I really didn't think I'd have to put together another playoff scenarios post this week, but after the Eagles came up short in a 24-14 loss to the Vikings Tuesday night, it's time to provide some clarification.
Here are five things to know about where the team stands and what's in store the next two weeks.
Some of you have asked about when the Eagles might play that first game. It will either be on Saturday, Jan. 8 or Sunday, Jan. 9 at the Linc. I'm working to get more information on the networks' selection process.
Sidenote: Due to a DVR malfunction, I don't have the first seven minutes or so of last night's game recorded. If anyone can help - either by tracking plays or sending me a DVD - e-mail me ASAP. I can provide details of what I need.
1. Let's start by clarifying that the Eagles are the No. 3 seed. Week 17 results have no effect on that. They cannot move up to No. 2. And they cannot move down to No. 4. They are locked in.
There are three games that have a bearing on who the Eagles' first-round opponent will be: Packers-Bears, Giants-Redskins and Saints-Bucs.
It's pretty simple.
The Eagles play the Packers if... the Packers beat the Bears.
The Eagles play the Giants if... the Giants beat the Redskins AND the Packers lose to the Bears.
The Eagles play the Bucs if... the Bucs beat the Saints AND the Packers lose to the Bears AND the Giants lose to the Redskins.
If the Packers, Giants and Bucs all lose, the Packers get in.
2. The Eagles potentially helped the Packers and hurt the Giants by losing to the Vikings. Allow me to explain.
It comes down to the Bears' motivation against Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Bears play the Packers at 4:15. Chicago still has a shot at the No. 1 seed, but it needs the Falcons and Saints to both lose. Atlanta and New Orleans both play at 1 p.m.
In other words, the Bears will know at 4:15 whether or not they have anything to play for. If either the Falcons or Saints win at 1 p.m., Chicago is locked into the two-seed and has nothing to play for, meaning the Bears will likely rest their starters.
That would obviously help the Packers, who need just a win to get in. And that would hurt the Giants, who need a Packers loss.
3. If the Eagles win their home game in the first round, they would travel on the road to take on the No. 2 seed in the divisional round. Right now, that looks like it's going to be the Bears, although that could change.
If the Saints OR Falcons win Sunday, the Bears are the No. 2 seed, and that's who the Eagles would play in the divisional round.
If the Saints and Falcons lose, AND the Bears beat the Packers, Chicago is the No. 1 seed, and Atlanta is the No. 2 seed. Highliy unlikely, but a possibility.
The Saints can either finish as the No. 1 seed or the No. 5 seed. What does that mean for the Eagles? They will not under any circumstances play New Orleans before the NFC championship game.
If the Falcons win Sunday, the Eagles would not under any circumstances face them until the NFC championship.
5. After having seen Michael Vick limp around the locker room last night, I'd say I have as much of a shot to play Sunday against the Cowboys as he does. There is zero sense in playing Vick. He's been beat up all season. The Eagles now have a chance to rest him for 10 or 11 days before gearing up for the playoffs. The Birds' chances of making a run rest on Vick's shoulders. Going into that first playoff game with him rested and healthy is the smart move. Forget what Andy Reid said after the game. Vick's not playing.