How Eagles' playoff scenarios include clinching Sunday, No. 1 draft pick, trolling Giants

PHILADELPHIA − There are six games left in the regular season, and the Eagles could have a playoff berth wrapped up after their game Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Sure, they'll need help to clinch this early. They have to beat the Titans, plus the Giants have to beat the Commanders, the Seahawks have to lose to the Rams and the 49ers have to lose to the Dolphins.

If the Eagles, who are 10-1, don't clinch Sunday, it's only inevitable that it will happen the next week or the week after.

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The Eagles, of course, are so far couching their answers about the playoffs with "I don't want to get ahead of myself," as wide receiver A.J. Brown said after the Eagles' 40-33 win over the Packers on Sunday night.

But the Eagles also have bigger goals than just getting in, like winning the NFC East, clinching the No. 1 overall seed in the NFC with the first-round bye that comes with it.

Here, then, are five playoff scenarios facing the Eagles heading into the final six games of the season:

Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Yes, the No. 1 draft pick is possible

The Eagles might be better served needing a win against the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 1 in order to clinch the top overall seed in the NFC playoffs.

Even if the Eagles have clinched before then, they would have some incentive to beating the Saints because they have the Saints' first-round draft pick after last spring's trade.

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The Saints are 4-8, and according to tankathon.com, if the season ended today, that first-round pick would be No. 6 overall. There's a scenario where that pick could be No. 1 if the Saints lose their final five games while Houston (1-9-1) wins three of its final six games, as well as other teams winning to fall behind New Orleans in the draft order.

Even a top-five pick in a year in which the Eagles aren't drafting a quarterback would be a great situation for them.

But the Eagles would also have incentive because the Saints could end up winning the weak NFC South with a sub-.500 record. They are currently 1½ games behind the first-place Buccaneers. If the Saints win the division, that first-round pick would be no lower than No. 18.

Washington Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis (52) gets his hand in Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) helmet as Goedert runs with the ball during the NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Washington Commanders linebacker Jamin Davis (52) gets his hand in Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) helmet as Goedert runs with the ball during the NFL football game, Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.

Get 4 key injured players back before finale

Defensive tackle Jordan Davis, cornerback Avonte Maddox and tight end Dallas Goedert are currently on injured reserve, and safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson could join them soon.

Davis is eligible to come back Sunday; Maddox, on Dec. 11; and Goedert, on Dec. 18. If Gardner-Johnson goes on IR with a lacerated kidney, he'd be eligible to return Jan. 1.

That doesn't mean that they will come back then.

Davis, for example, can start practicing Wednesday now that the Eagles opened the 21-day practice window. Davis hurt his ankle on Oct. 30, so two days of practice (the Eagles have turned Wednesdays into walkthrough days) might not be enough time to get back into game shape.

The Eagles, no doubt, would want all of those players to get at least one or two regular-season games under their belt before the playoffs begin. So while the starters might rest in the season finale, that might not be the case for the aforementioned four players.

Clinching a playoff spot early could enable Jalen Hurts to get some much-needed rest heading into the playoffs.
Clinching a playoff spot early could enable Jalen Hurts to get some much-needed rest heading into the playoffs.

Rest Jalen Hurts, others

Hurts, who on Wednesday was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week, is still on pace to set the NFL record for rushing attempts by a quarterback. Baltimore's Lamar Jackson has the record with 176 carries in 2019. But Hurts, with 127 carries through 11 games, is on pace to end up with 196.

Hurts had 17 carries for 157 yards in the win over the Packers on Sunday night.

Every time Hurts runs, he exposes himself to a hard hit. Granted, Eagles coaches praise Hurts for his ability to avoid hits.

But the Eagles would love to get Hurts off his feet if they can before the season is over. That doesn't necessarily mean sitting out entire games, especially if the Eagles are getting a first-round bye. But it could mean sitting out the second half in the final two games if the Eagles have that top seed locked up.

The same holds true for some of their veterans like Brown, running back Miles Sanders, center Jason Kelce, right tackle Lane Johnson, defensive linemen Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave, as well as defensive backs Darius Slay and James Bradberry.

Clinch NFC East at Dallas

The Eagles currently have a two-game lead over the Cowboys (8-3) in the NFC East, with a Dec. 24 matchup looming in Dallas. The Cowboys are coming off two strong games in a 40-3 rout over the Vikings and a 28-20 Thanksgiving win over the Giants.

Dallas is also healthier than in the first matchup against the Eagles, a 26-17 Eagles win on Oct. 16. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott didn't play in that game, and the Eagles intercepted his backup, Cooper Rush, three times.

In addition, the Cowboys could also have another significant addition in free agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. The Cowboys are publicly recruiting Beckham Jr., who's also recovering from a torn ACL.

So that game will be a truer test for NFC East supremacy. And sure, Eagles' fans would relish clinching the division against their bitter rivals, especially in Dallas.

Philadelphia Eagles' Nate Sudfeld plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Philadelphia Eagles' Nate Sudfeld plays during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Give Giants taste of own medicine

Picture this scenario: The Eagles have everything clinched heading into the season-finale against the Giants on Jan. 8, but the Giants need a win to clinch a playoff spot. Because of the implications, NBC decides to make that the Sunday night game.

It would be reminiscent of the 2020 finale, where Washington played the Eagles in the prime-time game needing a win to clinch the NFC East. Had the Eagles won that game, then the Giants would have gotten in with a 6-10 record.

But the Eagles, already eliminated from contention, sat most of their starters before the game. Then when it was a surprisingly close game after three quarters, with the Eagles trailing only 17-14, then-coach Doug Pederson pulled Hurts and installed third-string QB Nate Sudfeld.

The Eagles lost 20-14 and improved their draft position from No. 9 before the game to No. 6.

Washington thus got the playoff spot, while former Giants coach Joe Judge was livid and publicly accused the Eagles of disrespecting the game.

So it would be poetic justice if the Eagles, playing mostly reserves, were to beat the Giants and eliminate them from postseason play.

Contact Martin Frank at mfrank@delawareonline.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Eagles' playoff scenarios include clinching Sunday, No. 1 draft pick