Right now, the Eagles still do not control their own destiny.
At 7-5-1, both the 8-5 Falcons and Cowboys sit in front of Philadelphia for the last playoff spot in the NFC. However, the Eagles play the Cowboys on Dec. 28, meaning they do control their destiny when it comes to them. But the Falcons need to lose or the Eagles cannot mathematically make the playoffs.
At this point, one would still think the Eagles have to win out to make the playoffs, barring a total collapse from Atlanta and Dallas, and a late surge from 7-6 Washington, New Orleans or Chicago.
Here are the schedules for these top five remaining teams in the NFC playoff hunt:
EAGLES: Cle, @ Was, Dal
ATL: TB, @ Min, Stl
DAL: NYG, Bal, @ Phi
WAS: @ Cin, Phi, @ SF
CHI: NO, GB, @ Hou
NO: @ Chi, @ Det, Car
In simply looking at this, getting hot would be ideal for the Redskins, who play their toughest game at home before going on the road for two winnable games. But the Redskins haven't exactly been a foreboding presence as of late.
The next two games will dictate Atlanta's season, with a home matchup against St. Louis in Week 17. Tampa is coming off of a big loss at Carolina, but the Bucs are still in the driver's seat for a playoff spot and they have an outside shot at the NFC South title. Minnesota needs wins, big-time, as the Vikes are in a struggle with Chicago for the NFC North.
Funnily, while the Eagles' season could be on the line Week 17 when they host the Cowboys, Dallas might realistically be out of the picture by then despite being the mathematical holder of the NFC's No. 6 seed if the season were to end today. Their remaining schedule, with the Giants, Baltimore and at Philadelphia, is absolutely brutal. The Giants are angry following a loss, the Ravens are scorching hot and the Eagles might well be on the heels of an improbable playoff run.
The Bears are a team to look out for. They can still win the NFC North, and passing the Vikings would throw another wrench into this whole system.
The Saints have work to do, also. They play at the Bears, at Detroit and at home against Carolina, but they have to pass Atlanta in their own division. A win against the Falcons last Sunday helps big-time.
THAT PESKY TIE
Well, that tie against woeful Cincinnati is exactly like the Eagles thought it would be: it's not as bad as a loss, but definitely not as good as a win.
IF THE EAGLES HAD WON IN CINCINNATI
Here's what hurts the Eagles about the tie. Should the Eagles have beaten Cincinnati, they'd be in the driver's seat right now, at 8-5 and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker against Atlanta, with matchups against Dallas and Washington both looming.
A win against Cincinnati would likely have given the Eagles leeway if they were to drop one of the next three games. As it stands now, it's very difficult to imagine the Eagles getting into the playoffs if they lose.
Let's take it a little deeper, assuming the Eagles had beaten Cincinnati, and also assuming all six teams documented in this article lose one of their remaining three games – leaving Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Dallas all finishing at 10-6. In this scenario, you narrow it down so there's only one team from each division. In this case, you look at the Eagles and the Cowboys. The head-to-head record would be a wash. If the Cowboys beat the Giants and lose to the Eagles, both the Cowboys and the Eagles would own a 3-3 record within the division. The next tiebreaker is common opponents and assuming the Eagles win out, they would win that tiebreaker.
Now, you deal with Atlanta. Much, much easier. The win after the bye week takes care of that and puts the Eagles in the postseason.
IF THE EAGLES HAD LOST IN CINCINNATI
This was actually the more likely scenario, but Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal late in overtime to preserve the tie.
If the Eagles were 7-6 at this point, it wouldn't actually be a much different scenario than we have now. Atlanta would need to lose, and the Eagles, for all intents and purposes, would need to win out.
And should the Eagles, even having lost to Cincinnati, win out by beating a 10-5 Dallas team on Dec. 28, they would leapfrog the Cowboys based off of a better record against common opponents.
So in actuality, the tie for the Eagles is much more like a loss than a win – meaning the Eagles have less cushion, aren't in the driver's seat but are still very much alive.
THE REALITY OF IT ALL
Assuming none of the Eagles' competitors tie in the remaining three weeks (heaven help us if that happens), there will be absolutely no tiebreakers to think of. The Eagles need to simply have a better record than the Cowboys, Falcons, Redskins, Saints and Bears. And the best way to do that is by winning out.