Philadelphia Eagles Down but Not Out: Birds Still Have Real Shot at Playoffs
We've heard it all before. "Even at 4-7, the Philadelphia Eagles are not mathematically eliminated." To most Eagles fans now though, the thought of the Eagles making the playoffs is a laughable statement.
How could this team make a run now? After all the disappointment? All the underperformance?
Simple: The Eagles face a favorable schedule ahead of them. Their remaining opponents consist of the Seahawks, Dolphins, Jets, Cowboys and Redskins. It may be unthinkable, but it is not impossible for the Eagles to win out and end their season 9-7.
Stranger things have happened before in this league. Andy Reid is known for his late-season postseason runs. In 2009, he led the Eagles on a six-game winning streak to clinch a playoff spot at 11-4, before falling to Dallas in the season finale. In 2008, he led the Eagles on a 4-1 run following a 5-5-1 record, to finish at 9-6-1 and with a playoff spot. Even in 2007, when the Eagles missed the postseason, he finished the season on a four-game winning streak and barely out of reach of the playoffs.
If, and only if, Andy Reid can rally his team in the late season, as he has done so many times in the past, could the Eagles finish 9-7. And only at 9-7 would the Eagles have a shot.
But would 9-7 even be enough for the Eagles to make the postseason? Actually, this season, it very well might be.
If the Eagles can find their way to 9-7 and take advantage of a favorable schedule, many events are likely to occur to allow the Eagles to slip into a wild-card spot. They are as follows...
1. Detroit Lions Collapse
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Unthinkable, right? How could a team that started 5-0 miss the playoffs?
The Lions might just be the next team to blow a strong midseason record and find themselves short of the postseason yet again.
Firstly, let's just point out that the Lions look like a shell of the team they were at 5-0. Their weaknesses have been exposed. They lack a good running game and also cannot stop the run. And they now will be without key players, with Kevin Smith injured and Ndamukong Suh exiled for two games.
And their remaining schedule is very challenging.
It certainly would not surprise anyone to see the Lions lose three of those five games. They would then end their season at 9-7, which would be the same record as the Eagles if the Eagles were to win out.
But while both teams would be at 9-7, Philadelphia would have the tiebreaker. If the Eagles won out, they would have a conference record of 7-5. The Lions would likely lose to the Saints and the Packers, and assuming they beat the Vikings their conference record would be 6-6.
This is one scenario in which the Eagles could make the postseason.
2. Cutler-Less Chicago Bears Continue To Struggle
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But it is looking unlikely that the Bears will make it that far for Cutler's return.
Without Cutler, the Bears were forced to turn to their backup Caleb Hanie. But despite his heroics in last season's NFC Championship, reality eventually sets in—the fact that Hanie is really a third-string quarterback, who was promoted to backup due to one strong performance.
Hanie threw three interceptions against the Raiders, and only completed 50 percent of his passes. And their defense, unlike in years past, has looked very beatable this season.
While the Bears do not have a hard schedule remaining by any means, without a good quarterback or a strong defense, this team will struggle to win games. Simply not enough firepower on the team to compete.
Which could potentially open up a playoff spot for the Eagles.
3. New York Giants Continue To Struggle
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The 6-5 Giants are on a three-game losing streak. And the road ahead doesn't look any better. They have a touch schedule coming up, with the Packers, Cowboys, Redskins, Jets and Cowboys again all left to be played.
Assuming the Eagles win out, 9-7 could certainly advance them past the Giants.
The Giants will very likely lose to the Packers. And out of the Cowboys, Jets and Cowboys, they could lose again, maybe even multiple times.
Let's just say then they only lose one more time after their matchup with the Packers. Their record would fall from 6-5, to 6-6 and then to 6-7. Even if they won the rest of their games and ended at 9-7, the Eagles would own the tiebreaker.
Assuming the Eagles win out, they will finish the season with a remarkable 5-1 divisional record. Even if the Giants beat the Cowboys and Redskins, they already have two divisional losses.
All they would need to do therefore is to lose twice.
Were the Eagles and Giants both 9-7, the Eagles would own the tiebreaker here just like they do with the above teams. Therefore, the Giants are the third team that could very realistically fail down the stretch and allow the Eagles to nab a wild-card spot.
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Will the Eagles make the playoffs? They certainly are not favored by any means, but if Andy Reid can lead a late-season run as he has done so many times, this team has a very real shot.
And with Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin returning soon, that increases the chances of the Eagles winning out.
This team will have to play its very best football. They now have essentially no margin for error. It is by pure chance that this small window for a playoff bid exists, but it is an opportunity the team cannot squander.
They cannot hope for the Cowboys to falter down the stretch; they have too significant of a lead and too soft of a schedule. The division is theirs and they are not going to lose it.
The Falcons too have a soft schedule remaining. They appear to be a lock to finish at least 10-6 and with a wild-card spot.
That leaves the Eagles with only one wild-card left to fight for. They cannot lose a single game from here on out. This "Dream Team" was built to win now, and it must wake up right now to seize this opportunity.