It's time to dispel the myth that the Philadelphia Eagles have to win the division to make it to the postseason.
If they are unable to beat out Dallas for first place, the wild-card spot is very much open to them due to their sudden resurgence. The NFL schedule is very much in their favor.
Right now, the Eagles and Cowboys are both tied atop the NFC East. The surest way to the postseason is still to win the division. But if both the Eagles and the Cowboys finish their remaining games 3-1, Dallas may still win the division due to tiebreaker rules. The Cowboys have a divisional record of 4-0. Philly's right now is only 3-2.
A 4-0 finish by Philly would guarantee the division and a postseason spot, since that would push Dallas to at most 10-6 and the Eagles to 11-5. But that may be asking a bit much, since Detroit and Dallas will both be tough games.
However, no division does not necessarily mean no postseason. The remaining games of the NFL schedule match up favorably for Philly's playoff run with or without the NFC East crown.
Below are the teams who still have realistic chances at a wild-card berth.
|NFC Wild-Card Race|
|Team||Win/Loss Record||Conference Record|
|San Francisco 49ers||8-4||5-3|
Tiebreaker rules for the wild card consist of head-to-head record, followed by conference record as the next tiebreaker.
As you can see by the table, the Carolina Panthers' spot is pretty much guaranteed. With a 9-3 record, an incredible 7-2 conference record, and Cam Newton playing some of his best football, they're not going anywhere.
But don't be so sure that the 49ers are untouchable too. They may have an 8-4 record, but their 5-3 conference record is weaker than Philly's.
Let's analyze Philly and San Francisco's remaining games.
|Eagles/49ers Remaining Schedule|
|Detroit Lions (7-5)||Seattle Seahawks (11-1)|
|Minnesota Vikings (3-8-1)||Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-9)|
|Chicago Bears (6-6)||Atlanta Falcons (3-9)|
|Dallas Cowboys (7-5)||Arizona Cardinals (7-5)|
Philly's remaining schedule is no cakewalk, but it's one where a 3-1 finish is not unreasonable. Detroit and Dallas are both toss-ups, but it's hard to imagine the Eagles losing to the lowly Vikings or the Bears' Swiss-cheese defense.
If Philly can pull out a win over either Detroit or Dallas, they will likely end the season 10-6.
And the Cardinals are no pushovers. Up until the Eagles game, Carson Palmer was on a streak of four straight games with a passer rating above 90.
The Cardinals defense is as good as any in this league. And being a divisional game, it is entirely possible that they could lose.
Losses to the Seahawks and the Cardinals would give the 49ers a 2-2 finish and a 10-6 record, tied with the Eagles.
But the Eagles would come out on top. Philly would have a conference record of 9-3, and the 49ers would have a conference record of 7-5. Even if Philly failed to win the division they would still make the postseason as the No. 6 seed.
Where there is a will there is a way. And where there is favorable scheduling and a strong conference record, there is always a way.
Follow Yueh Ho on Twitter @YuehHo