If you told Eagles players– and their fans — that the team would controlits own playoff destiny heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, they would probably be pretty excited.
They would probably also expect the Eagles to be above .500.
The 6-8 Birds host the 7-7 Redskins Sunday looking to keep their playoff hopes alive.
After a 40-17 dismantling by the Cardinals in Week 15, the Eagles are lucky to still have a shot. And against Washington, a team that ESPN favors them at 65 percent to win against, they have a real chance.
But they will certainly need to resemble the team that beat the Patriots and Bills earlier this month if they intend to clinch the lowly NFC East conference when January comes around.
Here are three things to keep an eye on.
The Eagles rank sixth in the NFL in total turnovers, yet 20th in the league in turnover differential.
It’s pretty clear that when the Eagles protect the ball they have a much better chance to win. It’s a deciding factor so important that Chip Kelly says it’s at the top of his list of things the team must do.
“We need to protect the football against a defense that does a good job in taking it,” Kelly said. “It’s going to come down to turnovers.”
Last week the Eagles turned it over three consecutive times in the second half, all leading to Arizona scores. If they do that again, they’ll be playing a meaningless game in Week 17.
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Don’t repeat history
Sam Bradford looked pretty solid back in Week 4, throwing three second-half touchdown passes to put the Birds ahead of Washington late in the fourth quarter. But Kirk Cousins led a 90-yard touchdown march to complete a comeback win for the Skins, and put the state of the Eagles defense in doubt. The Eagles failed to get their defense off the field to clinch a win.
The defense has done little to refute those concerns in recent weeks, allowing 35.6 points per game over the last five weeks.
If the Eagles let the Redskins post more than 35 points, chances are they’ll be on the losing end in this one.
Rise to the occasion
It literally doesn’t matter what has happened over the last 15 weeks of football. The Eagles can win twice and make the playoffs. They also can be spoilers while they are at it, advancing while sticking it to their NFC East rivals in Washington, and in New York in Week 17.
“If we don’t win, were out, that’s enough incentive,” Kelly told the media Wednesday, saying he didn’t care at all about what the Redskins’ situation is.”If I need to find more incentive for our guys then we’re in trouble.”
The Eagles can make the postseason by winning both of their games.
They also can back into a playoff spot. They still need to win in Week 16, but if the Giants lose this week, and the Redskins lose in Week 17 to the Cowboys, it won’t matter if the Eagles beat the Giants in the regular season finale.