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How The Eagles Can Still Win The NFC East

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images


You look at this Philadelphia Eagles team and say it’s all for naught: that they cannot consistently move the ball three or four yards when they need two or three; that they cannot throw the ball consistently enough for 12-to-15-yard gains to make up for all of the negative plays; that they have receivers who need to catch every ball given the infrequency with which they put themselves in a position to do so; that their defense looks great except when it doesn’t; and that it doesn’t look great enough to erase the offense’s mistakes.

And then you look at the division.

You look at a Giants team that can’t get out of its own way, scoring 49 points but still leaving you with the impression that they should have scored more. You look at a Redskins team that has a Disney character at quarterback without any of the magic powers. You look at a Cowboys team that every week seems to play as well as a team led by Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel can hope to play.

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As of halftime of the Seahawks’ 13-12 win over the Cowboys on Sunday, every team in the NFC East had four losses. The Cowboys (now 2-5) have defeated the Eagles and split with the Giants, the Eagles (3-4) have defeated the Giants and lost to the Cowboys, and the Redskins (3-4) have defeated the Eagles and lost to the Giants (4-4).

Where any of that goes from here is anybody’s guess. This is supposed to be a column that summarizes the stakes when the Eagles travel to Arlington to take on the Cowboys on Sunday. But how can anybody who thinks in a linear fashion derive any sort of formula that might forecast the rest of this NFC race? If the Cowboys beat the Eagles, they still have three more games without a playoff-caliber starting quarterback. One could argue that the Eagles will play the rest of their games without one of those, although the one they have was at least good enough to beat the Giants and leave the field with a two-minute-warning lead over the Redskins.

One could also argue that there are no stakes in this year’s NFC East, that the only thing the division winner will accomplish is a sacrifice of a couple of draft slots, because the ultimate prize for this year’s champ is a home playoff loss to a wild-card team.

And then you look at the rest of the conference.

And you see Atlanta losing to Tampa Bay, and you see Minnesota struggling against Chicago. Sure, you see the Packers and the Cardinals and the Panthers, but who do you see after that? Would a home game against Atlanta or Minnesota have you prepping for winter? The Seahawks, sure, and they certainly seemed ready to make their usual midseason surge . . . until they didn’t Sunday night in Dallas. But the truth of the matter is that you can’t even project a first-round NFC East loss.

Everything you’d like to say about this showdown in Dallas crumbles under further inspection:

That the Eagles can’t get swept by the Cowboys and fall to 1-3 and the division and ever expect to find their way out. Well, if Dallas loses to Carolina and Green Bay and the Jets, that’s eight losses before we even think about the Cowboys’ games with the Bucs and the Dolphins and the Bills and two against the Redskins.

The Giants still have the Patriots and Jets and Panthers and Vikings. Lose three of those and they are at seven losses after Week 16.

If the Eagles beat the Dolphins and Bucs and Lions and Bills and Redskins, they are at eight wins heading into Week 17 in New York on a Sunday when the Cowboys could easily be hosting Washington to finish 8-8.

So a victory over Dallas next Sunday could mean a meaningless Week 17 – yay, 8-8 – but a loss might not mean anything more detrimental than the loss of that possibility.

Week 9? It could mean everything, or it could mean nothing, because neither one of these teams is anywhere close to eliminated with a loss.

With a win, they will simply be occupants of a seat where nobody thinks they belong, front-runner for a home playoff game. And in a year like 2015, who knows where it goes from there?

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