Alright, y’all. We’re double-digit weeks into the 2016 NFL season, which means looking at the playoff standings section of ESPN’s standings page has migrated from “Playoffs? We’re talking about playoffs?”-level look-aheadery to “Hey, maybe this can happen?”-level preparation.
After each Eagles game going forward, we’ll check in on how their playoff chances are looking, and try to make some sense of it. As we get really dang close to the wire, we’ll start to look at potential scenarios, but if you think I’m doing scenarios seven weeks out after spending all day at a football stadium, you’re as delusional as I feel right now.
(I’m not doing it.)
After 10 weeks, here’s what the NFC playoff picture looks like:
1. Cowboys (8-1)
2. Seahawks (6-2-1)
3. Falcons (6-4)
4. Lions (5-4)
5. Giants (5-3)
6. Washington (5-3-1)
IN THE HUNT
7. Eagles (5-4)
8. Vikings (5-4)
9. Cardinals (4-4-1)
10. Buccaneers (4-5)
11. Saints (4-5)
12. Packers (4-5)
13. Rams (4-5)
14. Panthers (3-6)
So (here comes your favorite phrase!) if the season ended today, the Eagles would be on the outside looking in. The Giants play tonight, but even if they lose, because of their head-to-head record with the Eagles, they’d be the six seed.
Fret not, however. The Eagles have plenty of cards left in their hand. They face four of the six teams ahead of them (Seattle next week, each divisional opponent at home), and they’ve already played the other two (lost to the Lions, beat the Falcons).
In theory, the Eagles should be able to (here comes another!) control their own destiny. They have a ton of key games remaining against conference opponents, and after beating the Falcons on Sunday, they have a case for being a top team in the NFC... if they can finally handle their business against the division.
The Eagles have been tremendous at home. Let’s say we’re extremely generous and give them the other four games at home as wins — that is, they beat each divisional foe and also the Packers, who gave up 47 points to the Titans today and generally look like poo. That puts the Birds at nine wins, which could... possibly put them in the playoffs?
But to be safe -- and 10-6 is usually Wild Card-level safe -- you’d like the Eagles to steal a game on the road.
The Seahawks are the least-likely of the Eagles’ remaining road games to be that steal. Seattle’s defense is stingy, and they have Russell Wilson, who is good.
Which leaves the Ravens and Bengals as possible steals. I think the Eagles can with both of these games, but if we’re only choosing one, I like the idea of beating Cincinnati on the road a bit more.
So, that’s where the Eagles stand with respect to the playoffs for now. We’ll see what happens! In any case, that Doug Pederson has his team so high in the playoff conversation in his first season, with a rookie quarterback who has no wide receivers, is extremely good news for Eagles fans.