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, what’s this looking like?”-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 six weeks out after spending all day watching the Eagles be awful, you’re as delusional as I feel right now.
(I’m not doing it.)
After 11 weeks, here’s what the NFC playoff picture looks like:
1. Cowboys (9-1)
2. Seahawks (7-2-1)
3. Lions (6-4)
4. Falcons (6-4)
5. Giants (7-3)
6. Washington (6-3-1)
IN THE HUNT
7. Vikings (6-4) 0.5 GB
8. Buccaneers (5-5) 1.5 GB
9. Eagles (5-5) 1.5 GB
10. Cardinals (4-5-1) 2 GB
11. Packers (4-6) 2.5 GB
12. Saints (4-6) 2.5 GB
13. Panthers (4-6) 2.5 GB
14. Rams (4-6) 2.5 GB
So (here comes your favorite phrase!) if the season ended today, the Eagles would be in a less-than-ideal spot. Last week, they were the No. 7 team in the conference, with their fate essentially in their own hands: they had games against four of the six teams in front of them in the standings.
Yesterday, they lost to the Seahawks. It was really, really ugly.
But are their playoff chances doomed? I’m saying no for now, considering how I sized up their playoff chances last week:
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.
I had the Eagles losing the game to the Seahawks, as most rational people did. Seattle is a Super Bowl contender. The Eagles are not.
There is still a path to 10 wins for the Eagles, although after another week of Dallas proving largely infallible, and the Eagles looking shakier than they have in a couple weeks, the likelihood of that scenario is... waning.
It seems most likely right now that the Eagles will finish 9-7. I’m very willing to give them wins over the newly-A.J. Green-less Bengals on the road, and the Packers, the Giants, and Washington at home. All four of those games are eminently winnable games.
The Ravens, however, will likely pose some trouble on the road, especially if the Eagles are short one running back (looking at you, Ryan Mathews) or, even wore, two (please come back, Darren Sproles.)
And, unless Dallas has the NFC East wrapped up by Week 17 — which, admittedly, is very possible at this point — I doubt the Eagles can beat the red-hot Cowboys, despite the home-field advantage.
So, nine wins? Not bad. Very often wild card teams get in with nine teams. The top handful of teams in the NFC seem to be a little better than usual, though, and 10 wins might be the marker this season.
In any case, the Eagles need to start winning games if they want any shot at the playoffs.