The Eagles clinched a first-round playoff bye with their win in New York last Sunday. But there is still more to play for.
A win against the Raiders Monday night (on Christmas Day eve) will clinch the No. 1 seed in the NFC and therefore homefield advantage throughout the playoffs — until the Super Bowl, held in Minnesota.
In theory, home playoff games are a huge advantage for the Eagles. Boasting a 6-0 mark from Lincoln Financial Field this season, Philly could force indoor teams like the Vikings, Saints or Falcons to uncomfortably face the elements in South Philadelphia during a January game.
Following the Raiders game the Eagles will have a second chance to clinch the No. 1 seed against Dallas on Dec. 31. So what does that mean for Philly’s staters?
“I’ve begun thinking, but my focus is winning the game on Monday night, because that to me is the most important thing,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “Once we get to next week, we’ll figure out next week. But my mindset this week is all about the Oakland Raiders, Monday Night Football, and if we win that one. And like I’ve said pretty much these last few weeks, we control our destiny right now. So that’s the focus for me.”
So winning against Oakland on Monday Night Football (an 8:30 p.m. start on ESPN) is a big deal right?
Well not necessarily.
If the Packers — eliminated from playoff contention despite Aaron Rodgers’ return last week — can play spoilers against the Vikings before the Eagles take the field in Week 16. Which would hand Philly the No. 1 seed before they suit up Monday.
“You just make the best decisions for your football team and if that means resting a guy, you rest a guy, or two or three,” Pederson said. “But you also have to maintain the edge with these players, and you’ve got to maintain that confidence and that dominating swagger and you’ve got to keep that alive. You just can’t go — it’s not a preseason game, you know what I’m saying, where you can rest in week four and rest all your guys.”
Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has just one game under his belt, filling in for Carson Wentz who will miss the season with a torn ACL. Surely keeping him on the field, regardless will be more important than rest — though some other starters may get pulled in Week 17 if the Eagles win in Week 16.
“That’s a great situation because right now with two [quarterbacks] on the roster,” the coach said, “you want Nick to play as much as you can and get as many reps as you can and let him play and continue to work through some things and work the rapport with the offense and all of that.”