Tag Archives: NFC Playoffs

Don’t Look at Mock Drafts Just Yet: Eagles Playoff Scenarios

If the NFL playoffs started right now, the Eagles would unfortunately be on the outside looking in, as the seventh seed in an NFC field that includes six teams.

Thankfully the playoffs will not become official for 14 days.

The easiest way for the Eagles to get to January is to win their final two games and have the Cowboys lose one, realistically at home to the 10-4 Indianapolis Colts next week.

A few other scenarios exist, but they are a bit less likely as Detroit, Seattle, or Green Bay would have to lose both of their final two games while the Eagles win both of theirs.

Green Bay faces the lowly Buccaneers next weekend, so let’s rule them out.

Seattle has two tough games at Arizona and home against the Rams, who play all opponents tough and beat the Seahawks earlier in the season, but it is difficult to envision them dropping two straight considering their strong play recently.

That leaves Detroit, the current leader of the NFC North by way of a tiebreaker over the Packers. The Lions will likely be heavy underdogs in the Week 17 bout at Lambeau, but in order for that game to matter to the Eagles, they would need to lose on the road to the struggling Bears next weekend.

Is that possible? You decide. I don’t trust Jay Cutler as far as I can throw him, but the Lions certainly didn’t look like world-beaters in a narrow win over Minnesota today.

Still, the Eagles easiest road remains a backdoor NFC East title with the Cowboys following a December tradition and dropping a pivotal game late.

For all of the issues that went wrong tonight, the Eagles should be far superior to their remaining opponents in the Redskins and Giants.

If help comes, it ideally comes next week by way of the Colts, but stranger things have happened (Think Week 17 in 2008 with the Raiders and Texans opening up a door for them).

Tonight hurt, but it was not a death sentence, and with the birds playing a day early on Saturday, a win will put the pressure squarely on the Cowboys who have struggled at home.

Hope NIck Foles gets cleared, beat a bad Washington team, and bite your nails on Sunday.

The Eagles need help, but it ain’t time to look at mock drafts quite yet.

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That Sucked: Eagles-Cowboys Haiku

The opening kickoff was fumbled, and with it slowly went the Eagles grip on the NFC East — for now at least.

You all watched the game. Mark Sanchez was bad. The secondary was worse.

For much of the night, the Eagles looked unprepared as Chip Kelly and Billy Davis seemed a step behind Jason Garrett. It’s hard to win against a 9-4 when you turn the ball over four times.

I quite honestly am exhausted and not in the mood to spend a ton of time talking about it, preferring to look ahead at some of the scenarios and way the Eagles can get help to the playoffs.

Let’s hit the haiku and hope tonight wasn’t the final game at the Linc this season.

Dez Bryant goes wild

Secondary needs rebuilt

Save us Andrew Luck

 

Sad Eagles-Seahawks Haiku

When I used to cover Penn State, I found that a few of my better game stories came after emotional losses. They were a team playing with nothing to lose. Victories were fun, but defeats were — for me at least — easy to shake off given the situation they were facing.

Unfortunately, the Eagles — my first love — produce different emotions, and trying to throw something together about that game is proving to be difficult.

Ten days ago, it felt like the Eagles were on top of the world. and the defending Super Bowl champions sent them crashing back down to earth. Thanks to a muffed punt and some gutsy play-calling by Chip Kelly, the Eagles took a 7-0 lead.

The euphoric feeling quickly evaporated though as they would only score seven more points throughout the day as Russell Wilson did Russell Wilson things en route to 24 for the Seahawks.

Some less than stellar officiating may have helped them get to 24, but the Eagles were so thoroughly dominated on the stat sheet that I don’t feel I can devote a ton of space to bashing officials without pointing out the lopsided numbers.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.32.35 PM

Not pictured in that screenshot is that Doug Baldwin, a rather pedestrian wide receiver, had more receiving yards than the entire Eagles team. After playing an efficient game in Dallas, Mark Sanchez never truly looked comfortable.

This was the lowest point total for the Eagles in a game since their last regular season home loss — against the Giants on October 27 last year — and it may have been the most out of sync the offense has looked since then, save for maybe the 49ers game earlier this season.

The Eagles were outplayed in a lot of areas and shown how far their quarterback and secondary play still needs to progress before they can hang with the Seahawks, and yet there are some plays and moments where it’s hard not to wonder ‘What if?’

The ineligible Seahawks lineman downfield on their first touchdown drive that wasn’t called, the ill-advised timeout with a minute remaining in the second quarter, the pass that sailed through the hands of Zach Ertz early in the fourth quarter, and last but certainly not least, the Malcolm Jenkins dropped interception later on in the fourth quarter.

Ultimately, the Eagles are EXACTLY where I expected them to be after 13 games of this season. What I did not expect is some other teams like the Cowboys and Lions to have the exact same record. The NFC playoff picture is really tight, and 9-4 doesn’t go as far as it may have in past seasons.

It is still very likely the Eagles find themselves in the NFC playoff field. It will be a near certainty should they beat Dallas again next Sunday, this time at the Linc where they are 6-1 on the season, but rather than playing for a complete division clinch and a potential inside track on a first round bye, both are a bit dicier than they would have been with a statement victory today.

Like most losses, today really sucked, but it wasn’t a death sentence, just a wake-up call, and we’ll all feel more awake after we beat Dallas at home on Sunday night next week.

Let’s hit the haiku, win the game next week, and check on the health of Nicky Foles.

Refs bad Sanchez worse

Outclassed by Russell Wilson

Trust Chip after loss

Sunday Morning Haiku and Trying to Stomach Rooting for the Patriots

(Screenshot via NFL.com)

Morning, folks.

As you’re well aware, the Eagles do not play today following Thursday’s Thanksgiving beatdown of Dallas. If you need a break from Sunday stress, you have a one week respite.

If you’re anxious to get back at it like me, there are other games you can keep an eye on that will impact the jumbled playoff picture in the NFC.

The two games in particular to hone in on are the Falcons hosting the Cardinals at 4 p.m., and even more importantly, the Packers hosting the Patriots slated for a 4:25 p.m. kickoff.

The Eagles currently lead the Packers by half a game, but the Packers of course have the tiebreaker over the birds after a blowout victory in Lambeau two weeks ago.

I actually think the Cardinals could lose a few more games. They have only scored 17 combined points in their past two games and have a tough stretch against the NFC West coming up.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.19.43 AM

The Packers on the other hand, have a pretty favorable schedule following their date with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick today.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 10.21.35 AM

The Eagles at some point need to get ahead of them by a game in order to avoid a potential January date in Lambeau, and the Patriots might be their way of doing it.

For a multitude of reasons, it is hard to root for the Patriots, but to make the Eagles path to the Super Bowl easier, that is the task today.

Enjoy today before Seahawks week, and a fantastic matchup between my favorite coach in sports (Chip Kelly) and my third favorite coach in sports (Pete Carroll).

Past history be damned. Root for the Patriots if you can stomach it, and don’t get too used to Sundays without Eagles football. Aside from a Week 16 Saturday game in D.C., we’ll hopefully be going all the way through the first day of February.

Let’s hit the haiku:

Super Bowl champs loom

As playoff picture takes shape

Go Patriots Go

Five Numbers I Hope to See in the Box Score When Eagles-Cowboys Concludes

I would be lying if I said I had a great feel for what is about to transpire later today as the Eagles and Cowboys do battle down in Texas with the winner at least temporarily claiming sole possession of first place in the NfC East.

I was pretty sure the Eagles would lose to the Packers 11 days ago, and I was certain they would win last Sunday, but this one is really tough to pin down.

While I have gone back and forth throughout the week, I am on record in another post this morning as picking the Eagles 30-27, and here are five numbers I hope to see that could get them there:

  1. Less than 60 rushing yards for DeMarco Murray — The Cowboys running back already has 268 carries over 11 games. Last year, he only had 217 in 14 games. Dallas will try to pound him to make things easier and more balanced for Tony Romo and company, but the Eagles run defense should hopefully be up to the task. In 17 of his last 18 games, Murray has rushed for at least 63 yards. The one game he didn’t? The season finale last year against the Eagles where he only ran for 48 yards on 17 carries.
  2. Tony Romo sacked more than two times — In 10 starts this season, the Cowboys quarterback is 7-0 when sacked two times or less and 1-2 when sacked three or more times. You hearing this Connor Barwin? The Eagles pass rush will have to be much better than it was two weeks ago against Aaron Rodgers when the Packers signal caller had all day to throw, but getting to Romo and his bad back a few times could go a long way.
  3. Josh Huff returning a kickoff 35 yards or more — After what has been a tough rookie season featuring a shoulder injury and some rough mistakes, Huff Daddy rose up last week and took the opening kickoff to the house against the Titans. Expecting that again today might be a bit much, but if Huff can have a couple decent returns that shorten the field for Sanchez and the Eagles offense, it would be a big help. A shorter field means less hypothetical throws to make mistakes on before reaching the end zone.
  4. Mark Sanchez only throwing one interception — As usual, I am budgeting at least one interception for Sanchez, because well, that’s what he has done throughout his career, but any more than that could swing this game in the Cowboys favor. One of the picks last Sunday may have been more Riley Cooper’s fault than the responsibility of the quarterback, but for however much longer he holds this job, Sanchez has to start doing a better job taking care of the football for the Eagles to have success against some of the upcoming teams on their schedule.
  5. At least 80 receiving yards for Jordan Matthews — This might seem like a high expectation to put on a rookie, but in his last three games with Sanchez, Matthews has posted 138, 107, and 77 yards respectively with no less than five catches in each game. There is no reason that strong rapport shouldn’t continue today, and the Eagles will be in great shape if it does should this one turn into the shootout many expect.

There you have it, folks. Sixty, two, 35, one, 80, and hopefully a huge road victory go along with delicious food.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks. Let’s win another big game in Dallas.

Take it away, Chip.

Fist Pump GIF

The Eagles-Cowboys Showdown is Important Today But Contrary to What Any National Narrative Might Suggest It Won’t Necessarily Decide the NFC East

By the time I finish writing this post, kickoff between the Eagles and Cowboys with first place in the division on the line will be less than nine hours away.

We’re getting closer, but that’s still a ton of time for more hype to be generated about the Thanksgiving matchup. This game has been circled on the slate for many since the schedule was released in late April, but the circumstances are a bit different than most expected, certainly a contrast to what I anticipated.

Yes, the Eagles head to Dallas with the exact same record as I thought they would at 8-3, but the Cowboys are also a surprising 8-3 when many picked them to win only five or six games. I like to think my predictions have been mostly decent, but Dallas right now, pending a ridiculous collapse that I don’t think even they are capable of, appears to be the big miss right now.

If you told me in August that the Eagles would head into this game 8-3, I would have told you that they would have the NFC East virtually clinched already, but they don’t, and despite what anyone tells you to create excitement, neither team will be that close to winning it as people loosen their belts tonight and settle in for Seahawks-49ers.

Today’s contest is no doubt important, and whichever team does win will have a bit of an easier path to the division crown, but unlike the Week 17 virtual playoff games in 2008 and 2013, this isn’t a do or die type of deal.

I do think though, that the Eagles head into today with a bit of a long-term advantage over Dallas. Let’s examine why:

These are the current NFC East standings:

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.16.05 AM

Take a look at that seventh column from the left there — The division record one.

You will see that the Eagles are undefeated in the division at 2-0 while Dallas sits at 2-1 after dropping a home game to Washington exactly one month ago to the day. That is so significant because if the teams split their two games and finish with the exact same record, it will be the first tiebreaker used to decide the division winner.

Below are both teams’ remaining schedules, with the Eagles first and the Cowboys below them.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.47 AM

Discounting the two games against each other in a three week span, the Eagles common opponents have a combined record of 13-20 while the Cowboys face teams with a cumulative record of 15-18.

Since the Eagles have not yet lost within the division, they could split their two games with Dallas, win all of the others, and take the division at 12-4. The same does not hold true for Dallas. Going 4-1 down the stretch would certainly put them in the playoffs, but if the Eagles matched them and took a game from them, they get the NFC East crown, a home playoff game, and quite possibly a first round bye.

Such a scenario would have the Eagles with a 5-1 record in the division while Dallas would only be 4-2.

How realistic is it to expect the Eagles to win all three games against the Seahawks, Redskins, and Giants?

That is up to your interpretation. They have already defeated the latter two at home, and Seattle looks like a much different team away from CenturyLink Field, currently holding a 2-3 road record.

The Eagles have not been road juggernauts this season though, also holding a 2-3 record away from Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants and Redskins are certainly not the 49ers, Cardinals, or Packers, but playing back-to-back NFC East road games late in the season is never a slam dunk, even against squads who have packed it in.

In stark contrast to the Eagles, the Cowboys are undefeated on the road and currently hold a 3-3 home record. Three of their last four games after today will be played elsewhere, but that might not be so bad if you think their strong road play holds up.

We have examined a lot of hypothetical scenarios, but quite honestly, the Eagles path to the division is in theory quite simple:

Win at least one game against Dallas and don’t lose any others.

How you feel about things over the next month ultimately depends on how you feel about different elements of the Eagles right now. Do you trust Chip Kelly down the stretch? I sure do and personally think you should, especially with extra time to prepare for the Seahawks. Do you trust Mark Sanchez to beat Dallas at least once if Nicky Foles isn’t back in two and a half weeks? That answer might be a bit more dicey for some.

I am not intentionally trying to downplay today’s matchup. It should be fun. It may be stressful, and like a lot of you, I will probably be doing battle with a food coma right before kickoff from eating an early dinner.

It may seem like I am cautioning you against a letdown throughout this post, but I actually think the Eagles are going to win 30-27. Provided Mark Sanchez can exorcise some demons of Thanksgiving past and not turn the ball over more than once or twice, the birds should be able to move the ball against a better than expected but still somewhat vulnerable Dallas defense and contain DeMarco Murray.

Just keep things in perspective. If we’re celebrating a huge road victory tonight, the Eagles will be in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champions, and I’ll be pumped as all hell, but don’t panic and go jumping off the Walt Whitman in a tryptophan induced rage should things not go right.

The national narrative might be that the winner today gets the division, but either way, there is a lot more work to be done.