2021 Eagles playoff outlook: where they stand after 13 weeks, games remaining and where they need to improve
The Philadelphia Eagles, sitting 6-7 after 13 weeks, shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, given how deep the offensive line was their team’s strength heading into the season. Nick Sirianni and his coaching staff still deserve a lot of credit for turning the tide and adjusting the original game plan since the start of the season.
As of week 8, the Eagles have been the best running team in football. Philadelphia is averaging 210.5 rushing yards per game – the highest in the league and the first time the franchise has run for more than 175 yards in six straight games since 1949. They only lag the Indianapolis Colts ‘in yards per stroke (5.09) and ground. touchdowns (11), as this new identity pushed the Eagles towards contenders for a playoff berth.
Philadelphia is 4-2 in its last six games, improving on both sides of the game. The Eagles are second in the NFL in points per game (29.8) since Week 8, second in points differential (+72) and second in total possession time (three hours and 17 minutes). Defense also improved, placing eighth in yards against per game (308.4) and seventh for points against per game (17.7).
The enhanced game puts Philadelphia at the heart of a playoff race ahead of its week off. When the Eagles return, four NFC East games await that will determine the fate of their 2021 season. For a team in a year of transition with three first-round draft picks coming in 2022 and plenty of salary cap space for them. improving the roster, the Eagles are ahead of schedule in their quest to climb to the top of the NFL.
A playoff berth in Sirianni’s freshman will go a long way for this franchise. The Eagles are in control of their own destiny over the last four games, a scenario this team hoped for at the start of the 2021 season.
Current position in the playoffs
The Eagles are eighth in the NFC playoff standings heading into their week off, dramatically improving their playoff chances in Week 13 with a victory over the New York Jets combined with a loss of the San Francisco 49ers to the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings falling against the Detroit Lions winless precedent.
The title odds for the NFC East Philadelphia Division are slim to none. The Dallas Cowboys (8-4) are expected to lose four of their next five games and the Eagles are expected to win to steal the division and stage a playoff game. Dallas winning against Washington this week would be better for Philadelphia, as the Eagles would be tied with the football team heading into the first of two season-ending clashes with their NFC East rivals.
The best way for the Eagles to enter the playoffs is through the wild card. Philadelphia is only half a game behind Washington for the No.6 seed and San Francisco for the No.7 seed in the NFC playoffs, but the Eagles have already lost to the 49ers. this year (week 2). San Francisco holds the crucial tiebreaker for a wild card spot if both teams have the same record after Week 18.
Here is the NFC playoff standings from No.6 to No.8 and the remaining schedules for each:
- Seeded # 6: Washington Soccer Team (6-6) – against Cowboys (8-4), against Eagles (6-7), against Cowboys (8-4), against Eagles (6-7), against Giants (4-8)
- Seeded 7: San Francisco 49ers (6-6) – among the Bengals (7-5), against the Falcons (5-7), among the Titans (8-4), against the Texans (2-10), among the Rams (8-4)
- Seeded # 8: Philadelphia Eagles (6-7) – week off, against Washington (6-6), against the Giants (4-8), at Washington (6-6), against the Cowboys (8-4)
This situation is pretty strong for the Eagles, who face Washington twice in their next three games. These two games will be the difference between making the playoffs and missing the playoffs entirely. The Eagles also need to make sure they beat the Giants after failing in the first meeting two weeks ago.
Separating from Washington would mean the tiebreaker is a division record. (Philadelphia is already 0-2 while Washington is 1-0.) The best case scenario for the Eagles is for Dallas to sweep Washington away, giving Philadelphia an extra opportunity if the Eagles were to part ways with the football team. Dallas may have nothing to play in Week 18 if he sweeps Washington, as the No.1 seed – and the conference’s only goodbye – seems out of reach at this point. (Dallas faces the seeded Arizona Cardinals in Week 17.)
The plan is clear enough for the Eagles to advance to the playoffs: sweep Washington and deal with the Giants. There is very little room for error, but Philadelphia is in control of its own destiny.
Where the Eagles need to improve in the last four games
Jalen Hurts will be the Eagles quarterback after the week off (assuming he’s fully healed from an ankle injury that kept him from securing Sunday’s victory over the Jets). While the Eagles have been excellent in football since Week 8, Hurts’ number of assists is far from ideal. Among quarterbacks with more than 50 passing attempts since Week 8, Hurts is 28th for completion percentage (57.8%), 24th for passing yards (719), tied for 25th for touchdowns by the pass (three), tied for ninth for interceptions thrown (four), and 30th in the classification of passers (71.6) – on 36 quarterbacks.
It didn’t help that Gardner Minshew finished 20 of 25 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, ending up with a 133.7 passer rating in his lone start as a replacement for Hurts (against the Jets). The Eagles also ran for 185 yards without Hurts, displaying a more balanced offense that would better keep opposing defenses on their toes.
The Eagles are still dynamic with Hurts as a quarterback, but if they can get a higher completion rate and more consistency from him for the duration of the year, Philadelphia could make it into the NFC rankings. and get 10 wins. Maybe more play passes and eliminating a few run pass and zone read options will help Hurts progress as a quarterback.
Getting to the quarterback
The Eagles have just 10 sacks since Week 8, tied for eighth in the NFL. And this despite their secondary improvement in allowed completion percentage (66.2%, 14th highest in the NFL) and opposing quarterbacks with a 91.7 passer rating against them (also 14th highest in the NFL). Those numbers would improve if the Eagles could put more pressure on the quarterback.
Philadelphia is under no pressure from its defensive front outside of Javon Hargrave (7.5 sacks) and Josh Sweat (5.0 sacks). The Eagles have no defending player other than those two with more than two sacks, implying someone other than Hargrave and Sweat have to step up in the past four weeks. This is where Fletcher Cox and Derek Barnett need to make their money and reach the quarterback.
The Eagles are tied for 11th on presses (146) but tied for 26th for sacks (21). The plan is there for opposing quarterbacks to get rid of the ball quickly due to the Eagles’ area coverage, but Philadelphia must find a way to come home on the passes to create more third and long situations.
Will they make the playoffs?
If the Eagles sweep Washington, there’s a good chance Philadelphia will make their fourth playoff trip in five years. Finishing 9-8 should also be enough to get the Eagles into the playoffs, but the best way to get in is to win their next three games.
The loss to the 49ers hurts and means Philadelphia will need a better record than San Francisco to pass them. The 49ers have a tough road ahead with the Bengals, Titans and Rams on their schedule, so there’s a chance they’ll finish 8-9 and Philadelphia could overtake them in the standings.
Ultimately, the season comes down to the two clashes with Washington – the team with half a game ahead of them in the conference standings. A split with Washington only serves and the Eagles would need some outside help. A sweep of Washington and the Eagles is expected to play football in mid-January.
The fate of Philadelphia is in his hands.