Even just last week, the words “Philadelphia Eagles” and “playoffs” in the same sentence might have been met with derisive laughter. After all, this is the same club that went back-to-back tilts without scoring a single touchdown on offense—at home versus a pair of divisional foes no less.
The fact of the matter is that we are nine weeks into the 2013 season, and the Birds are still largely in control of their own postseason destiny with a 4-5 record. They’re one game back of first place in the NFC East and surprisingly 1.5 games out of a wild-card spot, the latter of which was once believed to be a step below impossible.
Actually, Philadelphia is rather fortunate. In any other division, first place would be almost out of reach. Instead, the Eagles have both paths into the tournament at their disposal.
Then again, if the regular season ended today, the Eagles would not make the playoffs. There is no easy way into the dance, only a pair of hard ways.
They may need a tiny bit of help, but after the past two seasons when the Birds were essentially out of the running by Thanksgiving, even being in contention at this point in the season is an improvement.
There’s no reason to settle now though, as Philly has a good shot at returning to the postseason for the first time since 2010.
|New York Giants||2-6||1-2|
Philadelphia is only one game behind the Cowboys in the standings, but that can be deceiving due to tiebreakers. As it stands now, the Eagles likely need to finish with a superior record to Dallas in order to win the division.
For starters, they absolutely must salvage a series split when the two teams meet in Dallas in Week 17, a game that could very well hold "lose or go-home" implications for both sides. In the event these two teams finish the regular season with the same record, the first tiebreaker is always head-to-head record, which, at this point, would go to the Cowboys by virtue of their 17-3 win in the first tilt.
That means the Birds would have to make up not one but two wins elsewhere on their schedule.
Merely knocking off the Cowboys at the end of the year might not be enough either. Dallas currently owns an unblemished record against the rest of the NFC East, which happens to serve as the second tiebreaker.
The Cowboys are 3-0 in the division, and the Eagles are 2-2. This means that unless Philly can pass them in the standings, Dallas needs to lose to the Eagles and at least one other team within the division, while Chip’s boys likely can’t afford any more slip-ups. Given the current state of Washington and New York, there’s a decent chance that Big D will have already run its divisional record to 5-0 before their final clash against the Birds.
Should the Eagles and Cowboys finish with identical records overall and in the NFC East, common opponents and conference record are the next tiebreakers, in that order. There are still far too many variables in play to even begin predicting how those will shake out.
What it all comes down to is that the Eagles have to win their own football games. If the Cowboys run the table, then there’s nothing the Eagles can do about that. But when Dallas inevitably drops a couple games down the stretch, the only way Philadelphia can capitalize is by taking care of its own business.
The rest will work itself out.
|Green Bay Packers||5-3||3-2|
Conventional wisdom once said that the NFC East would only produce one playoff team this season. There’s still a decent chance that prognostication will come true, but if a division title is not meant to be, the Eagles still have a shot at one of the NFC wild-card spots thanks to their upcoming schedule.
Almost every opponent remaining for Philadelphia is either an NFC East rival or ahead of them in the wild-card standings, besides the Vikings and one other half-exception. The Lions are currently in first place in the North, but they share a 5-3 record with divisional foes Green Bay and Chicago, so at any given moment, those three clubs could switch places.
The good and bad news is that the Eagles play the Lions, Packers and Bears. Heck, they even play the Cardinals. Those are all tough opponents, so it won’t be a cakewalk to the playoffs. Yet, at the same time, the Eagles have a chance to elevate themselves in the race by defeating these teams.
Again, with seven weeks remaining, there are still far too many potential scenarios to sort through at this point. You don’t have to be an actuary or a psychic to figure out how beating the teams that are out in front would turn the tables though. If the Eagles were to sweep the NFC North for instance, we’re looking at a very different picture come December.
The only downside is that just one of the two wild-card spots may be in play. With a 6-2 record, San Francisco seems to have a firm grasp on the other.
All anybody can ask for, however, is a chance for the Eagles to control their own destiny, and right now, it appears as if they do. If Philadelphia can put a little run together here in the second half, Chip Kelly will have done what many fans thought was impossible and made the Birds relevant again in his first season on the sidelines.
Is there any doubt he's up for the challenge?