

How the Eagles can still win the NFC East and make the playoffs (it's a lot more simple than you think)

The Eagles have six games left and a 4-6 record. They are two games back for the division lead and a playoff berth. Despite computer models that have the Eagles' playoff chances close to single digits (ESPN says they are 11 percent to win the NFC East), they actually have a lot more control than you might think.

With four of their six remaining games against their own division, Philly can actually control its own destiny and they don't even need to run the table to do so — they just need to beat the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys. A wild card berth is really unlikely, especially since the Packers and Vikings have a tie, so we will focus on the division. Here's a look at their remaining games and what needs to happen to get them the No. 4 seed in the NFC come January:

Week 12

The Eagles

The Eagles need to take care of business in their division games, and the Giants are no exception. At home, there is no excuse for them laying an egg in Week 12. Quite simply, if they can't win this next game their playoff chances more or less evaporate.


The Cowboys and Redskins play on Thanksgiving day, and a Cowboys win actually helps the Eagles a little, as it keeps the Skins from getting another game in the win column, but Philly still has three games against those two teams so it is not a highly consequential result in Week 12.

Week 13

The Eagles

Beating the Redskins, who will at least have a share of the NFC East lead, on Monday Night Football at home will be the biggest game of the season. A loss here could put an end to their playoff hopes.


The Cowboys will probably lose to the Saints in New Orleans, which helps.

Week 14

The Eagles

The Birds will be in Dallas this week, and their game against the Cowboys matters more for tie-breaking purposes than it does for win/loss. Assuming the Eagles have taken care of business over the previous two weeks and are back to 6-6, a win here would be needed to help them if they are tied with the Cowboys and/or Redskins when the regular season concludes. A loss would also require them to win against the Rams and Texans coming up, which is a lot to ask for.


The Redskins will probably beat the Giants, which would get them to either 7-6 or 8-5, depending on if they won on Thanksgiving. That's ok, if the Eagles win they are just one game back — and still face Washington once more this season.

Week 15

The Eagles

We're going to be realistic here and assume the ridiculously talented Rams beat the Eagles in L.A. If Philly gets an upset here, it would be huge, but it's unlikely. That would drop them to 7-7 if everything follows suit.


We are starting to get into scoreboard watch territory. The Redskins play the Jaguars and the Cowboys play the Colts. Washington can only have three wins max for the Eagles to make the playoffs, and if they beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, they need to lose this one or their next one (assuming the Eagles go on win the season finale).

Week 16

The Eagles

This game at home vs. Houston may or may not be super important. If the Redskins lose to the Cowboys and to the Jaguars, Philly only needs one win over its last two to win the NFC East. If the Redskins have won one of those games, they'll need to lose to the Titans to give the Eagles the same opportunity — but with Philadelphia and Washington playing in Week 17, the most likely situation is that the Eagles will have a chance to win the NFC East, with tie-breakers, if they can get to Week 17 with at least seven wins. 


If the Eagles finish Week 16 with the same record as the Redskins, or one game behind — but still with a 4-1 division record heading into their final game — they control their own destiny. The Cowboys face Tampa at home in this game, and will likely get their eighth win here if they take the most likely route. 

Week 17

The Eagles

If the Eagles enter Week 17 against the Redskins at 8-7, it's win and they're in (unless both the Cowboys and Redskins enter Week 17 at 7-8 apiece, in which case the Eagles will have already clinched the NFC East due to tie-breakers and they could win a three-way tie at 8-8, unlikely, but possible). The division match ups remaining assure that if the Eagles have this record they'll control their fate. There are not many scenarios where Philly can lose this game and get in unless they beat both the Rams and Texans and get some help. 


This far out into the future, it's hard to project what help they'll need in every scenario, but there are very few scenarios where they go 4-0 in their four remaining divisional games and manage to miss the playoffs. An 8-8 record with a 5-1 division mark would give them a good chance, but they'd need help. A 9-7 record with a 5-1 division mark plus a win over either the Rams or Texans would be a sure division title. The Cowboys play the Giants in Week 17, a potentially easy win for Dallas which would put pressure on Philly depending to win to clinch (with their 5-1 division record) depending on how things shake out when they face the Redskins. 

There is also a chance that if all three NFC East teams finish at 9-7, which is very possible, the Eagles win the NFC East and Cowboys get the second wild card spot. That would require the Eagles winning their division games plus the Texans game, and the Cowboys winning all but the Eagles and Saints games. And, of course, teams like the Packers and Panthers also doing their part (we'll save that for another article). 

Obviously, it's a lot easier said than done and the Eagles haven't shown much to instill confidence — but there's a roadmap and a realistic one to a second straight NFC East title.

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