Skol, Vikings! Thanks to Minnesota’s Sunday night loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Eagles are officially in the playoffs for the first time since 2019. The playoff appearance caps off what has been an extremely successful — and quite unexpected — season for first-year head coach Nick Sirianni.
Per 6ABC’s Jeff Skversky, Nick Sirianni becomes just the fourth rookie head coach to clinch a playoff spot after starting the season 2-5 or worst, while having the most wins (nine) of any new Eagles head coach since Ray Rhodes in 1995, and the most wins of any new head coach in 2021.
For a team that seemed dead in the water at the start of the season — and a HC who was mocked for his nervous pressers, high school-like habits, and flower analogies — the clinch is a fantastic reward for the perseverance.
Additionally, you’d be hard-pressed to say Philadelphia needs to move on from Jalen Hurts, who now becomes both a Pro-Bowl alternate and a playoff QB in only his second season. With three first-round picks in hand, the franchise looks to be on a bright path.
What Do The Birds Do Now?
The upcoming Eagles-Cowboys matchup was just flexed to Saturday night at 8:15 p.m. The rivalry always deserves to have the spotlight, but there’s a good chance it’s not as high-stakes as their last dual was.
Dallas is almost certain to sit their key players and start their backups. In that event, quarterback Cooper Rush — would had a 40.7 QBR in the only game he’s started this season — would get the nod.
While the Eagles could still theoretically play their starters in an attempt for a better seed, it doesn’t seem worth it. The team has had quite a few scares, both COVID-19 and physically, in the past few weeks. It’d be better to not push that luck.
Getting Gardner Minshew a few reps wouldn’t be the worst thing, either – if Philadelphia plans to shop him in the offseason, one more decent game could help to drive up his overall price. To sum things up, the Eagles would still have a very winnable chance even with their depth chart playing.
Who Will Be The Eagles Opponent In The Playoffs?
As of right now, the Eagles — who control the seventh seed — would play the second seed Rams (12-4) at Los Angeles in the Wild Card Round. A win in Week 17 would bump the Eagles up to the sixth seed, where they would take on the third seed Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12-4).
However, even if the Eagles lose in Week 17, they could still end up playing Tampa Bay if the San Francisco 49ers win against Los Angeles. One interesting possible matchup that could take place is the Birds vs. the Arizona Cardinals. That scenario would need the Carolina Panthers to beat TB, SF to beat LA, and Dallas to beat Philadelphia in the final week.
If you’re curious about all the possible playoff scenarios, you can take a look at the graph below (per Deniz Selman):
Complete seeding/matchup scenarios for NFC playoffs going into Week 18. #NFLPlayoffs #FlyEaglesFly pic.twitter.com/EDRaQMD0zw
— Deniz Selman (@denizselman33) January 3, 2022
It’s a bit disappointing that the Eagles’ likeliest matchup (vs. TB) is by far the hardest. While the Birds have taken down Tom Brady before, he’s always a different beast in the playoffs. Playing against him at home is not ideal.
Yes, Tampa Bay is lacking weapons. Chris Godwin is out for the year, and Antonio Brown just underwent on the greatest — or worst — “I quit” performance ever. Both Rob Gronkowski and Mike Evans continue to be hampered by reoccurring minor injuries. But to discount the defending champions just seems silly.
While the star-studded Rams and Cooper Kupp would give the Eagles’ secondary a run for their money, Sean McVay is 0-2 against the Eagles at home. Of course, both those losses came back in 2017-18, so it’s hard to rely on that specific stat too much.
The Cardinals matchup would be juicy on all fronts. While they did just take down the Cowboys, Arizona started the season 10-2 and now find themselves at 11-5 following a three-game tumble, continuing to raise questions about the Cardinals’ play down the stretch.
The showdown would be Kliff Kingbury’s first playoff game, so there wouldn’t be an advantage between the two head coaches. Plus, there’s the Zach Ertz factor, which would definitely add to the overall energy of the game. Regardless of who the opponent is, the Eagles will need to be as prepared as possible for a tough battle.