Scoreboard Watching: Key Games In Week 14

Week 13 produced a mixed bag of returns regarding the Eagles playoff hopes. The Saints’ offense disappearing against Dallas was maddening, allowing the Cowboys to retain a one-game lead over the Eagles. San Francisco (expectedly) provided no help as they got crushed by the Seahawks.

However, despite the surprising Dallas win, the Eagles got a fair amount of favorable results as well. The Cardinals beat the Packers, putting Green Bay in a very tough spot. The Bucs stepped up and beat the Panthers, a huge result for the Eagles, and the Patriots handled business against the Vikings, keeping Minnesota in the Eagles’ sights as well.

All of this serves to set up a huge Week 14 as the Birds try to claw their way back into the playoff picture. A division title remains the clearest way to the postseason, but the Wild Card door remains open as well, so we’ll continue to explore all possible roads to the playoffs. Here are the games Eagles fans should be paying attention to this week.

Carolina (6-6) at Cleveland (4-7-1), 1 PM

The Eagles are currently tied with Carolina, sitting a half-game out of the final Wild Card spot. The Panthers have a huge edge courtesy of their head-to-head win over the Birds, but a Carolina loss paired with an Eagles win would allow the Birds to jump the Panthers for now. With that head-to-head loss complicating things, every Carolina loss is huge.

Minnesota (6-5-1) at Seattle (7-5), 8:15 PM Monday

The Monday night matchup will have huge ramifications for the Eagles, and the Birds will be happy to see one of these teams take an L. Determining which outcome would be better for the Eagles is a little more complicated.

Seattle already knows a Wild Card berth is its only path to the playoffs as the Rams have clinched the division, and the Seahawks have a two-game lead on the Birds in the conference record department. Meanwhile the Vikings hold a head-to-head win over the Eagles.

A Seattle win would give the Eagles an opportunity to jump the Vikings, while a Minnesota win would give the Eagles a chance to get within a half-game of the Vikes and tie the Seahawks.

Despite Minnesota’s head-to-head win over the Eagles, it appears the Birds have a much better chance of overtaking the Vikings than they to the Seahawks. Even if the Seahawks lose this game and the Eagles beat Dallas to tie them, the ‘Hawks would still have an edge in conference record with NFC games against the 49ers and Cardinals remaining, likely wins for Seattle. That would be hard for the Eagles to overcome.

If the Vikings lose and get jumped by the Eagles, they would be under tremendous pressure to win out to get into the playoffs with games against the Dolphins, Lions, and Bears remaining. The Dolphins are on the fringe of the AFC playoff race, while the Bears should have plenty to play for come Week 17.

Generally, every outcome that keeps the leading number of wins for a Wild Card spot as low as possible is better for the Eagles at this point. But when you look at tiebreaker situations and remaining schedules, it’s hard to not conclude a Vikings loss is the more favorable outcome despite the fact that it would push the number of wins for a Wild Card berth up.

The good news is that, barring a tie, one of these teams will lose and the Eagles will have the opportunity to either jump one of the teams ahead of them or remain in the mix in an increasingly convoluted playoff picture.

Overview

Obviously, all of this is moot if the Eagles don’t handle their own business. If they’re lucky, they can afford one more loss and with the Rams and Texans looming, Sunday against the Cowboys isn’t it. A win against Dallas gets the Eagles to the front of the pack in the NFC East and keeps them squarely in the mix in the Wild Card. A loss gives them zero margin for error the rest of the way and leaves them at the mercy of other outcomes to even think about a playoff appearance. With the ability to salvage the season at their fingertips, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles come out looking like defending Super Bowl champions or like the wildly inconsistent team we have seen for much of the season.

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