Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Eagles have sights set on No. 2 playoff seed

Unlike millions of boys and girls who opened their presents Saturday morning, the Eagles will have to wait until Jan. 2 to find out whether Santa brought them what they wanted most for Christmas.

Unlike millions of boys and girls who opened their presents Saturday morning, the Eagles will have to wait until Jan. 2 to find out whether Santa brought them what they wanted most for Christmas.

Aside from something silver, shiny, and shaped like a football on a pedestal, what they want most is the No. 2 seed in the playoffs.

"I want that two seed. I want that bye week. I want home field," Eagles safety Quintin Mikell said last week. "That's important, especially the home field. If you get home field this time of year, it's big."

Several things have to happen for the Eagles to secure the NFC's No. 2 seed, first of which is beating the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night. The next step would be topping Dallas the following week. Finally, Chicago would have to lose one of its final two games.

If all of that happens, and it could - the Eagles are and will be heavily favored in their next two games, and the Bears have tough contests against the New York Jets (Sunday, 1 p.m.) and Green Bay - then the Eagles' 12-4 record would trump Chicago's 11-5 mark.

If both teams finish 12-4, though, the Bears own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Eagles then would finish as the No. 3 seed and host a first-round playoff game against a wild-card opponent.

But looking ahead can be dangerous. For evidence, see 2008 and 2009. But first things first: If the Eagles win Sunday, they clinch the NFC East and coach Andy Reid's ninth playoff appearance in 12 seasons. Of course, the Eagles could clinch by kickoff if the New York Giants lose a 4:15 p.m. start at Green Bay.

"It eases your mind to know somebody lost, because you're guaranteed in," tight end Brent Celek said. "But still, we want that bye."

The Eagles haven't had a first-round bye since 2004, which is the last time they reached the Super Bowl. Mikell, one of only a few leftovers from that team, recalled the importance of the extra week off that year.

"For me, it was big because I had dislocated my shoulder and didn't play in the last two games," said Mikell, who mostly played on special teams that season. "So I needed that extra week to get my shoulder healthy and get back on the field."

Last season, the Eagles entered their final game needing only a win at Dallas for a first-round bye. But the Cowboys smoked them, 24-0, and the Eagles were forced to return to Texas the following week to take another pummeling.

In 2008, the Eagles had no shot at the bye, but when they traveled to face the 7-7 Redskins for Game 15, a victory would have given them control of their own playoff destiny with one game to play. They lost, 10-3. The Eagles clobbered Dallas the following week but only a fortuitous series of events led to a postseason berth.

That Redskins team still had something to play for. The Vikings do not. They're 5-9, out of the playoff picture, and most likely down to their third-string quarterback. Brett Favre has not been ruled out for the game, but the 41-year-old likely Hall of Famer did not practice all week after suffering a concussion last Sunday.

If Favre can't go, 24-year-old Joe Webb will earn his first career NFL start. He replaced Favre last week after he went down but threw two interceptions and was sacked three times. Former Vikings coach Brad Childress, who was fired last month, once contemplated moving Webb to receiver.

"He had some great drives the other night, and you saw his ability to run, do the play-pass, the naked stuff," Reid said. "And he's got an absolute gun of an arm."

A healthy Adrian Peterson would ease Webb's load, but the all-pro running back is questionable with a knee injury.

Whether Favre or Peterson play, it shouldn't matter for the 141/2-point favorite Eagles. They're home, where they've won four straight, and riding on the euphoria of last week's stunning comeback victory over the Giants.

Of course, stranger things have happened. With two games remaining, the Eagles could do as well as the No. 1 seed or as bad as not making the playoffs. Both scenarios are long shots, although the latter would be like finding a lump of coal in your stocking.