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Eagles took a unique path to the playoffs: Beating up on bad teams without beating good ones | David Murphy

Few teams bully the bullied like the Eagles, whose nine wins have come against teams with a combined .343 winning percentage.

Washington Football Team quarterback Garrett Gilbert loses the ball after pressure from the Eagles defense on Dec. 21.
Washington Football Team quarterback Garrett Gilbert loses the ball after pressure from the Eagles defense on Dec. 21.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

If the Eagles are going to advance in the playoffs, they’ll have to do something they haven’t done all season: beat a good team with a good quarterback. We’ll have to wait until Sunday to find out the exact identity of that duo, whether it is the Rams and Matt Stafford, the Bucs and Tom Brady, the Cowboys and Dak Prescott, or the Cardinals and Kyler Murray. In the meantime, let’s take a look at the unique road the Eagles followed to this year’s postseason.

Four facts:

1. The Eagles are the only team in the projected playoff field that has yet to beat a team with a winning record.

In fact, each of the other 13 teams have at least two victories over teams who have a winning percentage over .500. The per-team average is a little over four wins. The Eagles? The last time they beat a winning team (i.e., a team that would finish Week 17 with a winning percentage over .500) was Week 14 of last season, when Jalen Hurts led them to a win over the Saints in his starting debut. Since then, the Eagles are 0-7 against winning teams, including 0-6 this season.

They still have two chances to change things before the start of the postseason. One of them is to beat Dallas in Week 18. The other is for the Saints to beat the Falcons, which would put New Orleans at 9-8.

2. Only two teams in the NFL have a worse resume of wins.

Few teams bully the bullied like the Eagles. Their nine wins have come against teams who are a combined 49-94-1, a .343 winning percentage that is the third-lowest in the NFL. The NFL average is .439, putting the Eagles at 22% below average. Only the Falcons (.295) and Broncos (.342) have had a softer slate of victories. Of course, two of the Eagles wins have come against those teams.

3. Even when you account for the quality of the teams they lost to, the Eagles’ schedule has still been a huge net positive. Their losses have come against a tough bunch with a combined record of 65-47. But that winning percentage is only about 4% higher than the NFL average.

Just for fun, let’s pretend that the NFL wanted to factor in the quality of a win into the standings. No longer would teams be rewarded the same amount for wins over, say, the Chiefs and the Jaguars. Instead, at the end of the season, it would adjust each team’s win and loss total by the quality of those wins and losses. So, if the Eagles’ win quality was 22% below average, it would lower their official win total by 22%. In losses, the quality of their opponent was 4% better than average, so the league would lower the Eagles loss total by the same amount. If you then recalculated their winning percentage, it would fall by about 5.3 percentage points, from .563 to .509.

4. Only three teams have beaten a worse slate of quarterbacks.

With apologies to Jake Fromm, Garrett Gilbert, and Sam Darnold, the Eagles have feasted on a borderline-comical roster of opposing passers. If you combine the season statistics of all of the quarterbacks they’ve beaten, you end up with an NFL passer rating of 82.49. Only three teams have a lower aggregate mark in their victories: Atlanta (75.73), Miami (78.14), and Houston (81.40). None will be in the postseason.

As for the combined opposing passer rating in their losses, they rank 11th at 97.6. The difference between those two marks — 97.6 for the quarterbacks they lost to, 82.5 for the ones they’ve beaten — is the third-largest split in the NFL. And the largest among playoff teams.

Granted, none of this means anything once the postseason starts. Beating the bad teams is something that even good teams can struggle with at times. It says something about the coach and the quarterback that the Eagles were able to handle their business when their business needed to be handled. Still, it’s an odd situation the Eagles find themselves in. Maybe the best way to visualize the challenge they face this postseason is to compare NFL team’s winning percentage against the winning percentage of the opponents they’ve beaten.

The Packers will arrive in the postseason with wins over teams like the Bengals, Cardinals, and Rams. The Rams have beaten the Bucs and the Cardinals. The Cowboys have wins over the Chargers and the Patriots.

The Eagles? They’ll be there. For now, that’s all we can ask.