NFL Playoff Scenarios: 10 Ways the Philadelphia Eagles Can Win the NFC East
The Philadelphia Eagles headed into New York and knocked off the Giants in one of the greatest comebacks in all of NFL history, posting a massive 28 points in the fourth quarter. With the comeback, the Eagles are now once again leaders in the NFC East.
Sitting at 10-4, the Eagles have a one-game lead over the Giants, who will be hoping that the Eagles drop at least one of their next two games. This is a huge win for the Eagles, as the last two remaining games on their schedule are going to be played in Philadelphia.
The Eagles may have the lead in the NFC East playoff race, but they have not won the division yet, and there are still two teams in the way: the Dallas Cowboys and the Minnesota Vikings.
Both of these teams have already been eliminated from the playoffs, so their entire purpose in their games against the Eagles will be to knock them out of first place in the NFC East.
The Eagles have a few potential threats, and here are 10 ways they can lock in as winners of the NFC East:
10. Use Home-Field Advantage
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It's rare that a playoff team is able to have their last two games of the season at home. Luckily, the Eagles were able to pull that off this season. That means that for both games, their opponents will have to deal with the full force of a Philadelphia crowd that is playoff-bound.
It is no easy task to play in Philadelphia.
It is even more difficult when the Eagles are winning and going into the playoffs.
There is no reason the crowd should not be totally into both of these games, as one of them is against an NFC East rival.
The Eagles need to get the crowd involved. This is going to be a huge help to their game as they go into the final stretch of the season.
9. Avoid Injuries
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When there is a team that is going into the postseason, the last thing needed is to see starting players go down. I know that injuries are impossible to avoid, and in some situations it is just a turn of bad luck.
But there are ways to avoid having players getting injured. Instead of taking the diving play over the safety, just try to hit the turf. On inside runs, don't take those big hits from linebackers and just slide on the ground.
The Eagles have had some incredibly stupid injuries this season, and they happened on plays where they clearly could have been avoided.
Philadelphia needs all of their starters going into the postseason, and the last thing that the Eagles can afford is to have key players go down.
8. The Offensive Line Must Improve
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Throughout the Eagles' last few games, the offensive line has been terrible.
They have given up an enormous number of sacks, and that is with the always-elusive Michael Vick under center. It seems on every passing play, Vick has to roll out and make the throw on the run, making the offense much more complicated than it needs to be.
The Eagles may have a banged-up offensive line, but there is no excuse to let a QB like Vick get hit as much as he does. I'm wondering about Vick's health—with that rib injury earlier in the season, it can't be healthy for him to be taking hits on every snap.
The weakest part of the Eagles offensive line has to be King Dunlap.
It looks like defenses have figured out that they can blitz Dunlap's side every down and get easy pressure on Vick. He has just not performed as well as he needs to. He is letting Vick take some serious hits, and it is a problem.
I heard he was changing his name to Queen Dunlap, so that is that.
7. Maintain Focus
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The Eagles may have just come off one of the biggest comebacks, against one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, but they are not unbeatable.
It was a good game for the Eagles, no doubt. They were able to totally turn it around and play like the Eagles that should have been there the entire game. However, that was one game.
There are still two more games the Eagles have to win.
If anyone remembers the last Cowboys vs. Eagles game, Philadelphia was barely able to play out and win the game. That was much closer than anyone wanted it to be, and it shows that the Eagles could lose one of these games.
One of these games is an NFC East rivalry. Anything can happen.
Need proof? Twenty-eight points in the fourth quarter.
6. Finish Off Drives
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The Eagles have had some serious trouble getting the ball into the end zone. Once they get into the red zone, it is like a switch flips and the offense just stalls. This has been a problem all season, and it must improve.
This has been a problem with the Eagles for a number of seasons, and it is going to be absolutely crucial that they are able to score touchdowns and not field goals.
Both of these offenses the Eagles are going to have to play are incredibly talented, and they are good at putting points on the board. If the Eagles settle for field goals, they may fall behind one of these explosive offenses and never quite get the lead back.
Vick and this offense are just way too good not to be able to score touchdowns. Whether or not they have a good red zone receiver should be irrelevant. They have the speed.
5. Improve Red Zone Defense
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The Eagles are dead last in the NFL in red zone protection. They are 32 out of 32 in protecting their end zone. Once a team gets inside the 20, it is almost a guaranteed touchdown.
Blame it on poor execution or just poor play calls, it is really irrelevant. The Eagles defense is better than this, and there is no reason they should be giving up so many points in the red zone. I'm amazed that the coaching staff hasn't made some changes, because this is a huge problem.
It's hard to win games when the other team scores whenever they are inside the 20. That's just asking to be handed a loss. With as much talent and youth as this defense has, you would not think that this would even be a problem.
There are some changes that need to be made, and most of that may be revolving around the attitude of the defense.
I believe in the Eagles defense, and they need to start locking down when the opposing offense gets inside the red zone.
4. Keep Shutting Down the Run
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This season, the Eagles rushing defense has been excellent.
There have only been four games the entire season where the Eagles have given up more than 100 yards on the ground. This forces opposing offenses to essentially become entirely one-dimensional and rely on the pass throughout the game.
Even with Stewart Bradley injured, the Eagles were still able to totally shut down the Giants' two-headed monster of a backfield.
Both the Cowboys and the Vikings have good, aggressive rushing attacks, and both can win games if they are left unchecked—the Vikings, with Adrian Peterson, moreso than the Cowboys.
AP will be all over and the Vikings will be relying on him more than usual with Brett Favre still not playing. It could be a huge move if the Eagles can keep AP in check, and then force Tarvaris Jackson to pass the ball.
3. Avoid Careless Penalties
The Eagles have had some serious problems this season with penalties. To be honest, they should just not be happening.
I watched as the Eagles have had some ridiculous defensive penalties, things like offsides and illegal touching. I know this team's defense is young, but there is no reason to be giving opposing offenses free first downs.
The Eagles offensive line is just a penalty machine. There have been enough holding calls and false starts this season to make me want to hurl. There are plays where there is no reason for a hold, like when Vick is not in the vicinity, but there is still a hold.
These next two teams are too good to just give free yards.
2. The Eagles Secondary Must Step Up
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Mario Manningham and Eli Manning were able to carve up this Eagles secondary like a Christmas ham, and it was painful to watch. The Eagles defense, with Asante Samuel, managed to give up two touchdowns and over 100 yards to a single player.
The Cowboys receivers, even without Dez Bryant, are way too good to allow something like this to happen. Even with Jon Kitna, Dallas will tear up this Eagles secondary, and the Eagles could be handed a swift loss more quickly than expected.
This has been a slightly bigger problem as the season has gone on, and it could present an even bigger problem at the end of the season. The Eagles secondary has been ice-cold. There is really no way else to put it. They need to get back into a groove.
There is really just no excuse for this. Especially when you have a corner like Samuel playing on your team. The Eagles have allowed way too many yards through the air this season, and that needs to change if they want to wrap up these last two games.
1. Force Turnovers
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The Eagles defense has done one thing this season better than anyone else in the NFL: force turnovers.
This is one of the most deadly defenses at getting the ball back, and it can happen at any moment and at any point in a game. It's not just one player, it is almost every player on the defense who can make something happen.
It is easy to win games when you force turnovers. That is a one-way ticket to winning games, no matter what happens.
The combination of Trent Cole and Asante Samuel create a nasty two-punch combo, and it can lead to turnovers very quickly.
If the Eagles defense can create turnovers in these last two games, they are in a great position to win both meetings. The Eagles defense gets the ball back to the offense, and it translates into points almost every time a turnover occurs.
This is key to the Eagles winning these games.
Samuel—get those sticky hands out. We'll need them.