Ranking Eagles’ possible divisional round opponents

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Ranking Eagles’ possible divisional round opponents originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Eagles earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the bye week that comes with it.

So this weekend they wait.

They’ll watch the three NFC games eager to find out their opponent for the divisional round matchup they’ll host next weekend. The lowest seed to advance will be in Philadelphia next weekend.

As a reminder, this is the NFC schedule this weekend:

Saturday at 4:30 p.m.: No. 7 Seahawks at No. 2 49ers

Sunday 4:30 p.m.: No. 6 Giants at No. 3 Vikings

Monday at 8:15 p.m.: No. 5 Cowboys at No. 4 Buccaneers

There are four possibilities for the Eagles in the divisional round. They’ll play either the Bucs, Cowboys, Giants or Seahawks. The only two teams we know they won’t play next weekend are the 49ers and Vikings because there’s no way they’ll be the lowest remaining seeds.

No matter which team comes to Philly next weekend, the Eagles will be favored. And not getting to the NFC Championship Game would be a major disappointment.

With all that in mind, let’s rank the four possibilities from best-case scenario to worst-case scenario:

No. 7 Seahawks (9-8): The Seahawks were able to sneak into the playoffs with a 9-8 record thanks to the Lions’ win over the Packers on Sunday Night Football. Of those three teams, the Seahawks are the easiest draw. It’s hard to imagine them going to San Francisco and taking down the 49ers, so this possibility seems far-fetched. But crazy things happen. And not only are the Seahawks the weakest team in the NFC playoffs but if they come to Philly it means they already knocked out the biggest threat in the conference. That’s why this is clearly the best-case scenario. Getting the 49ers out of the way would really open things up.

As for the Seahawks themselves, they began the season with a 6-3 record before  a stretch where they went 1-6. Give them credit for beating the Jets and Rams the last two weeks to get into the playoffs but this isn’t a very scary team and they’re relying heavily on young players without playoff experience. And as great as Geno Smith’s redemption year has been, it’s hard to imagine him coming into Philly and leaving with a win; his play has tailed off the second half of the season. The Seahawks rank 13th in the NFL in offense and 26th in defense. They’ve also been awful against the run. They’re 30th in the NFL and the Eagles have one of the best O-lines in the league. It would be hard for Seattle to stop them, especially if Jalen Hurts is closer to 100 percent.

No. 6 Giants (9-7-1): The tricky thing about the Giants is that this would be the third meeting between the two teams and it’s not necessarily easy to beat the same team three times in the same season. That Week 18 game between the Eagles and Giants was a weird one, though, and I wouldn’t read too much into it. While that game was probably a little too close for comfort, the Eagles had a limited quarterback and did what they needed to do to win against the Giants’ backups. And if they were just a little better in the red zone — they were 1-for-5 — that game might have looked much different. Aside from that game, the Eagles have been fantastic all season inside the 20.

The Giants play tough and that means that the Eagles might not cruise to victory. But you can’t really expect that in the playoffs anyway. And after seeing the Giants during the season (remember the 48-22 game?) it’s pretty clear the Eagles are simply the better team. Now, could the Eagles lose if they turn the ball over a bunch and make boneheaded mistakes? Sure. But they could lose to anyone if that happens. I think they’d feel pretty confident going into this game feeling like they’re simply the better team and they’d be right.

No. 4 Buccaneers (8-9): Tom Brady. That’s what scares you about the Bucs. It’s the fact that you’re worried Brady is suddenly going to morph back into the prime version of the GOAT and whoop up on you. And maybe that fear isn’t totally unfounded, especially if the Bucs have already advanced. I have retired from counting Brady out before he’s actually retired. But this Bucs team just hasn’t been good all season. They tried their hardest not to win the crappiest division in the league and finished the season ranked 25th in points scored, although we’ve seen some more signs of life from this offense with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans getting into a rhythm more recently.

On defense, the Bucs in the playoffs last year did a number on Hurts and the Eagles. They got after Hurts throughout that afternoon and the pressure got to him. But Hurts is a completely different player this year; way more comfortable in the offense and dealing with the blitz. And the Bucs defense isn’t the same either. In fact they’ve given up 30+ points in three of their last five games. With Shaquil Barrett on IR, this Bucs pass rush just doesn’t have the same juice.

No. 5 Cowboys (12-5): You thought the Eagles had a rough performance in Week 18? Did you see the Cowboys. They theoretically still had something to play for and laid an egg against the Commanders. Dak Prescott was awful, completing 14 of 37 passes and threw another pick-6. That’s seven straight games with an INT. So maybe the Cowboys aren’t the biggest threat in the NFC but Dak was very good against the Eagles back on Christmas Eve in that 40-34 Cowboys win. Gardner Minshew was great in that game and the Eagles still lost in a shootout.

The Cowboys have plenty of weapons on offense with CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, both running backs and Dalton Schultz. And on defense, they have two elite edge rushers in Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, which is especially scary when you remember that Lane Johnson is going to attempt to play through a significant groin injury. The Eagles could definitely beat the Cowboys but it’s not the easiest route.

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