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December 01, 2017

Mailbag: Vikings would win most tiebreaker scenarios with the Eagles for the No. 1 seed

In our weekly Eagles chat on Tuesday, there were a lot of questions that we could not get to in time, or other questions we did answer but could use more color. And so, let's do a mailbag post to answer some of the overflow.

Question from Jeff: Is there anything out there (or maybe you’re getting ready to create it yourself) that shows all the playoff scenarios where the Eagles can clinch the No. 1 seed?

The ESPN playoff machine is fun to play around with, as long as you have a half hour to kill. To answer your question, at this point, it is way too complicated to get into all the scenarios with the cluster of three-loss teams in the conference.

For now, we'll skip those scenarios. Looking solely at the 10-1 Eagles’ advantage over the 9-2 Vikings, who are only one game behind. If you play around with the playoff machine, you'll find that the Vikings would win tiebreakers over the Eagles in most scenarios.

For example, let’s say the Vikings win this week, and the Eagles lose. If the season ended after Week 13, the Vikings would have the No. 1 seed. You’d have to go several tiebreakers deep to get there.

• The first tiebreaker would be head-to-head: The Eagles and Vikings did not, and will not, play each other during the regular season. Next.

• The second tiebreaker is conference record: The Eagles and Vikings would both be 8-1. Next.

• The third tiebreaker would be best won-lost-tied percentage in common games, minimum of four: The only common opponents the Eagles and Vikings have had so far are the Bears and Redskins, falling short of the minimum of four. (The Vikings do have the Panthers remaining on their on their schedule, and the Eagles have the Rams, who the Vikings beat two weeks ago. That would meet the four common opponent threshold. The Vikings and Eagles have both won all common opponent games, to date.)

• The fourth tiebreaker would be strength of victory: To date, the winning percentage of the teams the Vikings have beaten is .450. The winning percentage of the teams the Eagles have beaten is only .375. While opposing winning percentages will change as the season progresses, the difference between .450 and .375 is huge. If it comes down to this tiebreaker at the end of the season, the Vikings are going to be the No. 1 seed.

Currently, the Eagles have an 8-0 conference record, while the Vikings' conference record is 7-1. Of the Eagles' remaining five games, there is only one left against an AFC opponent, the Oakland Raiders. If the Eagles lost only that game but won the rest of their games, they would be the No. 1 seed. But in scenaraios in which the Eagles dropped an NFC game or two down the stretch, the Vikings would be in prime position to capitalize on an Eagles' slip-up.

Question from Invincible: 13-3 is a MUST for home field advantage throughout, in my opinion. You agree?

Nope. As noted above, if the Eagles are likely to lose any tiebreakers with the Vikings if the Eagles end up with the same record, and assuming their losses are against NFC teams. At 13-3, you would be counting on the Vikings losing at least two more games. They do have a difficult pair of road games against the Falcons and Panthers upcoming, but I think anything short of 14-2 is getting into dangerous territory.

Question from Tommy: I read an article about how it’s this year or bust because of next year’s cap. Why do writers always jump ahead with stories like this?

There’s nothing wrong with taking a look ahead at 2018 and beyond. However, I’m not sure who wrote that, but that premise is ridiculous.

Let’s take a look at the Eagles’ starters and whether or not they are under contract in 2018:

 OffenseUnder contract in 2018? Defense Under contract in 2018 
 Carson WentzYes Brandon Graham Yes 
 LeGarrette BlountNo  Fletcher CoxYes 
 Alshon JefferyNo  Timmy JerniganYes 
 Torrey SmithYes (team option)  Vinny CurryYes 
 Nelson AgholorYes  Nigel BradhamNo 
 Zach ErtzYes  Jordan HicksYes 
 Jason PetersYes  Mychal KendricksYes 
 Stefen WisniewskiYes  Jalen MillsYes 
 Jason KelceYes  Malcolm JenkinsYes 
 Brandon BrooksYes  Rodney McLeodYes 
 Lane JohnsonYes  Ronald DarbyYes 

So, by my count, the Eagles have 19 of their 22 starters under contract in 2018. Beyond that, the Eagles' cap troubles are way overblown.

Back on March 1, 2017, the NFL’s 2017 salary cap was officially set at $167 million. At the time, according to a post that day from Dave Zangaro of CSN Philly, the Eagles had approximately $12.5 million under the salary cap. As such, they were limited in what they could accomplish in free agency.

On the morning of August 15th, 2017, the Eagles' salary cap stood at $8,665,085, according to the NFLPA's daily salary cap report. After releasing running back Ryan Mathews that afternoon, the Eagles added $4 million to that total, bringing their overall cap space to $12,665,085.

In other words, the Eagles upgraded at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, and safety, and ended up with more salary cap space on the final day of training camp in August than they had before free agency began.

If the Eagles want to get a deal done with Alshon Jeffery, they can. If they want to get a deal done with Nigel Bradham, they can. The cap will rise in 2018, and there are always ways to move money around. 

Question from Papale86: At what point do the celebrations become too much?

When someone gets injured, Bill Gramatica-style. 

Or Gus Frerotte-style:

Until then, let them dance.

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