Could Philadelphia Eagles Place Jalen Hurts To Change Playoff Picture?

Jalen hurts

Jalen Hurts Photo: Getty Images

With three weeks to go before the end of the regular season, the Philadelphia Eagles have tied for first place in the NFC and need only a win or loss from both the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers to secure the home field NFC championship and a bye in the first round. With that in mind, the Eagles need to start thinking about their post-regular season schedule, or more specifically, their division opponents’ postseason schedules.

Nobody wants to play against a division opponent in the playoffs. You know these teams better than anyone, and they’re where random losses happen most often. The Eagles’ only loss this year? To none other than the last-placed Washington Commanders. The 49ers have beaten the Rams eight times in a row in the regular season. Who won last year’s postseason? That’s right, the Rams. Division games are so difficult to predict because these teams play each other so often that they know their opponent’s every trick up their sleeve. They have become familiar with how each other works. So it stands to reason that if the Eagles had their way, they wouldn’t have to face the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants or Commanders in the playoffs at all.

That might be difficult considering all three teams are still in contention for a playoff spot, but it’s possible. The most obvious solutions would be:

1) The Cowboys, Giants and Commanders who don’t make the playoffs at all,

2) Everyone loses in the first round, or

3) Ensure the 7-Seed is not an NFC East team and wins their first round matchup.

This first option is next to impossible. At least one other team from the NFC East will make the playoffs. It is very likely that two will do it. Option two is just a little less likely. Yes, all three NFC East teams would have to play on the road should they make it, and while the Niners, Vikings and Bucs — or whoever wins the dogshit NFC South — could all win, those three’s odds come out victorious , are low. That leaves option three.

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The NFL playoffs do not have a fixed bracket system, meaning the Eagles will play as the 1st seed after the wild card round, the lowest remaining seed in the NFC playoff bracket. The best way to ensure Philly would not face a Divisional opponent in the Divisional Round would be to ensure the 7-Seeds win their first playoff match. That would ensure that the 5-Seed Cowboys and the 6-Seed Giants or Commanders cannot play Philadelphia in Round 2. Of course, this depends on the fact that no NFC East team can finish the 7-seed.

What is the solution? Lose to the Cowboys this weekend and secure them the 5 seed, and then in Week 18 – when the Eagles face the Giants for the second time – rest your starters, let the Giants win and secure the 6 -Seed. As long as the Commanders lose one of their last three games, that one win would be enough for New York to earn them the 6 seed.

That left the 7 seeds with the Commanders, Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks. Though the Commanders have a half-game lead for the position, they have yet to face the 49ers and Cowboys this year, while the Lions’ three remaining games are all against teams under .500, two of which they’ve beaten so far this year.

Of course, the Eagles walk a fine line with this method. For one, losing two games on purpose would mean the Eagles would either have to win their only other game — Week 17 vs. New Orleans — or they would have to rely on the 49ers and Vikings to lose one game at a time. Of course, whenever you have the opportunity, you always want a chance to control your own destiny, but you also don’t want to stake an entire plan on winning a particular game. “Any given Sunday” is a saying for good reason, and while the Eagles should wipe the floor with the Saints, anything can happen.

Okay, assuming the Eagles’ plan came together perfectly, they would still need the 7-seed to beat the 2-seed Minnesota Vikings. Well, the Detroit Lions have beaten them once before this year, even leading by 10 points into the fourth quarter in their first matchup. The Lions have gotten better over the season and there’s a good chance they could beat Minnesota in the opening round if they got the chance to play them again.

Even if Detroit doesn’t win, pinning Dallas against Tampa Tom and New York against arguably the most talented all-around roster in the NFL in San Francisco is still a reliable method to ensure Philly doesn’t have to play any of its division opponents in the postseason . Several people believe that the Vikings are the worst team among division leaders in the NFC. Minnesota haters like to point to the Vikings’ embarrassing losses to the Eagles and Cowboys earlier this year, as well as DVOA and point difference to believe the Vikings are cheaters. If the Eagles share those feelings, their wisest course of action would be to force their division opponents to play the other two division winners.

I’m not saying the Eagles will lose to the Cowboys and Giants. No team likes to lose, and it feels deliberately counterproductive in the dressing room, but depending on the situation, losing those games could be the team’s best option. I’m not saying it’s pretty, but it would be pretty darn smart. And the Eagles are a very smart team.