The Eagles fell short of winning the NFC East earning a playoff berth in 2020. They have a good shot at making amends as a NFC wild-card team for the 2021 playoffs.
Philadelphia (8-7) goes into Week 17 close to getting into the seven-team field as the current No. 7 seed and third wild card. Here’s how the Eagles can make it two playoff teams in the division behind the East champion Cowboys.
Eagles playoff chances
The Eagles control their own fate as they hold a one-game lead over the Vikings, Falcons and Saints, all 7-8. If Philadelphia can win out, beating Washington on the road in Week 17 and Dallas at home in Week 18, it would be in the NFC playoffs as no worse than the No. 7 seed with a final record of 10-7.
At 10-7, the Eagles would have a chance to move up all the way to No. 5 if the 10-5 Cardinals lose out. In that scenario, the Eagles would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker based on conference record. That’s not out of the question, as the Cardinals travel to the Cowboys (11-4) in Week 17 and close with the spoil-minded Seahawks (5-10) at home in Week 18.
The 49ers (8-7) at No. 6 are easier to jump. San Francisco holds the head-to-head tiebreaker because of a Week 2 win over Philadelphia. But the 49ers, after playing the Texans (4-11) as heavy favorites in Week 17, close with the NFC West-leading Rams (11-4) on the road in Week 18.
Like the 49ers, however, the Eagles don’t have much margin for error. The Saints in particular have a very favorable schedule, at home vs. the Panthers (5-10) in Week 8 before finishing with the Falcons in Week 18.
That New Orleans-Atlanta matchup is great for Philadelphia, knowing one of those teams behind them will lose, barring an improbable tie. As for the Vikings, they finish at the Packers (12-3) in Week 17 and vs. the Bears (5-10) in Week 18.
The Eagles can clinch their wild-card spot in Week 17 if all the results go their way. First, they would need to beat Washington, Second, they would need the Vikings to lose. Third, they would need either the Saints to lose or the 49ers to win. That’s a reasonable process to play out, based on who’s favored in the games.
Should Philadelphia take its uncertain playoff hopes into Week 18, it will hope that Green Bay clinches the No. 1 NFC seed in Week 17, which it can do with a win and a Dallas loss. If that happens, then the Cowboys would be in position to rest players, with not much difference between the No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. That would make it a lot easier for the Eagles to win that game with unfinished business.
However you look at it, the Eagles need to focus on themselves most and also hope the Packers, 49ers and/or Panthers help them out on Sunday. A win in Week 17 means a near-certain playoff berth; a loss means a lot is left to lesser chance.