By Kevin McGuire
The race to the playoffs is on, and the Philadelphia Eagles are lagging behind the pack. After two straight losses to Seattle and Dallas, the Eagles are in a tough spot to make the playoffs, but stranger things have happened before in the NFC playoff picture. It doesn’t take Pablo Picasso to paint this year’s playoff picture, but it is a bit abstract for the Eagles with just two weeks to play.
To win the NFC East Division, and receive the guaranteed home game that comes with it, regardless of seeding, the Eagles must finish with a record as good as or better than the Dallas Cowboys. After losing Sunday night at home to Dallas, the Eagles trail the Cowboys by one game. The Eagles may have to win both games remaining on the schedule and hope the Cowboys lose one of their final two. That is hardly impossible, but it may be the best possible scenario in play for the Eagles and their playoff hopes.
The Eagles can get by with a 1-1 split the next two weeks, but that would require Dallas losing twice in the final two games. This is also not impossible, although this year’s Dallas team may not be quite as guaranteed to have a December meltdown as they have shown in the past. Dallas has a home game against the Indianapolis Colts this week and a road game at Washington in the final week of the season. Washington clipped Dallas in overtime earlier this season in Arlington.
This weekend, Eagles fans are rooting hard for the Colts, as if they were not already going to be rooting against the Cowboys on principle anyway.
But what if the Cowboys win each of their final two games? Then it is Wild Card or bust for the Birds, and that may require even more help. Nothing is beyond impossible, but putting so much trust on outside factors beyond their control is the result of losing key games in conference play this season. The Eagles have already lost a tiebreaker in head-to-head competition with the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks, and that is a major hurdle.
Seattle can deal the Eagles a significant blow this weekend with a win against Arizona. A win for the Seahawks would place them atop the NFC West, and knock the Cardinals down in the playoff pecking order. Arizona already has a one-game advantage over the Eagles, and a head-to-head tiebreaker. The Cardinals have also locked up a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. Not good. A loss for Seattle would help the Eagles, although Seattle still owns a tiebreaker over Philadelphia, so the Eagles may need to pull hard for the St. Louis Rams in the season finale. Pull for Arizona at home though, and we’ll worry about St. Louis if needed next week.
The Packers can actually help the Eagles out in the final week of the season. The Packers and Detroit Lions play in the final week. The Minnesota Vikings can help even more this week. If the Lions lose their final two games, the Eagles can slip past Detroit in the playoff standings, so long as the Birds win the final two games. Let’s assume the Eagles take care of their business. That being the case, the Lions losing the final two games will help Philadelphia out in a big way. So pull for the Vikings to tame the Lions in Detroit, and worry about the Packers doing their part the following week with the NFC North title on the line. The same scenario can play out well if the Packers lose the next two weeks, but Green Bay plays Tampa Bay this week, so let’s forget about that scenario.
To recap, Eagles fans should be rooting for the Colts (vs. Cowboys), the Vikings (vs. Lions), the Bucs (vs. Packers), and the Cardinals (vs. Seahawks).
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Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.