Heading into the final week of the NFL season, 10 of the 12 playoff spots have already been secured. It just so happens one of the two remaining involve the Eagles.
If the Eagles manage to win the NFC East, they’ll enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed and play a home game at Lincoln Financial Field during the wild-card round the first weekend of January. They’d face the No. 5 seed, which will end up being the loser of Sunday night’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks.
Here’s the current NFL playoff picture, heading into Week 17:
- San Francisco 49ers (12-3), clinched playoff berth
- Green Bay Packers (12-3), clinched division
- New Orleans Saints (12-3), clinched division
- Philadelphia Eagles (8-7)
- Seattle Seahawks (11-4), clinched playoff berth
- Minnesota Vikings (10-5), clinched playoff berth
In the hunt: Dallas Cowboys (7-8)
- Baltimore Ravens (13-2), clinched home-field advantage
- New England Patriots (12-3), clinched division
- Kansas City Chiefs (11-4), clinched division
- Houston Texans (10-5), clinched division
- Buffalo Bills (10-5), clinched playoff berth
- Tennessee Titans (8-7)
In the hunt: Pittsburgh Steelers (8-7), Oakland Raiders (7-8)
In the wild-card round, every network broadcasts one game each. Fox and CBS will air an NFC and AFC game, respectively, leaving the remaining two games to NBC and ESPN (which will also simulcast on ABC). During the divisional round, NBC will land an NFC game, because the network broadcast an AFC game last season. CBS will air two games during the divisional round, leaving Fox with just one.
If the Eagles make the playoffs, it’s almost a guarantee they’ll play on Sunday, Jan. 5, on either Fox or NBC. Not only is Philadelphia among the largest television markets in the country, it would allow whichever West Coast team they face an extra day to travel across the country. Last season, the Eagles’ wild-card win over the Chicago Bears (the “double-doink game”) aired on NBC at 4:30 p.m.
How does the NFL decide which games land on which networks? On Sunday evening, when the playoff teams are determined, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and senior vice president of broadcasting Howard Katz jump on a massive conference call involving several NFL departments, including broadcasting, football operations, and PR. There, they look at weather scenarios and ratings predictions, as well as any requests from networks and team owners. But in the end, it’s Goodell and Katz who make the final decision on the playoff schedule.
The 4:30 p.m. broadcast window on Sunday afternoon remains the most highly coveted time slot, and the NFL puts together its wild-card playoff TV schedule to build up to it over the weekend. That’s why the weakest matchup has aired on Saturday afternoon on ESPN.
“We spend a ridiculous amount of time worrying about it and panicking and laying out options, hoping we land on the right spot,” Mike North, vice president of NFL broadcast planning, told the Inquirer. “A lot of it just comes down to luck.”
The NFL will likely announce the wild-card and divisional round playoff schedule during Sunday Night Football.