Few things are more amazing than not having to deal with the stress of NFL wild-card weekend. The Philadelphia Eagles avoided that trap with their week 18 win over the New York Giants, clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Three NFC wild-card games will be played this weekend, so the Eagles await their opponent and time slot for the divisional round. The Eagles could play the Seahawks, Giants, Buccaneers, or Cowboys.
Let’s talk about each opponent individually and which of these teams is the biggest threat to our beloved Philadelphia Eagles next weekend.
The Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are the seven-seed and are slated to play the two-seed San Francisco 49ers on Saturday. The Eagles would face the Seahawks automatically if they pulled the upset since they are the lowest-seeded. Seattle quarterback Geno Smith has had a resurgence this season with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Their offense is top 13 at 23 points per game, with great weapons in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. Even with talent, however, their spotty defensive line would be obliterated by the sack-leading Eagles’ defensive line. Seattle’s other problem is they cannot consistently stop the opposition, allowing 23 points per game, and giving up as many points as their offense scores.
Their rushing defense allows 150 rushing yards per game, a great opportunity for Jalen Hurts, Sanders, and Gainwell. This could potentially be domination as long as Steichen calls adequate plays. It would be ideal to run, keep the ball out of Geno’s hands, and dominate. Seattle is the most flawed team the Eagles could face, making them a minimal threat.
The New York Giants
The Giants are a familiar opponent for the Eagles, are the six-seed, and are slated to play the three-seed Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. The Eagles would face the Giants if they managed to upset the Vikings AND the Seahawks lose to the 49ers. The Giants had no answer for Hurts, AJ Brown, and Devonta Smith in the first matchup, where the Eagles obliterated them 48-22.
The second matchup was lackluster, as the Giants rested starters, and the Eagles purposely ran a vanilla offense. It’s possible Steichen didn’t want to show his cards because of a potential divisional rematch, and the team didn’t want to go full throttle in fear of risking injury. Steichen knows what to do against this defense, and this is a great opportunity for Gannon as well.
Even though they are a rival, I don’t see the Giants having enough firepower to beat the Eagles in a divisional matchup, nor do I think they can stop the Eagles’ weapons. This matchup comes down to stopping Saquon Barkley and holding on to the football, as the Giants are a team that mainly wins games when they capitalize on turnovers.
If the Eagles did those two things in a divisional matchup, they would likely win by two scores. Their below-average offense scores 21 points per game and is one of the worst passing offenses in the league at 185 yards per game. Players on offense have been ravaged by injury, and the Giants offensive line allowed seven sacks in the first matchup. Their run defense is one of the worst in the league, allowing 144 yards per game. The Giants are a scarier team than the Seahawks, but they are not worth worrying about.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are the four-seed and are slated to play the Dallas Cowboys on Monday. They will be the Eagles’ opponent on the divisional weekend if they defeat the Cowboys, and the Seahawks and Giants both lose their matchups. Although they finished below .500 in a terrible NFC south division, the Buccaneers have talent and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, has been to the postseason countless times. The big stage doesn’t waver him.
Luckily for the Eagles, this Buccaneers’ offense would be a good matchup for their defense. The Buccaneers score an abysmal 18 points per game. They only win games if their defense has an outstanding performance. They are dead last in the league in rushing at 76 yards per game, so the Eagles’ defense could keep Tampa very one-dimensional. The Buccaneers are missing key players on their offensive line, a big opportunity for the Eagles defensive line.
If they shut down Leonard Fournette and the other running backs, this game could get one-sided quickly. The Buccaneers have a top-ten pass defense, are top-ten in sacking the quarterback, and have a passable run defense. Their defensive line against Lane Johnson, which will not be close to 100%, is very alarming. This is also a unit that could deliver big hits to Hurts’ shoulder, throwing him off his game.
An Eagles and Bucs matchup would have the makings of a sluggish first half because of both defenses, with the Eagles’ big-play offense taking over the game late. The Buccaneers are a bigger threat to the Eagles than the Seahawks and Giants for two reasons, the experience of Tom Brady and that tough defense.
The Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are the five-seed and are slated to play the Buccaneers on Monday. They will be the Eagles’ opponent if they defeat the Buccaneers and the Seahawks and Giants both lose their matchups. It’s hard to gauge how an Eagles and Cowboys matchup would go in the divisional round, given that both teams have beaten the other without their starting quarterbacks in the regular season.
This game has grind-it-out potential with a game-winning field goal or a shootout, but nothing in between. Both teams have a stout defense and big play potential on the offensive side of the ball. The Eagles have sacked the quarterback the most, leading the league, but the Cowboys are top-five in sacks. Both teams allow 20 points per game on defense. The Eagles score 28 points per game on offense, and Cowboys 27. The Eagles have turned the ball over less, but the Cowboys have allowed fewer sacks. This matchup literally couldn’t be closer on paper.
Even though the Eagles have a top 2 defense, Dak Prescott consistently plays well against the Eagles. It is encouraging, however, that Jalen Hurts has protected the football better. The Eagles’ defensive line could pressure Dak into mistakes, but Jalen’s shoulder and a limited Lane Johnson are the areas the Cowboys could exploit. The Eagles’ ability to protect the football would save them in this matchup, but we will sweat this game out to the end for a win. The Cowboys are 8-1 at home, 4-4 on the road this season.
That’s a huge deal. They are not the same away from Arlington, and the atmosphere in Philly could be too much. As much as we hate them, the Cowboys are the toughest opponent the Eagles can face on the divisional weekend, and it’s the matchup fans, and the media should want the least. They are the biggest threat and most talented of the lower-seeded teams, despite their postseason woes in the Prescott era.
Who do you think is the biggest threat to the Eagles on the divisional weekend? Who would you like to see the Eagles face?