2016 Week #12: Packers at Eagles

“They are who we thought they were, and we let them off the hook!”

Such were the words of a disgruntled Dennis Green, then coach of the Arizona Cardinals, after a 2006 loss to the Chicago Bears in which his team led by 20 points.

And while Green’s tirade became one of the most well known postgame outbursts in NFL history, the same phrase he made so famous could also be used in explaining the Eagles loss to the Seahawks last Sunday.

The Birds knew going into the game that they would need to play mistake free football to beat a dominant Seattle team at home.  But knowing and doing are two distinctly different things, and there were two plays that took place in the 2nd quarter that turned the tide in Seattle’s favor.

With the Eagles leading 7-6 and the Seahawks faced with a 3rd & 16, defensive lineman  Brandon Graham was called for offsides on a play which resulted in an incomplete pass.   His offsides was totally unrelated to the play and would have resulted in Seattle having to try a long field goal or punt.  Instead, on the very next play, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, while scrambling to avoid being sacked, hit tight end Jimmy Graham  on what turned into a 35-yard touchdown to give the Seahawks a 13-7 lead.

On the Eagles next drive, the offense responded with a Carson Wentz to Zach Ertz 57-yard catch and run touchdown pass (and miraculously, Ertz never fell down while running with the football) which should have tied up the game.  Instead, wide receiver Nelson Agholor (or more appropriately, “Awful-or”) was flagged for an illegal formation penalty, nullifying the touchdown.  Once again, his penalty, like Brandon Graham’s before him, had nothing to do with the play itself, but those two plays in the span of three minutes turned a close game into a 14-point swing for the Seahawks, and the game was basically won right there.

If one did not watch the game and only saw the final score (a 26-15 Seahawks victory), they may have had the impression that the Eagles hung in till the end. But that was not the case at all…the Birds were manhandled after those two plays, and with ten minutes left in regulation, ending the misery to watch Bruno Mars on 60 Minutes seemed like a much better alternative.

But in keeping this Eagles season in perspective, and especially considering the holiday we are celebrating this week, we should be thankful that the Birds are 5-5, in a season in which not much was expected.

While Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looked lost at times and played his worst game of the year, he will have days like that as a rookie, especially against a foe like Seattle.  Personally, I am thankful to not have to see Mark Sanchez playing quarterback in midnight green again.

So what are the Eagles playoff chances with six games left in the regular season?  Here is everything you need to know about the playoff picture as it stands right now (but were afraid to ask):

The Dallas Cowboys sit at 9-1 and hold a four game lead over the Eagles for the NFC East division lead.  The Birds have about as much chance to win the division as Melania Trump and Michelle Obama duking it out in a sanctioned boxing match on inauguration day.

The Eagles best chance to make the playoffs is by earning one of the two NFC wild-card spots, currently held by the New York Giants and Washington Redskins.  The “G-Men” hold a 2-game lead over the Birds while the ‘Skins hold a 1.5 game lead due to having one of their games end in a tie.

The Eagles would have to do no worse than 4-2 just to have a CHANCE at a playoff spot (to quote Jim Carrey from the “Dumb & Dumber” movie – “So you’re saying there’s a CHANCE??”).  Even that would require the Redskins to do no better than 2-4 and other teams to falter as well, so a 5-1 finish might be more realistic of what the Birds need to get in.

There are currently four teams on the “outside, looking in” for those two wildcard spots: 1) The Lions OR Vikings at 6-4 (one of them would currently win their respective division, 2) The Eagles at 5-5, 3) Tampa at 5-5, and 4) the Cardinals at 4-5-1 (perhaps it’s time for the NFL to just abolish tie games?).

The Eagles would greatly help their cause by winning their four remaining home games against the Packers, Redskins, Giants and Cowboys.  Doing so would not only cut the Giants and Redskins lead for the wildcard, but give the Eagles a 3-3 division record, which could factor in as a possible tiebreaker should the teams be tied with identical records at the end of the season.

The Eagles should root for the Cowboys to win their next five games.  This is not a typo….I repeat, this is not a typo.  Yes, an Eagles fan rooting for Dallas is about as likely as Bernie Sanders campaigning for Donald Trump, but in this case it is warranted.

Should the Cowboys do that, their last game of the season against the Eagles would be rendered meaningless from their standpoint.  They would probably end up resting most of their starters and play some guy named Romo at quarterback, giving the Eagles an easy shot at victory, and perhaps securing a playoff birth in the process.

Today’s Thanksgiving games will factor heavily into the playoff picture, with the Lions hosting the Vikings and the Cowboys hosting the Redskins.  Eagles fans need to root for both “hosts” (Detroit & Dallas) to secure a victory…got all that???  There will be a pop quiz right after you’ve inhaled your third piece of pumpkin pie.

As for the Eagles, they will look to rebound this Monday night at home against the Packers, who are playing themselves out of the playoffs due to various injuries on their defense.  The Eagles are a perfect 4-0 at home this season and will continue that this week, keeping the playoff race interesting with a 30-20 victory.

Amit’s Marquee Matchups of the Week (all times in EST and on Sunday unless noted otherwise):

Redskins at Cowboys 4:30 PM FOX (Thurs) – Game of the Week

Vikings at Lions 12:30 PM CBS (Thurs)

Chiefs at Broncos 8:30 PM NBC

The Last Word:

Be thankful for what you have.  You may not think your life is ideal, but there is someone out there who would gladly trade places with you in a heartbeat. Happy Thanksgiving!

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