October 07, 2023
Each week during the NFL season we lay out a rooting guide for non-Eagles games on the NFL schedule. And yes, I'm aware that most of the below is obvious. Ideal winners bolded.
• Cowboys at 49ers: The Eagles' two biggest threats in the NFC are facing off on Sunday Night Football, and barring a tie one of them will lose. Either way, the Eagles win. But what is the more ideal outcome?
I think that first we need to evaluate which team is better. In my opinion, that is the 49ers. Both teams have great defenses, but the Niners have far more firepower on offense. I also believe that the Niners are built more for a marathon, while the Cowboys are built more for a sprint. The 49ers can withstand injuries throughout the season, as they did last year, while the Cowboys would be seriously wounded if they lost Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, Tony Pollard, Micah Parsons, any number of their already injury-prone offensive linemen, or another starting corner after already losing Trevon Diggs for the season. Dallas, in my view, can have significantly more devastating things go wrong for them throughout the season than San Francisco. It feels like it's only a matter of time before some of those bad things happen.
Of course, the Cowboys play in the NFC East with the Eagles, while the Niners don't. While I think that there is a strong argument for rooting for the Eagles to take a two-game lead in the NFC East with an Eagles win and a Cowboys loss, I also believe that the true prize the Eagles should have their eye on is the 1-seed.
Since the 2002 season, when the NFL moved to eight divisions, there have been 21 Super Bowls played, and thus 42 Super Bowl participants. #Math. (It should be noted here that in 2020 the NFL expanded the playoffs to seven teams per conference and only one bye, while there were six playoffs teams and two byes per conference from 2002 to 2019.)
Anyway, care to guess how many of those teams had first round byes?
(Jeopardy music playing)...
31 of them, or roughly 74 percent, or even more roughly, 3 out of 4. Seven Super Bowl participants won their division but did not have a first-round bye, and four teams were wildcards. In the last three years, since the NFL moved to the 7-team playoff format, 3 of the 6 Super Bowl participants got the 1 seed. In other words (small sample size alert here), if you get the 1 seed you have a 50-50 shot of getting to the Super Bowl, so far.
My conclusion here: If you have a first-round bye, your chances of getting to the Super Bowl increase substantially. #Analysis. And if you're of the opinion that it's Super Bowl or bust for the Eagles in 2023, and if you're also of the opinion that the Niners are a bigger threat than the Cowboys, then you should be rooting for the Cowboys to win this game.
Obviously, of course, no Eagles fan is going to root for the Cowboys to win this game, even if you agree that it's the better outcome.
Here are the NFC East's common opponents outside of the division, and results so far:
• Bears at Commanders: This game already happened on Thursday night, with the Bears beating up pretty badly on the Commanders, 40-20. It's probably just better if the Commanders and Giants are non-factors in the NFC East as soon as possible and it quickly turns into a two-team race.
• Giants at Dolphins: The Giants look like a bottom five team, and do not appear to be a threat in any way to the Eagles' 2023 aspirations. Still, again, it's probably just best if they get out to a 1-5 start (they play in Buffalo Week 6), before their schedule gets a lot easier.
• Saints at Patriots: The Eagles own the Saints' second-round pick. Let's fire up the PFF mock draft simulator! We'll do three rounds.
• Round 1: Josh Newton, CB, TCU
• Round 2 (from Saints): Calen Bullock, S, USC
• Round 2: Kingsley Suamataia, OT, BYU
• Round 3: Smael Mondon, LB, Georgia
• Panthers at Lions: Beyond the big three in the NFC, the Lions have a strong case to be considered the fourth-best team. They play in an awful division and could wind up winning a lot of games like the Vikings did a season ago when they went 13-4. It's best if they lose a game here or there so that they don't somehow steal the 1-seed.
• Texans at Falcons: Someone has to win the NFC South, and it's best for the Eagles if that's not the Saints, as noted above. Teams like the Falcons and Buccaneers are more ideal NFC South champs, and neither would be a threat in the playoffs.
• Chiefs at Vikings: It's best if the Vikings build on their Week 4 win so they'll remain competitive when they face the 49ers Week 7.
• Packers at Raiders: The Packers will be easy pickings in the playoffs, should they get there.
The following bolded teams play the Eagles this season, so they're just worth keeping an eye on, but it doesn't matter much who wins:
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