ESPN recently revealed their FPI projections for the 2017 NFL season. We already looked at how their model projects the Eagles to have a 34.2% chance of making the playoffs this year.
The good news is those playoffs odds can go up significantly. The bad news is they can also take a big hit. According to FPI, there is one game on the Eagles’ schedule that is clearly their most critical matchup of the season. It’s also the 12th most important game of the entire 2017 schedule.
You probably won’t be surprised to see it’s the Eagles’ matchup against Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, Nov. 19.
12. Philadelphia Eagles
Key game: at Cowboys (Week 11) | Playoff leverage: 23 percent
The Eagles never need extra motivation to beat the Cowboys, but a road win over the FPI division favorites would be the difference between a near coin flip to make the playoffs (49.1 percent) to roughly a 1-in-4 chance (26.1 percent) with a loss.
There’s little doubt the Eagles will desperately want that win in Dallas. Philadelphia really should have won their first matchup against the Cowboys last season. They were the better team for most of the game. A few bad coaching decisions by Doug Pederson ended up being the difference, however. Not to mention a dropped potential game-ending interception by Leodis McKelvin on a throw from Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter, but no one ever seems to want to mention that.
The Eagles will enter their most important game of the 2017 season with an advantage. Philadelphia has their bye in Week 10 so the team should be well-rested heading into that matchup. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have a 4:25 PM ET road game against the Falcons the week before playing the Eagles.
Winning on the road in the NFL is rarely easy, but the Eagles haven’t struggled too much in Dallas recently. Philadelphia is 4-2 in their last six games against the Cowboys in Texas. Easily could have been 5-1 if not for the overtime loss last year.
While this year’s Week 11 matchup is the Eagles’ most important game, it’s not the most critical tilt for Dallas. That comes in Week 1, believe it or not, with their game against the Giants. It’s actually the most important game of the entire season, according to FPI’s projections.
Put simply, if the Cowboys start 1-0, FPI will give them a 70.8 percent chance of reaching the 2017 playoffs. Lose that game, and their odds to reach the postseason drop below a coin flip (46.7 percent).
Meanwhile, the Giants' playoff chances are 55.9 percent with a win in Dallas in Week 1, a figure that plummets to 30.3 percent if they lose.
Based on those odds, Eagles fans should be rooting for a Cowboys loss in that one. The Giants are historically not very much of a head-to-head threat to Philadelphia anyway.
Elsewhere around the NFC East, Washington’s most important game comes against the Cowboys in Week 13.
Key game: at Cowboys (Week 13) | Playoff leverage: 21.1 percent
The Redskins' trip to Dallas looms largest in their playoff quest -- just as it is for the division-rival Giants and Eagles. FPI sees a road win against the Cowboys as the primary driver of their chances to make the postseason (38.3 percent if they do).
Even with a win in this situation, Washington’s chances still aren’t super. Rooting for a Cowboys loss is probably the move here.
It’s probably just a little too early to be taking these projections super seriously. But it’s the offseason and we’re bored so here we are. Hopefully the Eagles march into Dallas this year and walk away with that win they came so close to pulling off last year.