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NFC Playoff Picture: Can the Eagles realistically be a wild card team?

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So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Week 13 of the 2018 NFL season featured a number of upsets. The results of some of those games actually helped the Philadelphia Eagles’ chances of making the playoffs, if only slightly. Let’s take a look at the updated NFC playoff picture.

NFC PLAYOFF PICTURE

PLAYOFF TEAMS

1 - Los Angeles Rams: 11-1 overall, 7-1 conference
2 - New Orleans Saints: 10-2 overall, 7-2 conference
3 - Chicago Bears: 8-4 overall, 6-2 conference
4 - Dallas Cowboys: 7-5 overall, 6-3 conference
5 - Seattle Seahawks: 7-5 overall, 6-3 conference
6- Washington Redskins: 6-5 overall, 6-3 conference

IN THE HUNT

7 - Minnesota Vikings: 6-5-1 overall, 5-3-1 conference
8 - Carolina Panthers: 6-6 overall, 4-5 conference
9 - Philadelphia Eagles: 5-6 overall, 3-5 conference
10 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5-7 overall, 4-5 conference

DEAD

11 - Green Bay Packers: 4-7-1 overall, 2-5-1 conference
12 - Atlanta Falcons: 4-8 overall, 4-4 conference
13 - New York Giants: 4-8 overall, 3-7 conference
14 - Detroit Lions: 4-8 overall, 2-7 conference
15 - Arizona Cardinals: 3-9 overall, 3-5 conference
16 - San Francisco 49ers: 2-10 overall, 1-8 conference

...

With the Vikings and Panthers losing this week, the Eagles suddenly aren’t so far away from claiming a wild card spot. So, just how likely is it?

If playoff odds are any indication, it’s not very likely at all. FiveThirtyEight’s updated odds only give the Eagles about a 6% chance at the wild card. The Football Outsiders odds haven’t been updated yet but heading into Week 13 they had the Eagles with a 0.6% chance at the wild card.

A big reason why the wild card is unlikely is because if the Eagles are going to play really well down the stretch, it’ll likely be good enough for them to win the division. Winning the wild card requires them to play well enough to make the playoffs but somehow not win the NFC East.

Thanks to help from ESPN’s playoff machine, I crafted a scenario where the Eagles win a wild card spot. Note that I tried to make the picks at least somewhat realistic and I tried to give the Eagles as little margin for error as possible while still having them make the playoffs. By this I mean that I’m not just picking the Panthers and Vikings to lose out, for example. I also had to give the Cowboys wins because otherwise the Eagles would just overtake them for the division lead.

Here it is:

Week 13: Eagles beat Washington in Philly

Week 14: Eagles beat Cowboys in Dallas, Browns beat Panthers in Cleveland*, Seahawks beat Vikings in Seattle*, Washington beats Giants in New York

Week 15: Rams beat Eagles in Los Angeles, Dolphins beat Vikings in Miami*, Cowboys beat Colts in Indianapolis, Saints beat Panthers in Carolina, Seahawks beat 49ers in San Francisco, Washington beats Jaguars in Jacksonville

Week 16: Eagles beat Texans in Philly, Cowboys beat Buccaneers in Dallas, Vikings beat Lions in Detroit, Panthers beat Falcons in Carolina, Washington beats Titans in Tennessee, Chiefs beat Seahawks in Seattle

Week 17: Eagles beat Washington in Washington, Panthers beat Saints in New Orleans (resting starters?), Cowboys beat Giants in New York, Seahawks beat Cardinals in Seattle, Vikings beat Bears in Chicago

And here’s what that mess looks like in the final standings:

Cowboys finish 10-6, win the NFC East

Seahawks go 10-6, win the No. 5 seed

Eagles finish 9-7, win the No. 6 seed

Washington 9-7, miss the playoffs due to Philly having the head-to-head tie-breaker

Vikings go 8-7-1, miss the playoffs

Panthers go 8-8, miss the playoffs

As you can see, this scenario has the Eagles going 4-1 down the stretch. That’s a tall task for a team that hasn’t won back-to-back games all year and isn’t playing particularly well.

Some of the key non-Eagles games in this scenario include: the Browns beating the Panthers, the Dolphins beating the Vikings, and the Seahawks also beating the Vikings. Note that the Eagles MUST have more wins than both Seattle and Minnesota in order to make the playoffs. The Panthers have a head-to-head tie-breaker over Philly and Minnesota likely won’t be in an identical overall record tie-breaker situation since they have a tie in their record.

Now that we’ve seen a playoff scenario that was designed to get the Eagles into the playoffs as a wild card, let’s take a look at one that’s more “realistic” in my opinion. Here’s how I’d personally predict the final games to play out (I do have the second best record in BGN pick predictions this year, for the record):

EAGLES: Washington (W), at Cowboys (L), at Rams (L), Texans (W), at Washington (W)

COWBOYS: Eagles (W), at Colts (L), Buccaneers (W), at Giants (W)

WASHINGTON: at Eagles (L), Giants (W), at Jaguars (L), at Titans (L), Eagles (L)

PANTHERS: at Browns (W), Saints (L), Falcons (W), at Saints (L)

SEAHAWKS: Vikings (W), at 49ers (W), Chiefs (L), Cardinals (W)

VIKINGS: at Seahawks (L), Dolphins (W), at Lions (W), Bears (W)

And here’s what that mess looks like in the final standings:

Cowboys finish 10-6, win the NFC East

Seahawks finish 10-6, win the No. 5 seed

Vikings finish 9-6-1, win the No. 6 seed

Panthers finish 8-8, miss the playoffs

Eagles finish 8-8, miss the playoffs

Washington finishes 7-9, miss the playoffs

I just don’t see it happening, folks.

And even if it does, the Eagles will have to win three road playoff games just to make it to the Super Bowl. If you count the London matchup against the Jaguars as a neutral field, Philadelphia is 1-3 in true away games this season.

My advice is to not consider the wild card as a realistic option for the Eagles. The more realistic focus should be on winning the division. You can CLICK HERE to read how the Eagles can become NFC East champions.