Kirk Cousins overcame the narratives against him — can’t win on the road against good teams, can’t win in prime time — and helped the Vikings dump a 28-24 loss on the heads of the Cowboys in Dallas last night. Earlier in the day, the Atlanta Falcons did the Eagles a solid by taking down the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers defeated the Carolina Panthers, and the Pittsburgh Steelers took down Blake Bortles and the Los Angeles Rams.
Genius, that Sean McVay.
It should be noted that, if the season were to end right now, the Eagles would still be on the outside looking in.
But they now share a 5-4 record with the Rams and Panthers and are tied with the Cowboys atop the NFC East (although technically Dallas is still in first thanks to their head-to-head defeat of the Birds earlier this season).
So what does all this mean moving forward? What are the Eagles’ odds of actually getting in the playoffs? The New York Times has a postseason simulator that gives the odds of the Eagles making the playoffs based on how they do the rest of the season, game-by-game.
For this exercise, we’re going to assume the Eagles beat the Dolphins in Miami, defeat the Giants twice and handle Washington in the nation’s capitol. That leaves three games in question, home games against the Patriots, Seahawks and Cowboys. Let’s also assume that, whatever the combination of wins and losses, an 11-5 record gets the Eagles into the postseason. The NY Times simulation bears that out, by the way.
The options below are all what could happen if the Eagles lose at least two games the rest of the way and finish with a record no better than 10-6 (postseason odds in parenthesis and are approximate).
Loss vs. Patriots, vs. Seahawks, win vs. Cowboys - (96%)
According to the Times’ simulator, the Eagles would have a 96% chance of making the postseason even if they lose each of the next two weeks yet still beat the Cowboys in Week 16. There would only be a 1% chance of a first round bye, but a 93% chance they’d host a wild card game as the winner of the NFC East.
The Eagles could also lose to the Dolphins and, if they beat the Cowboys and finish with a 9-7 record, still have an 83% chance of making the postseason. This Dallas game in Week 16 is kind of a big one, kids.
But what are the odds of the Eagles making the playoffs if they lose to Dallas again? Not awesome, but not impossible.
Loss vs. Patriots, Seahawks and Cowboys, wins against everyone else - (22%)
Under this scenario, the Eagles would finish 9-7 and would need a lot of help to get in. There would only be a 21% chance they’d win the division, and they’d have almost no shot of winning a wild card. This is what we like to call “The Nightmare Scenario.”
Win vs. Patriots, Loss vs. Seahawks and Cowboys - (67%)
So let’s say the Eagles beat New England on Sunday, but lose to Seattle and Dallas. That gives them a 10-6 record and a much better chance of reaching the postseason, but it would by no means be a lock. They would have just an 11% chance of winning one of the two wild cards but would have a 55% chance of hosting a postseason game in the wild card round because Seattle would be virtually impossible to overtake in the wild card race, and the Eagles have already lost to Minnesota, the other team holding down one of the two wild card spots. Their lone path to the playoffs would be Dallas having a worse record than Philadelphia, thus giving the Eagles the NFC East crown.
Win vs. Seahawks, Loss vs. Patriots and Cowboys - (82%)
This is why, if the Eagles are going to lose one of these next two games against the Patriots and Seahawks, the game to win is against Seattle. The Birds’ postseason chances increase 15% if they swap victories, and their wild card chances go up to 23%, up from 11%, with a 59% chance of hosting a wild card game. It would give the Eagles the head-to-head edge over Seattle should the teams tie at 10-6.
Now, let’s get crazy and see what their chances of securing a first round bye in the postseason would be.
Chances of No. 2 Seed
If the Eagles win out and finish 12-4, their chances of securing the No. 2 seed is around 37%, but there is virtually no way they can overtake San Francisco and grab the No. 1 seed, at 6%.
But how about if they finish 11-5? Can they still get a No. 2 seed? Yeah, but according to the NY Times simulations, it’s very unlikely. Their best shot is losing to one of the two AFC teams on their schedule, the Patriots or Dolphins. If they lose just one more game in 2019, and it’s to one of those two teams, their odds of getting a first round bye are around 10-11%.
If they finish 11-5 but one of their losses is to Washington, Seattle or New York, the odds are around 6-8%. If they lose their lone game to Dallas, their odds of getting the No. 2 seed are around 5%.
The simulator is fun to play with and is by no means gospel, but it is reflective of past trends and what has happened in the past. Obviously, the Eagles’ postseason odds heading into last year’s game against the Rams in New Orleans were well below 10%, with just three weeks left, and they almost made it to the NFC Championship Game.
All this means is that the Eagles’ most important game of the season is coming in Week 16. If they can handle business and beat the teams they’re supposed to beat until then, the NFC East Championship will take place at Lincoln Financial Field, most likely on Sunday Night Football.