Now that the Eagles are officially playoff bound and their Week 18 contest against Dallas will mean very little, it’s time to look ahead at some possible matchups for round one.
There are four teams the Eagles could potentially play on Wildcard weekend, the Buccaneers, Rams, Cowboys, and Cardinals. Some of these matchups are more likely to happen than others, but they’re all on the table at this moment.
Let’s take a look at each and rank the matchups from least favorable to most favorable for the Eagles.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay is the most likely matchup for the Eagles in the first round of the postseason, and it just so happens to be the least favorable.
For starters, they’re the defending Super Bowl champions and they’re led by the best postseason quarterback of all time, Tom Brady. Brady has a career 23-7 record in home playoff games and an overall playoff record of 33-11.
Tampa is also well equipped defensively to slow down the Eagles rushing attack. They’re third in the league against the run, allowing an average of just 4.0 yards per carry. But as we’ve seen throughout the year, the Eagles can pretty much run at will against anyone. When these teams met back in Week 6, the Eagles managed to rack up 100 yards on the ground on just 19 carries — 10 from Jalen Hurts, nine from Miles Sanders.
That was right before Nick Sirianni completely revamped his offense into the run heavy attack we see today, so it would be interesting to see how this matchup were to unfold now. Nevertheless, Tampa presents a lot of issues on both sides of the ball for the Eagles.
Maybe the whole Antonio Brown situation festers and causes some internal conflict heading into the postseason — that would obviously give anyone a chance to best Brady and his crew. But as it stands right now, Tampa is the last team the Eagles will want to face come playoff time.
3. Los Angeles Rams
On paper, the Rams are probably the best team in the entire NFL right now. Their offense is loaded with talent at the skill positions and their offensive line is much better than people give them credit for. Defensively, they have just as much talent, and that talent is spread out to every level of their defensive unit.
Their front office has made a concerted effort to build this team into a contender and it’s paid off as of late. LA has won five straight games and is posting a point differential of +55 during that time.
The Eagles just don’t matchup well with LA on either side of the ball, but especially on offense. The Rams are stout against the run, which is to be expected when Aaron Donald is anchoring your defensive front. And they have one of the better pass defenses in the league, with All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey leading the way.
Offensively, the Rams have too many weapons to count and they have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Jonathan Gannon would have his work cut out for him facing Sean McVay’s unit.
The one silver lining for this matchup is that McVay has struggled to beat Philadelphia during his time in LA. He’s 1-2 against the Eagles and he’s never beaten the Eagles on his home turf. Of course, that was against Doug Pederson, so that record doesn’t carry nearly as much weight anymore.
From top to bottom, the Rams are better than the Eagles at nearly every position, so it goes without saying that this would be a tough matchup for Philly.
2. Dallas Cowboys
These final two matchups are really a toss up. Dallas gets the nod as the slightly tougher matchup just because they’ve had the Eagles number in recent years. Philly is 2-6 in their last eight matchups with Dallas, and one of those wins came against Ben DiNucci.
Although the Cowboys have continued their winning ways throughout the past month or so, it’s clear that they’re not the same team they were at the beginning of the year. Dak Prescott has struggled in recent weeks, despite his team continuing to win. Over the past five games, he’s been sacked 12 times, and he was only sacked 15 times through the first 12 weeks of the season. The added pressure Dak’s seen in recent weeks has led to more turnovers, as he’s averaging one turnover per game over the last five weeks.
Although the Eagles defense has faced some pretty poor quarterback play over the past month and a half, they’ve done a nice job forcing turnovers. Over the past six weeks, Gannon’s unit has caused seven takeaways.
The Eagles offense should also have no issue running the ball against Dallas’ front. They’ve surrendered an average of 4.5 yards per carry in 2021, along with 12 rushing touchdowns.
Dallas is a good football team, there’s no denying that. But they’ve been overrated by most of the national media all season long. This matchup favors the Eagles in a big way. Not only because Sirianni should be able to dial up the run all day long against Dallas, but because Dallas’ offense has been more mistake prone than usual recently. If the Eagles do end up facing Dallas in round one, they should feel pretty good about their chances
1. Arizona Cardinals
While this may be the most favorable matchup for Philly, it also happens to be the least likely to happen on Wildcard weekend due to seeding. Nevertheless, getting Arizona in round one would be a gift for the Eagles.
There isn’t a team in the NFC playoff picture that’s playing worse than Arizona right now. After starting 10-2, the Cardinals dropped three straight, losing to LA, Detroit, and Indianapolis. They have all the talent in the world, but they tend to self-implode at the most inopportune times.
Kliff Kingsbury has proven throughout the year that he’s not a very good clock manager, which has hurt his team more often than not. And his play calling at times can be a little gimmicky. He relies on his offensive talent a lot, and at times that will cause him to call the same sort of plays over and over again. They can still keep up with the best the league has to offer because of Kyler Murray’s exceptional play making ability, but they will shoot themselves in the foot.
Defensively, Arizona certainly has some playmakers. Chandler Jones is having another All-Pro level season and Budda Baker is a very solid safety. But they still struggle to stop high powered offensive attacks. The Eagles rushing attack certainly falls into that category and they would have no issues attacking Arizona on the ground. Arizona is allowing 4.4 yards per carry this season.
They’re also susceptible to the pass, allowing 27 passing touchdowns on the year, tenth-most in the league.
For most of the season, Arizona was considered as a strong contender for the Super Bowl. But they’ve played so poorly in recent weeks that they may not even get a top-four seed in the NFC playoffs. Without question, facing Arizona in round one would be the most favorable matchup for the Birds.