PHILADELPHIA – The Eagles were the first NFC East team to be knocked out of the playoffs last week, and they’re the only one of four teams in the division not to have a chance to win it until Week 17.
But the Eagles have some element of control over who wins the division. The Washington football team must beat the Eagles on Sunday night to win the NFC East. If the Eagles beat Washington, the winner of the Cowboys-Giants game earlier today will go to the playoffs.
The Eagles can change the playoff image from position at the bottom of the division. And while defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has spoken of a “hatless rule” – Washington not having the chance to wear its divisional championship clothes at Lincoln Financial Field – coach Doug Pederson doesn’t see Washington out. of the playoffs as the main driver on Sunday.
“I don’t necessarily use the spoiler as a motivation,” Pederson said Friday morning. “I use the fact that we had another opportunity to go out and show our talents and try to put together a four quarterback game and try to win a game. It’s the motivation, and it’s the division opponent, and that’s our goal. We planned the game, we trained this week that way, and I expect our team, my team to come out and play hard and aggressively. Yes, we understand that for them, if they win, obviously they are entered, and so we know those ramifications as well. We’ve been on that side, so we understand that. But I’m not using the spoiler as a motivation for a football game in any way. “
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The Eagles are also in a difficult position to spoil things for Washington. On Friday, the Eagles ruled out nine players for Sunday’s game, including left tackle Jordan Mailata (concussion), defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (neck) and defensive end Derek Barnett (calf). The Eagles, already battered by injuries this season, will be even further shorthanded.
But over the past two weeks, quarterback Jalen Hurts and center Jason Kelce have said their main goal whenever they step onto the field is to win games. Young players are always trying to make impressions. The waiting free agents are trying to put together a movie for the rest of the league. The personal stakes remain, even if the draft position remains the only outcome still uncertain for the Eagles. The Birds could pick anywhere from No.3 to No.10 in the 2021 NFL Draft, depending on the result.
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Defensive end Brandon Graham reiterated that point this week.
“You know, you have to go out there to win,” Graham said. “We have to end this thing with a great taste in the mouth, at least. I understand it’s a business at the end of the day, but when we’re in this field, we put our careers and our lives on the line, every time we step into this field. No one just says “Oh, they let him win because they wanted to get this spot.” No, BG looks bad when he looks bad on the movie, so you want to go with that mindset every time to win.
The Eagles are well aware of what is at stake. At the start of Week 16, they were hoping Sunday’s final would be a win-win game for them. But the pieces didn’t fall off that way. And while they can still exert their influence on the NFC playoff image, the Eagles are more focused on themselves.
“It’s a matter of pride,” said security Marcus Epps. “We don’t want other teams celebrating on our field, celebrating the division’s victory on our field. So most of the time it comes down to having pride, heart. We know it’s going to be a tough game because they’re a very good team. But you know, it’s kind of like that every week. I mean, every team – it’s the NFL, every team is going to be a tough game, so we just have to bring it in this week.
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Daniel Gallen covers the Philadelphia Eagles for PennLive. He can be contacted at [email protected]. You can follow it on Twitter and Facebook. Follow PennLive’s Philadelphia Eagles coverage on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.