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Ranking NFC teams that could ruin Eagles' Super Bowl dreams − and whether it will happen

Now that the Eagles are the first team to clinch a playoff spot, it's fair to wonder who they would best match up with in the playoffs.

But be careful. We have seen this many times before, where a team dominates in the regular season only to get upset in the playoffs.

The Eagles have certainly been there, losing in the NFC Championship game three straight times in the 2001-03 seasons before finally reaching the Super Bowl in 2004.

And the Green Bay Packers have been the NFC's top seed in each of the last two seasons only to lose in the NFC Championship game in the 2020 season and the divisional round last season.

Here, then, is a ranking of the teams in the running for playoff spots that can most challenge the Eagles' run to a Super Bowl. They're ranked from least to most challenging.

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10. Carolina Panthers

Incredibly, the Panthers are just a game out of the division lead in the weak NFC South after they fired Matt Ruhle (1-4) and replaced him with Steve Wilks (4-4). Carolina has used three different quarterbacks, not getting good play from any of them. The Eagles are much better both on offense and on defense.

Chance at upset: None

Miles Sanders of the Eagles scores for a TD in the second half as the  Philadelphia Eagles came to East Rutherford, NJ and defeat their division rivals the New York Giants 48-22 on December 11, 2022.
Miles Sanders of the Eagles scores for a TD in the second half as the Philadelphia Eagles came to East Rutherford, NJ and defeat their division rivals the New York Giants 48-22 on December 11, 2022.

9. New York Giants

The Giants are 1-4-1 since their 6-1 start, and they're quite easy to figure out, as the Eagles did last Sunday in their 48-22 win. It's load up on stopping Saquon Barkley, which the Eagles can do with their strong defensive line, then grab an early lead on offense, and force Daniel Jones to throw to an unimpressive group of wide receivers. The Giants don't stand much of a chance.

Chance at upset: None

Seattle's DK Metcalf (14) makes a jumping catch over Philadelphia's Marcus Epps (37) in a Jan. 2020 playoff game.
Seattle's DK Metcalf (14) makes a jumping catch over Philadelphia's Marcus Epps (37) in a Jan. 2020 playoff game.

8. Seattle Seahawks

For a while, longtime journeyman quarterback Geno Smith was having a better season than Jalen Hurts. But that's not the case anymore as Seattle has gone 1-3 since its 6-3 start. Still, DK Metcalf is always dangerous at receiver. And rookie cornerback Tariq Woolen, who's tied with Eagles safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson for the NFL lead with six interceptions, has already started drawing comparisons to longtime great Seahawks corner Richard Sherman. The problem is Woolen can't cover both A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith at the same time. And the Seahawks are 31st in stopping the run. Hurts and Miles Sanders might both surpass 100 yards rushing.

Chance at upset: 5%

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) passes during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, Oct. 14, 2021, in Philadelphia.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This team is not the same team that knocked out the Eagles in the playoffs last season when the Bucs took a 31-0 lead in the third quarter. That's obvious with the Bucs' 6-7 record, good enough to lead the NFC South. The Buccaneers don't have a running game, and Tom Brady can't do it with just his arm anymore at the age of 45. At the same time, Hurts isn't the same quarterback who looked overmatched in throwing two interceptions in the playoffs last year. No doubt, Hurts would love to show Tampa Bay how much he has improved.

Chance at upset: 10%

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) looks to throw during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in Philadelphia.

6. Green Bay Packers

The Packers (5-8) have a long way to go just to get into the playoffs. That means they would have to win all four of their remaining games, then hope for some help. If that happens, that will mean Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' offense have finally figured it out. The Eagles beat the Packers 40-33 on Nov. 27 with a punishing run game as Hurts had 157 yards on the ground and Sanders had 143. But Rodgers is dangerous enough to keep the Packers within striking distance.

Chance at upset: 20%

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) celebrates his interception with safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23) during the NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) celebrates his interception with safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (23) during the NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia.

5. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings could have clinched the NFC North, but fell to the Lions last Sunday. They might have a 10-3 record, but 40-3 losses to Dallas and 24-7 to the Eagles, when the Eagles didn't score a single point in the second half, are concerning. The Eagles shut down Justin Jefferson, holding him to 48 yards receiving. If they can do it again, they should have no problem, especially since the game should be in Philadelphia.

Chance at upset: 30%

Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert runs against Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye, left, and safety DeShon Elliott during the first half on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.
Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert runs against Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye, left, and safety DeShon Elliott during the first half on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.

4. Detroit Lions

Don't look now, but outside of the Eagles, the Lions are the hottest team in football, having won five of their last six after a 1-6 start. The Eagles saw a glimpse of what the Lions could become in the opener when they had to hold on for a 38-35 win. The Lions are much better since then, now that rookie wide receiver Jameson Williams has recovered from a torn ACL. The Eagles' run defense has improved greatly since then, too. But if the Lions get into the postseason, they will be a tough out.

Chance at upset: 35%

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the first quarter an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert (88) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the first quarter an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2022, in Philadelphia.

3. Washington Commanders

The Commanders (7-5-1) are the only team to beat the Eagles this season. But they're even more dangerous than in that Nov. 14 meeting because defensive end Chase Young is expected back from his torn ACL this Sunday, and thus should be reaching peak conditioning in the playoffs. That gives Washington a formidable front-7 that the Eagles will have to contend with. And the Commanders are light years better than they were in the first meeting when Carson Wentz was the starter and the Eagles sacked him nine times in an easy 24-8 win. Wentz went on IR, then lost his job to Taylor Heinicke upon his return. Heinicke isn't Rodgers, of course, but Washington is 5-1-1 with him.

Chance at upset: 35%

2. San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers (9-4) have the most well-rounded offense in the NFL, except for the quarterback. So as great as Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Christian McCaffrey and tight end George Kittle are, they still need someone who can get the ball to them now that quarterbacks Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo are out for the season. In addition, Samuel could be out for a while with a high ankle sprain. Then again, Brock Purdy came in and helped the 49ers bury the Buccaneers last Sunday in his first NFL start. The playoffs, of course, are a different animal. The Eagles' defense should be able to pressure Purdy, thus forcing him into mistakes. On defense, San Francisco is strong at all three levels, led by NFL sack leader Nick Bosa. This will be a tough matchup, but the Eagles' edge at quarterback should be the difference.

Chance at upset: 40%

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) with the interception as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) tried to chase him down during the NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) with the interception as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Gallup (13) tried to chase him down during the NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia.

1. Dallas Cowboys

The question with the Cowboys (10-3) is which team will show up? Is it the one that ransacked the Vikings 40-3, or needed a last-minute rally to beat the lowly Houston Texans on Sunday? Sure, the Eagles beat the Cowboys in the first meeting, but Dak Prescott didn't play. And the running back duo of Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott could give the Eagles fits, along with a wide receiver corps that just added T.Y. Hilton to CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. The Eagles' path to victory is through the running game, where the Cowboys are somewhat vulnerable. But the Eagles will have to deal with star linebacker Micah Parsons, a big reason why the Cowboys have a top-five overall defense. It's crucial that the Eagles lock up the NFC East title, thus guaranteeing a home game should they meet the Cowboys in the playoffs.

Chance at upset: 45%

In other news

  • The Eagles opened the 21-day practice window for tight end Dallas Goedert, who is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Goedert said Wednesday that it's "still up in the air, but trending in the right direction" as to whether he'll play Sunday. That would be the first game that Goedert is eligible to return after missing the required 4 games. Goedert has 43 catches for 544 yards this season.

  • Defensive end Brandon Graham was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week after recording a career-high 3 sacks against the Giants on Sunday. It's the second time this season that Graham has won the award this season. He also won it Week 3 after getting 2.5 sacks against the Washington Commanders.

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

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Ranking which teams in the NFC could end Eagles Super Bowl hopes