December 31, 2022
With a win over the New Orleans Saints on New Years Day, the Philadelphia Eagles can clinch the NFC East as well as the 1 seed, a first-round bye, and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. If they can do that, what happens around the rest of the league is insignificant, comparatively speaking. Still, there's still stuff to root for around the rest of the NFL, I suppose, so let's get to all that. Ideal winners bolded.
Again, as noted above, if the Eagles win against the Saints, it's a wrap. If they don't win, then one of the following two things would have to occur for the Eagles to still get the 1 seed:
I think that it's pretty safe to say that if the Eagles can't win one of their final two games, they cannot count on all three of the Cowboys, Niners, and Vikings to lose one more game. And so, you're probably better off hoping for an ideal NFC seeding layout instead of "Eagles failure insurance."
In my opinion, the Eagles' biggest threat to a Super Bowl appearance is the 49ers. Assuming the Eagles take care of business against the Saints or Giants Weeks 17 or 18, the Niners and Vikings will be the 2 and 3 seeds in the NFC playoffs, depending on the results of their final two games. Neither team would face the Eagles until the NFC Championship Game.
It's best for the Eagles if the Vikings earn the 2 seed, which would put them in a better position to beat the Niners in the divisional round, should both teams advance that far. And even if they can't beat the Niners at home, at least the Niners would have some small level of added fatigue having to travel to Minnesota during the divisional round, and then theoretically to Philly for the conference championship round.
The Niners are heavy favorites over the Raiders, while the Vikings are underdogs to the Packers.
• Colts at Giants: Should the Eagles fail to take care of their business against the Saints, they will need to beat the Giants Week 18. If the Giants beat the Colts, they will clinch a playoff berth, and would probably rest their starters Week 18, which would benefit the Eagles if they need that game.
If the Eagles beat the Saints, however, it's better if the Colts win, for Saints draft pick positioning purposes.
A week ago, the Saints' first-round pick, which of course is owned by the Eagles, was ninth overall. With the Saints' win over the Browns Week 16, it tumbled down to tenth overall. As always, let's fire up the mock draft simulator each week just for fun:
• Pick No. 10: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia: He's not falling to 10, but whatever.
• Pick No. 31: Jared Verse, Edge, Florida State: Big season at FSU in 2022 after transferring from Albany.
• Pick No. 63: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas: Big-hitting, productive, athletic off-ball linebacker / edge defender hybrid.
• Pick No. 95: Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan: Huge, uber-athletic interior defender.
• Pick No. 196: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State: 6'4 outside CB with ball skills.
• Pick No. 227: Sydney Brown, S, Syracuse: Bigtime athlete who had 6 INTs in 2022.
Anyway, getting back on track, a look at the top 18, via Tankathon:
Both the ceiling and the floor of that Saints pick can improve this week. Here are the ideal winners around the rest of the league in terms of draft positioning, in no specific order:
• Panthers at Buccaneers: The Bucs will clinch the NFC South with a win over the Panthers. That game is meaningful on two fronts:
And finally, not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the Monday Night Football matchup is between two teams with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations in the AFC in the Bills and Bengals. So that'll be fun to watch from a "possible future opponent" perspective.
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