It was like pulling teeth but the Eagles finally clinched the NFC East and a first round bye which has become even more crucial with their recent injury spurt.
Giving Jalen Hurts an extra week to recover along with Lane Johnson, Josh Sweat, and Avonte Maddox is a huge help to an Eagles team trying to regain their footing after a three-week stretch where they haven’t looked like themselves.
With just under two weeks until the first playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field since January 2020, the Eagles can rest and see which team is going to travel to Philadelphia and battle for a spot in the NFC Championship Game.
Being the number one seed, the Eagles will play the lowest seed remaining from wildcard weekend which can be one of four teams – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, or Seattle Seahawks.
Here’s how I would rank those aforementioned teams in terms of who I’d like the Eagles to play in the Divisional Round:
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are limping into the playoffs with an 8-9 record thanks to playing in the worst division in football – the NFC South.
A rematch of the Eagles’ last playoff game where they were embarrassed in Tampa Bay after falling behind 31-0 to the favorited Buccaneers.
This year, the script would be flipped as the Eagles and Jalen Hurts are much improved and are 14-1 behind their third-year quarterback.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers and 45-year-old Tom Brady have taken a big step back from the past two seasons as Brady has shown signs of a decline in effectiveness playing behind a struggling offensive line and has one of the worst running games in the league and are averaging just 18.1 points per game.
Sure, Tom Brady can still will this team to late-game comebacks, and the defense is still fairly good but the Buccaneers are not the team the Eagles played last January. And this time, the game will be played in Philadelphia and the Eagles would surely love some payback.
2. New York Giants
You might ask why aren’t the Giants a more favorable matchup for the Eagles considering the Eagles are 2-0 against them this season. Well beating a team three times in one season is hard. And though, the Eagles are certainly better on both sides of the ball and arguably at every position, the Giants play hard and are well-coached by Brian Daboll.
Saquon Barkley is back to being a star running back this season and the Eagles could face him for the first time fully healthy. If you remember, Barkley was a game-time decision when these two teams matched up in early December and played just 20 snaps then was inactive in last Sunday’s game against the Eagles.
So yes, the Eagles owned the Giants with both teams paying their starters, and honestly, no players outside of Saquon Barkley scare me, but the Giants are a solid, well-coached team that the Eagles would need to beat for a third time in about six weeks.
3. Seattle Seahawks
After trading Russell Wilson, the Seahawks have been one of the biggest surprises in the league this year behind journeyman quarterback Geno Smith. But Smith has been anything but a journeyman quarterback this year, completing 69.8 percent of his throws for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns. Besides Smith, the Seahawks had the ninth-highest-scoring offense and have star players in D.K. Metcalf who has killed the Eagles in the past.
Defensively, the Seahawks are bottom-ten in opponent points per game and have allowed the second-most rushing yards in the league, an area where the Eagles can thrive.
While D.K. Metcalf certainly still scares me as a tough matchup for Darius Slay, the Seahawks’ offensive line is exploitable and has been made to look better than it is by good quarterback and runningback play. With good coverage, the Eagles should be able to eat in the pass-rushing game.
However, I’d say this matchup is a long shot as Seattle would have to take down the San Francisco 49ers. Don’t love those odds.
4. Dallas Cowboys
Despite being the fifth seed, the Cowboys are one of the best teams in the league on both sides of the ball (and yes, that pains me to say). While the Eagles beat the Cowboys when Jalen Hurts played and hung in there with Gardner Minshew, I’d prefer to avoid the Cowboys.
While the Cowboys looked very bad against the Commanders in Week 18, you just never know what Cowboys team will show up in any given week. It could be the team that put up 40 points on the Eagles on Christmas Eve or that Week 18 team. And with an all-around strong offense with a lot of weapons, it’s something I’d prefer to avoid even though the Eagles were able to get to Dak for six sacks and force a couple of turnovers.
Another big reason is the questionable health of Lane Johnson. If Johnson is able to go, he’s likely to be limited in his abilities since his injury is going to require surgery. And if not, Jack Driscoll is in for a very tough matchup. That is a major concern with Micah Parsons likely to line up against the right tackle plenty if these two teams face off in two weeks. He is a player that can wreck a game by himself and the Eagles are likely to be a little vulnerable in that position.
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