In the Eagles’ first playoff game, they could play Seattle, Dallas, the Giants or Tampa Bay. That’s an intriguing lineup in the you-never-know NFL.
Which team would you rather play? Which team do you want to avoid?
Be careful what you wish for. You might go macho and proclaim that you want to play Dallas first in the playoffs. But do you?
Do you *really* want a serving of ice-cold revenge against Tom Brady and the Bucs?
Meantime, the Eagles work to improve and tighten during their bye week. Jan. 21 or 22 will get here soon enough.
- If the Seahawks defeat the 49ers on Saturday, the Eagles will play the Seahawks.
- If the Seahawks lose and the Giants defeat the Vikings on Sunday, the Eagles will play the Giants.
- If the Seahawks and Giants lose, the Eagles will play the winner of Monday night’s game between the Cowboys and Buccaneers.
Seattle needed an overtime win against the 4-12 Rams to sneak into the playoffs. The Seahawks finished 9-8, considered a surprise after they traded quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver in the offseason.
Geno Smith, 32, has revived his career. He won the quarterback job at camp over Drew Lock. Smith completed 69.8 percent of his passes this season with 30 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Seattle had the 13th-ranked offense this season.
From 2015-20, Smith only started two games. He threw 101 passes and four touchdown passes while playing for the Jets, Giants, Chargers and Seahawks.
The Seahawks, normally great on defense, was ranked only 26th in total defense.
The teams have met once in the playoffs, a 17-9 Seattle win in Philly in a wild card game in January 2020.
The Eagles defeated the Giants twice this season — a 46-22 drubbing on Dec. 11, and the 22-16 victory on Sunday.
Sunday’s game featured not many Giants starters, as New York had its playoff position locked in. Jalen Hurts “hurt like hell,” after the game, according to Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. The bye week time off might help Hurts the most, although other injured players will benefit from the downtime.
An NFL axiom states it is difficult to defeat a team three times in a season. Just last season, the 49ers won both regular-season games against the Rams but lost in the NFC title game. The Rams went on to win the Super Bowl.
Since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger, there have been 23 occasions when teams have played three times in a season after one team won the first two match-ups. The record for the 2-0 team is 14-9 in the playoff game.
The odds have increased since 1994, when the 2-0 team is 10-5 in the playoff game.
Historical precedent aside, if I’m the Eagles, I’d be concerned about Saquon Barkley, Daniel Jones and the Giants defense. The Giants put pressure on Hurts while predominantly using back-ups. It was apparent early that Hurts wasn’t going to get his usual designed quarterback runs and the Giants defense adjusted accordingly.
Will you get the Week 18 Cowboys — the ones that lost to Washington, 26-6 — or the Dallas team that wiped out the 8-1 Vikings in Minneapolis, 40-3, on Nov. 20?
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown interceptions in the last seven games. He is tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions in only 12 games. But he’s had his moments. He picked apart the Eagles on Christmas Eve, going 27-of-35 for 347 yards and three touchdowns.
Dallas could have a decent running game with Zeke Elliott and Tony Pollard but the Cowboys seem to abandon the run early.
Dallas’ defense remains stout, ranked 12th. Its strengths are sacks (fourth in the NFL) and turnovers (plus-10, second in the NFL) — often determining factors whether teams win playoff games.
With the Eagles being such a fierce rival of Dallas, you can expect the Cowboys to bring everything — and then some — should the teams meet again.
OK, the payback game. Last year, the Bucs ended the Eagles’ season, 31-15, in the wild card game in Tampa.
The Bucs were the defending champions. They had swagger and so did Brady. This season, the Bucs are 8-9 and only 3-5 on the road. Brady is 7-0 against the Cowboys in his career and has defeated Dallas the last two years with the Bucs.
Brady is 45 years old. At some point, he will fade. It’s not easy saying that about a guy who has been to 10 Super Bowls — and won seven of them — but today’s Bucs look less formidable than last year’s Bucs. Still, he’s Tom Brady and he has long defied the odds.
Given the choice, I’d rather play Seattle than the other three. Unleash the pass rush on Smith. Feed off the Linc crowd. Run the ball.
Hurts will play but no one knows at what capacity. Protect Hurts as well as you can. The Eagles are 14-3 for a reason.