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Another path to the postseason emerges for the Eagles after a wild Sunday | David Murphy

It's looking more and more likely the Eagles' fate will come down to Week 17.

Unluckily for the Redskins, their playoff future rests on Colt McCoy's arm.
Unluckily for the Redskins, their playoff future rests on Colt McCoy's arm.Read moreRoger Steinman / AP

It’s better to be in the NFC than good. That’s the takeaway from a wild Sunday that left the Eagles as one of the few winners in a playoff race that seems destined to come down to Week 17. Just three days ago, it would have sounded silly to even consider this sort of thing. The Cowboys’ win over the Saints on Thursday night left the Eagles looking like they would need to win out to make the playoffs. But after a Sunday that saw the Bears, Panthers, Vikings, and Packers all lose, a new path to the postseason has suddenly emerged.

Here is what it looks like:

1. Eagles beat the Redskins twice, the Cowboys, and the Texans to finish at 9-7.

2. Panthers lose twice to the Saints or split with the Saints and lose one to the Falcons. Panthers finish at 8-8

3. Vikings lose at Seattle in Week 14 and home against the Bears in Week 17. Vikings finish at 8-7-1.

4. The Seahawks win in San Francisco and at home against the Cardinals, in addition to the win over the Vikings at home. They finish at 10-6.

If all four of those hypotheticals occur, and the Cowboys did not lose another game, the four division winners would be the Rams, Saints, Cowboys, and Bears. The Seahawks would take home the first wild card at 10-6, and the Eagles would finish a half game ahead of Minnesota. Even if the Redskins won the rest of their games, they would finish at 9-7 and lose the tiebreaker to the Eagles by virtue of the Eagles’ season sweep of the series. The Panthers and Packers would finish with no more than eight wins apiece.

Here’s what it looks like on a team-by-team basis:

Rams (11-1)

Likely wins remaining: at Cardinals (Week 16), vs. 49ers (17)

Decisive games: at Bears (14), vs. Eagles (15)

Likeliest outcome: 14-2

Worst outcome: 13-3

Analysis: The Rams are getting one of the conference’s two byes. The Eagles’ path to the playoffs still largely depends on them beating the Rams in Week 15.

Saints (10-2)

Likely wins remaining: at Bucs (14)

Decisive games: at Panthers (15), vs. Steelers (16), vs. Panthers (17)

Likely outcome: 13-3

Worst outcome: 11-5

Analysis: Crazier things have happened than the Saints losing three out of four, but the odds still say New Orleans is a heavy favorite to finish as one of the top two seeds in the conference.

Bears (8-4)

Likely wins remaining: at 49ers (16)

Decisive games: vs. Rams (14), vs. Packers (15), at Vikings (17)

Likeliest outcome: 10-6

Worst outcome: 8-8

Analysis: Chicago has beaten just two teams with a winning record this season, one of them way back in Week 2, against the Seahawks. The Bears have played, by far, the easiest schedule in the NFC to date, with their eight victories coming against teams that entered Sunday with an average of 4.1 wins.

Cowboys (7-5)

Likely wins remaining: vs. Bucs (16)

Decisive games: vs. Eagles (14), at Colts (15), at Giants (17)

Likeliest outcome: 9-7

Worst outcome: 8-8

Analysis: If the Eagles win in Dallas, there’s a decent chance the Cowboys are heading into MetLife Stadium in Week 17 with an 8-7 record, the assumption being that the Colts take care of business at home in Week 15. The Eagles would own a head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cowboys based on their division record.

Seahawks (6-5)

Likely wins remaining: vs. 49ers (13), at 49ers (15), vs. Cardinals (17)

Decisive games: vs. Vikings (14), vs. Chiefs (16)

Likeliest outcome: 10-6

Worst outcome: 9-7

Analysis: Things could get really interesting if Seattle loses one of their gimmes or at home to the Vikings next week.

Panthers (6-6)

Likely wins remaining: at Browns (14)

Decisive games: vs. Saints (15), vs. Falcons (16), at Saints (17)

Likeliest outcome: 9-7

Worst outcome: 7-9

Analysis: The Eagles could end up having a lot riding on a Week 17 game in which the Saints might not have anything to play for.

Redskins (6-5)

Likely wins remaining: None.

Decisive games: at Eagles (13), vs. Giants (14), at Jaguars (15), at Titans (16), vs. Eagles (17)

Likeliest outcome: 8-8

Worst outcome: 6-10

Analysis: If the Eagles take care of business in their two games against Washington, that should take care of the Redskins.

Vikings (6-5-1)

Likely wins remaining: vs. Dolphins (15), at Lions (16)

Decisive games: at Seahawks (14), vs. Bears (17)

Likeliest outcome: 9-6-1

Worst outcome: 8-7-1

Analysis: Minnesota’s loss to the Patriots on Sunday was a near-necessity for the Eagles. Next up is a loss in Seattle, which would likely leave them heading into a Week 17 matchup with the Bears needing a win to finish ahead of a 9-7 Eagles team.

Packers (4-7-1)

Likely wins remaining: at Jets (16), vs. Lions (17)

Decisive games: vs. Falcons (14), at Bears (15)

Likeliest outcome: 7–8-1

Worst outcome: 6-9-1

Analysis: The Packers’ loss to the Cardinals on Sunday marked the end of the Mike McCarthy era in Green Bay.

For the Eagles, the likeliest outcome remains a Week 17 that will leave everybody’s nails gnawed down to the cuticles, and, afterward, a sickening realization that their come-from-ahead loss to the Panthers in Week 7 ended up being the difference between participating in the playoffs and watching from home. Then again, if there is one thing that Week 13 has taught us, it’s that, apart from the Rams, none of these teams deserves the benefit of the doubt.