December 09, 2018
In past seasons, Philadelphia Eagles fans generally rooted for their own team, and kept an eye on the rest of the NFC East. In 2018, with the Birds initially being among the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, it was perhaps worth keeping tabs on the conference, as opposed to just the division. And so, each week we laid out a rooting guide for non-Eagles games on the NFL schedule.
Eagles fans' outside rooting interests have long since shifted from earning a first round bye, to just having a seat at the table, at all, in the playoffs. Sitting at 6-6 behind the 7-5 Dallas Cowboys, the Eagles' best chance to get into the playoffs at this point is to win the division, though there are long shot scenarios in which they could earn a wildcard.
At this point, it also makes sense to begin rooting for bad teams to win, so the Eagles' draft position improves should they fail to make the playoffs, which is still the most likely scenario, even after two straight division wins over the Giants and Redskins.
• Vikings at Seahawks (Monday night): The Eagles are currently chasing three teams for the wildcard -- the 7-5 Seahawks, the 6-5-1 Vikings, and the 6-6 Panthers. The Seahawks are ahead of the Eagles by a game, and are ahead by two games on the conference record tie-breaker (Seattle is 6-3 in NFC games, while the Eagles are 4-5). The Seahawks also have layup wins in the 49ers and Cardinals left on their schedule. The Eagles are very unlikely to catch Seattle, so it's probably best if they just go on to earn the 5 seed, with the Eagles chasing the 6 seed over the Panthers and Vikings.
• Panthers at Browns: Carolina (6-6) is in the midst of a four game losing streak, and falling quickly from playoff contention. A Browns win would shove them deeper into the hole. The Eagles need to have a better record than the Panthers to get into the playoffs, since Carolina would own home field advantage over them on the strength of a head-to-head win.
• Colts at Texans: A Colts win over the Texans would put them in striking distance of the AFC South crown, and also in a good position to sneak in as a wildcard. A loss would do serious damage to their playoff hopes. The Cowboys play in Indianapolis next weekend, and it's better if the Colts are still nice and motivated for a playoff berth.
• Ravens at Chiefs: The Eagles own the Ravens' second-round pick. If the season ended today, Baltimore would be in the playoffs with a 6 seed. They are currently 7-5, a half-game behind the Steelers, who are 7-4-1. Breathing down the Ravens' necks for a wildcard are the 7-6 Titans, and three 6-6 teams -- the Dolphins, Colts, and Broncos.
• Pittsburgh at Oakland: It would be ideal if the Steelers put some distance in between themselves and the Ravens for the NFC North.
Should the Eagles lose in Dallas today, drastically hurting their playoff odds, it's probably time to really start looking at the teams they could potentially leapfrog in the draft order:
• Patriots at Dolphins: The Dolphins are 6-6, so they (a) are still in the hunt behind the Ravens for a wildcard, and (b) could finish with a higher record than the Eagles if Philly craps the bed down the stretch.
• Broncos at 49ers: Replace all mentions of the Dolphins with "Broncos" in the above sentence.
• Falcons at Packers: The Packers are the more likely of these two teams to finish with a better record than the Eagles.
• Saints at Buccaneers: The 5-7 Bucs are certainly capable of a meaningless run down the stretch.
• Bengals at Chargers: The 5-7 Bengals aren't likely to win many more games with their quarterback done for the season, but it's still better if they win.
• Lions at Cardinals: The Eagles are highly unlikely to leapfrog either team for draft position, but the Lions are the more likely of the two long shots.
• Jets at Bills: Again, the Eagles aren't leapfrogging either team, but the Bills, I guess, would be more likely.
• Giants at Redskins: Both teams need quarterbacks, but it's probably best for the Giants to mess up their draft position at 4-8 than it is for the Redskins at 6-6.
• Rams at Bears: This is just a really good game. If the Eagles somehow got a wildcard, the team they'd most likely face in the first round would be the Bears. I think they'd be fine with facing a "playoff neophyte quarterback" in the playoffs, so maybe it's best if the Bears stay on track for the 3 seed.
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