From worst to first in only 2 weeks: How the Eagles can still win the NFC East
In a most unusual and disappointing season, the Eagles can still win the NFC East and get the first-round home game that comes with it.
That's the case even though the Eagles, at 4-9-1, are currently in last place in the division after their 33-26 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
If they do win the NFC East, the Eagles will finish with a 6-9-1 record, the worst record of any division winner in NFL history. The previous worsts were 7-9 by Seattle in 2010 and 7-8-1 by Carolina in 2014.
Here's what has to happen:
► This Sunday, the Eagles (4-9-1) have to beat the Cowboys (5-9) in Dallas and Washington (6-8) has to lose to the Carolina Panthers (4-10). The Giants can either lose to Baltimore (9-5) or to Dallas on Jan. 3.
► Assuming the above happens, the Eagles have to beat Washington at Lincoln Financial Field on Jan. 3.
► If the Giants lose to the Ravens this Sunday, their game against the Cowboys is meaningless for the Eagles. If the Giants beat the Ravens, they will have to lose to the Cowboys.
►The Eagles will be eliminated this Sunday either by losing to the Cowboys or by Washington beating the Panthers.
"I’ve never been around a season where a team has four or five wins, and maybe six wins is going to win your division," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. "I’ve never been a part of that. To sit here today with two games to go, and still everything right in front of us. Do we need help? Yeah. We need some help.
"But we control … sort of our destiny right now. We’ve got to find a way to make it through these next couple of weeks."
The Eagles have been in this situation before, of course.
Last season, they were 5-7 heading into their final four games, all against division opponents. They won all four and took the NFC East with a 9-7 record before losing in the first round of the playoffs to Seattle.
In 2018, the Eagles were 4-6 before winning five of their last six to get a wildcard spot. The Eagles won their first playoff game against the Bears before losing the following week to New Orleans.
In all, the Eagles are 13-5 under Pederson in the final four games of the season since he became head coach in 2016.
This also isn't the first time the Eagles have had to make that run without Carson Wentz at quarterback.
In 2017, Wentz missed the last three games and the playoffs with a torn ACL as backup Nick Foles led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. In 2018, Wentz missed the last three games with a stress fracture in his back and again Foles led the playoff run.
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But this is the first time Wentz is being replaced for a non-injury reason as rookie Jalen Hurts has started the last two games. The Eagles beat New Orleans 24-21 on Dec. 13 under Hurts before losing to the Cardinals.
Hurts threw for 338 yards and 3 TDs against Arizona. He also ran for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Pederson said that Hurts has played well, but he also credited the young receivers for raising their level of play.
Rookie Quez Watkins, for example, had a 32-yard touchdown reception, catching a short pass, then doing a spin move and racing down the sideline.
"It's almost like the lightbulb goes off," Pederson said. "It's like sort of those 'a-ha' moments like, 'Oh, this is what they're talking about.' This is what happens with young players. It just kind of comes together this way."
Pederson was then asked if that would have happened if Wentz had remained the quarterback.
"You're asking a question that's hard to answer," he said. "I don't know. I'm not sure. All I know is that the guys have been improving all season."
Whatever the reason, the Eagles still have a chance. And that's enough for veteran defensive end Brandon Graham.
"We have a little light at the end of the tunnel," Graham said. "We’re just hoping that somebody messes up next week and we go out and we do what we supposed to do and let it come down to that last game.
"Hopefully, we’re the ones who have that (playoff) shirt on in the end ... It’s definitely motivation for when we come back on Wednesday."
DeSean Jackson could return this season
The Eagles announced that DeSean Jackson will begin a 21-day practice window to possibly return from injured reserve. Jackson suffered an ankle injury returning a punt against the Giants on Oct. 22.
Since there are only two weeks left in the regular season, the practice window would also apply to a first-round playoff game if the Eagles get that far and Jackson hasn't been activated before then.
Jackson has just 13 catches for 155 yards and no TDs in just four games this season. He has played in only seven out of 31 games since the Eagles traded for him in March 2019.
3 selected to Pro Bowl
Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career. Other Eagles named to the Pro Bowl are defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, his sixth, and center Jason Kelce, his fourth.
All three were selected as starters. Graham, in his 11th season, has 7.0 sacks this season.
The Pro Bowl originally was scheduled to be played Jan. 31 in Las Vegas. It was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.