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A tie for the NFC East

The Eagles need to beat the Chicago Bears because it creates a scenario where they could also make the playoffs with a tie next Sunday at Dallas.

Generally teams don't talk about sitting starters for a late-season game until playoff positions are locked down and secured.

If there is any chance of improving standing or avoiding certain match up with one more victory, it's all in for the win.

But the Sunday matchup between the Eagles and Chicago Bears at Lincoln Financial Field has generated talk in both cities about whether it would be advantageous to rest key starters in anticipation of a playoff-deciding game next week in the season finales.

There are things that could happen in the early games that could leave both Eagles coach Chip Kelly and Bears coach Marc Trestman with a decision to on whether or not to rest starters.

If the Green Bay Packers (7-6-1) beat Pittsburgh and Detroit (7-7) beats the New York Giants, the Bears (8-6) would theoretically play the Packers for the NFC North title next week, no matter what they do against the Eagles.

Only losses by both Green Bay and Detroit would put Chicago in position to clinch the division with a win over the Eagles.

According to Bears Radio Network's Zach Zaidman, Trestman has hinted than he made indeed rest starters like quarterback Jay Cutler and receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jefferey if Green Bay and/or Detroit wins.

Eagle fans have been debating the same subject with some saying it would better to sit quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy and others against Chicago to guarantee that they will be healthy for Dallas.

The argument became moot because Eagles coach Chip Kelly has already said he will play his starters against the Bears.

But there is also a tangible reason for the Eagles wanting to beat the Bears, even if Dallas wins earlier in the day.

We know that if both the Eagles and Dallas win or lose this week, the winner next Sunday will win the NFC East.

We know that if Dallas beats Washington and the Eagles lose to Chicago, the winner next Sunday will win the NFC East.

What we haven't discussed is what would happen if the Eagles and Cowboys were to tie next Sunday.

When you factor in the third possible way that a NFL game can end, things became a bit more complicated and the game against the Bears takes on a whole new level of importance.

When you are talking about making the playoffs, you want to maximize your opportunities.

The game against Chicago matters because a win over the Bears opens two doors to the playoffs for the Eagles instead of just one.

If Dallas beats Washington to improve to 8-7 and the Eagles beat the Bears to take a 9-6 record into the final game, then a win or a tie will make the Birds NFC East Champions.

If the Eagles beat Dallas, they obviously win the division with a 10-6 record, but if the Eagles tie Dallas, they would finish 9-6-1 and win the NFC East by a half game over the 8-7-1 Cowboys.

On the opposite end, an Eagles loss to Chicago combined with a Dallas win over Washington would switch those two playoff scenarios in favor of the Cowboys.

If the Eagles and Cowboys both finish 8-7-1, Dallas would win the division by virtue of head-to-head record (1-0-1) against the Eagles.

Can you imagine the explosion that would happen with Eagle fans if the Birds gave away the game to Chicago; then tied Dallas and then missed the playoffs because they lost a tie-breaker?

We don't think about NFL ties that often because they are relatively rare, but they have had dramatic effects on the playoffs.

Last season, the San Francisco 49ers won the NFC West in part because of a mid-season tie with St. Louis. The 49ers finished with an 11-4-1 record while the Seattle Seahawks were 11-5.

In 2008, the Eagles season appeared to over when they tied the Cincinnati Bengals to drop to 5-4-1. But the Birds rallied to win four of the final six games.

Having that tie instead of another loss helped keep the Birds in the playoff hunt.

In the last game of the 2008 season, the Eagles took a 9-5-1 record into Dallas 9-6. The Eagles won and made the playoffs as the sixth seed.