NFL Playoff Picture: Here’s How The Eagles Can Make The Postseason
It’s apparent by now the Eagles aren’t winning the NFC East this year. The Dallas Cowboys are running away with the division at 9-1. Sitting at 5-5, Philadelphia is also two games behind the second place 7-3 Giants and 1.5 games behind the third place 6-3-1 Washington Redskins. Oh, and all of the Eagles’ rivals currently hold a head-to-head tie-breaker over the Birds.
But the Eagles don’t need to win the division in order to make the 2016 NFL playoffs. There’s still hope Philadelphia can latch on as the fifth or sixth seed in the NFC playoff picture.
Before mapping out the Eagles’ path to the playoffs, let’s take a look at the updated playoff odds. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Eagles a 27.8% chance of qualifying for the post-season. Football Outsiders, which has the Eagles ranked second in DVOA, lists the Eagles at 40.5%. Lastly, FiveThirtyEight has the Birds at an even 27%.
The odds obviously aren’t favorable, but they do indicate the Eagles’ playoff hopes aren’t just a total pipe-dream. And that makes sense when looking at the current NFC playoff standings.
1 – Dallas Cowboys (9-1)
2 – Seattle Seahawks (7-2-1)
3 – Detroit Lions (6-4)
4 – Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
5 – New York Giants (7-3)
6 – Washington Redskins (6-3-1)
7 – Minnesota Vikings (6-4)
8 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5)
9 – Philadelphia Eagles (5-5)
10 – Arizona Cardinals (4-5-1)
11 – New Orleans Saints (4-6)
12 – Carolina Panthers (4-6)
13 – Green Bay Packers (4-6)
14 – Los Angeles Rams (4-6)
15 – Chicago Bears (2-8)
16 – San Francisco 49ers (1-9)
The key for the Eagles to make the playoffs isn’t a secret. They simply need to take care of business down the stretch. Four more wins might get them in if they get help from other teams ahead of them losing, but they’ll likely need five out of their last six to qualify for the postseason.
The good news for the Birds is that four out of their remaining games will be played at home. Playing at Lincoln Financial Field has been a big advantage for the Eagles this year. They’re outscoring opponents 108-38 at the Linc. The Eagles’ remaining four home games include a tilt against the reeling Packers on Monday Night Football this week before going on to face each of their NFC East rivals. Here’s a looking at Philadelphia’s remaining schedule.
Assuming the Eagles will win all of their home games isn’t an easy assumption due to how the Birds have struggled in division games this year (0-3). Then again, the outcome of those games might be different if the Birds weren’t playing on the road. It’s also worth noting Philadelphia’s Week 17 game against the Cowboys could feature Dallas sitting their starters if they’re already locked up their playoff positioning.
So if the Eagles do go 4-0 at home to make it a perfect 8-0 on the season, they’ll likely need to win just one out of two road games. The Birds’ remaining away matchups include the Bengals in Cincinnati and the Ravens in Baltimore. It seems like the Eagles can get at least one win, if not two, out of that bunch. And if the Eagles can get two road wins, that gives them a little more breathing room to lose a game at home.
Make no mistake, the Eagles need to help themselves a lot in order to make the playoffs. But their odds will increase if they can get some help by seeing other NFC East teams, specifically the Giants and Washington, start to lose. Here’s a look at the remaining schedules for those two teams, starting with New York.
The G-Men could easily advance to 8-3 with a game against the winless Browns this week but things will get more difficult after that. I could see New York finishing the season at 9-7. And now for a look at Washington’s schedule.
Washington could be looking at 8-7-1 or 9-6-1 here. The fact that they play the Eagles on the third game of a road stretch historically doesn’t bode well for the team that’s owned the Birds in recent history.
The Eagles won’t just be rooting for division rivals to lose. They should also be keeping an eye on other NFC teams. Philadelphia should hope the Falcons lose their lead in the NFC South so that the Eagles’ head-to-head tie-breaker comes into play for the sake of the wild card. The same thing goes for the Vikings. Eagles fans should be hoping Detroit can hold on to the NFC North lead, especially since the Lions hold a direct tie-breaker over the Eagles.
Philadelphia has every reason to want to make the playoffs this season. For one, it’s still within reach. The Eagles also don’t own their own first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft so it’s not like tanking the season does anything for them. Making a postseason push could also potentially push out one of the Eagles’ division rivals out of the playoffs.
At the same time, it’s fair to wonder just how long the Eagles would last in the postseason. Winning a wild card seed means the Eagles would have to play on the road. It’s no secret the Birds haven’t fared well in away games this season; they’re 1-5 in those contests.
Still, there might be hope for this team’s chances. They rank second in DVOA and third in point differential. In other words, there’s evidence to suggest they’re better than their 5-5 record indicates. And one could figure if the Eagles do make the playoffs, it’ll only happen because they got hot down the stretch. In that sense, Philadelphia could figure to be a dangerous team once the postseason begins.
Failing to make the playoffs this year wouldn’t make the season a total failure for the Eagles. Carson Wentz has shown the making of a franchise quarterback and Doug Pederson has showed some promise as a head coach. But it would sure be more encouraging for the team’s prospects moving forward if they didn’t collapse at the end of this season.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Birds fare down the stretch. Next up for the Eagles is a game against a struggling Packers team. Now’s the time for Philadelphia to step up and keep their playoff hopes alive.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Suspended offensive tackle Lane Johnson is suing the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
“No matter how much it hurts, that is the part [Tony] Romo must come to terms with or the ending of his sports career in DFW will turn far worse.” NFC East Roundup.
How far do the Eagles fall in this week’s NFL Power Rankings?
“They need to buy receiver Nelson Agholor a one-way plane ticket to San Francisco, pin the boarding pass to his lapel so he doesn’t drop it and force to sign a receipt when he arrives.” What They’re Saying.
“The way to get him back on track is I’ve got to do a better job with the run game.” Doug Pederson says in order to get Carson Wentz going again, the run game has to be addressed.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
If it’s needed, Doug Pederson says rookie Wendell Smallwood can take the majority of carries, pens Dave Zangaro of CSNPhilly.com.
Smallwood, the West Virginia product, played 38 snaps against the Seahawks, by far the most of his career. He ended up with 13 carries for 48 yards to go along with four catches for 31 yards (he had just one catch coming into Sunday).
For the season, Smallwood has 57 carries for 253 yards and a touchdown. Among players with at least 55 rushing attempts this season, Smallwood’s 4.4 yards per carry average ranks 19th in the league and fifth among rookies.
Smallwood is the first Eagle to have 250-plus yards rushing in his first 10 games since LeSean McCoy in 2009. He’s just the 12th Eagles player to rush for at least 250 yards in his first 10 games since 1970.
Smallwood, 22, is on pace for just over 400 yards this season, but that number could be much higher depending on the statuses of his fellow running backs.
Les Bowen of the Daily News explains how the Eagles’ wide receivers have been diminishing in talent for the past few seasons.
The devaluing of existing offensive weaponry, and poor decisions made attempting to replace it, helped lead to Chip Kelly‘s firing. We don’t need to go through all that again, you know the names and the reasons – DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy, Jeremy Maclin. Put those guys on the field with Wentz right now and you’d have a team competitive with anyone in the NFC.
So the problem was obvious when Howie Roseman wrested control back from Kelly last December. But solutions were not. Roseman put much of his energy and resources into positioning the franchise to draft Wentz, along the way getting rid of contracts Kelly had given to DeMarco Murray and Byron Maxwell that would have crippled his ability to maneuver.
There were no instant Pro Bowl, franchise-building-block wide receivers available in free agency, and the Eagles didn’t have that level of cap space. Roseman shopped at the bargain table for Rueben Randle, a former Giants second-round pick, and Chris Givens, a receiver with a pedigree as a sometimes-starter with the Rams and Ravens who had breakaway speed. It was reasonable to think both would make the team and contribute, even if they weren’t “the answer.”
The background here was that management was still very hopeful about Agholor, thinking new coach Pederson’s West Coast system and a new wide-receivers coach, Greg Lewis, would turn him around from an alarming, 23-catch rookie year. And though after two years of Josh Huff, it was pretty clear Kelly’s Oregon project wasn’t ever going to achieve greatness, Huff was a threat in open space with the ball, and maybe he, too, would benefit from better coaching.
Doug Pederson will address the media at 10:55.
Chris Jastrzembski contributed to this post.