It's still pretty crazy to think the Philadelphia Eagles are only two division wins away from making the 2016 NFL playoffs given how awful they looked just a few weeks ago. But thanks to the NFC East being one of the worst divisions in the league, the Birds are still very much alive.
But even if the Eagles get to the playoffs, will it really matter? Aren't they going to get bounced in the first round anyway? Maybe. According to Football Outsiders (via ESPN In$ider) , however, they have the best chance of NFC East team to win a playoff game. Here's their explanation:
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Weighted DVOA: -5.5% (19th)
Variance: 20.6% (31st)
Though Chip Kelly's offense has often sputtered and stopped, his defense has had some huge games this season. Let's not forget Week 6, when they intercepted Eli Manning twice and held the Giants to seven points. Or Week 5, when they beat the Saints 39-17, a margin that was skewed by a meaningless touchdown pass on the last play of the game. Or Week 3, when they intercepted Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick three times; Fitzpatrick has thrown only eight interceptions in his other 12 games. Of course, as that variance suggests, they have had some stinkers, too, and those stinkers have come in recent weeks, giving up 45 points in consecutive losses to the Lions and Buccaneers. You can expect that kind of inconsistency with a defense that relies on turnovers, and the Eagles have forced 25 this season, more than anyone except Carolina. The Eagles also play excellent special teams, led by Darren Sproles and his 434 yards and two touchdowns on punt returns, both the best figures in the league. We saw how dangerous the Eagles could be when they beat the Patriots 35-28 two weeks ago -- there's no reason they couldn't get similar big plays in the postseason.
As Football Outsiders points out, the Eagles are one of the highest variance teams in the NFL. Put differently, they're one of the least consistent. This can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, the Eagles might be able to upset a high quality opponent. On the other hand, it will be difficult for them to go on a run, which would be necessary to contend for the Super Bowl.
If Eagles clinch the division, which is far from guaranteed, they will likely play the Seahawks in the first round. Philadelphia lost to Seattle when the two teams faced off last season. Beating them won't be any easier this time around. Russell Wilson is playing at a very high level and Seatte appears to be red hot.
Chip Kelly has yet to win a playoff game in his three-year tenure as head coach. The Eagles were just a few points away from winning in the 2014 playoffs, but ultimately came up short to the Saints. Perhaps Kelly will get his first win in a year where it once looked like the Eagles didn't even have a shot to make the postseason.