It’s all in front of the Eagles. Keep winning and the NFC road to the Super Bowl will go through Philadelphia. Keep winning and Lincoln Financial Field will be the site of the NFC championship game for the first time since 2005, which is the last time the Eagles reached the Super Bowl.
Sounds simple, but it will not be easy. The NFC is loaded with worthy Super Bowl contenders. The Eagles will see one of them Sunday night in Dallas and a couple of others – Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams on the road — following their home game against the Chicago Bears next Sunday.
In order, here’s a look at the NFC threats to the Eagles’ Super Bowl aspirations.
New Orleans Saints (7-2)
They appeared to be the same old Saints when they surrendered 65 points and more than 1,000 yards in season-opening losses to Minnesota and New England. Since then, they have won seven straight and allowed 14.3 points per game. With the continued brilliance of Drew Brees and the dynamic running combination of Mark Ingram and rookie Alvin Kamara, the Saints are the biggest postseason threat to the Eagles. Their offense is third in scoring and second in yards and their defense has allowed the fifth-fewest points and the eighth-fewest yards. Brees is 5-2 against the Eagles since joining the Saints in 2006, and two of the Eagles’ last five playoff appearances ended with losses to the Saints, including the last one at the Linc in 2013.
Los Angeles Rams (7-2)
We all know that Jared Goff was taken one pick ahead of Carson Wentz last year and he has proved this season to be worth the investment. The debate about the two quarterbacks will be waged in earnest when the teams play Dec. 10 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the Eagles’ 1949 NFL title victory over the Rams. With Goff at quarterback and Todd Gurley at running back, the Rams have scored 33 points or more in six of their nine games and lead the NFL with 296 points. They also scored 27 in Week 6 against Jacksonville, the team with the league’s No. 1 scoring defense. The Jags have allowed a total of 24 points in three games since playing Los Angeles. The Rams have allowed just 11.4 points per game in their last five games and have the league’s No. 3 scoring defense. Like the Eagles, they are young and dangerous.
Carolina Panthers (6-3)
Yes, the Eagles beat Cam Newton and company on the road in Week 6 and the Panthers had struggled offensively since then until putting up 45 points Monday night against a Miami team that might not win another game. Remember, however, that linebacker Luke Kuechly left the game against the Eagles in the second quarter and the Panthers defense was not the same without him. A rematch with Carolina would be difficult.
Green Bay Packers (5-4)
The Packers were thrilled to learn this past week that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is recovering well from the fractured collarbone that has kept him out since a Week 6 loss at Minnesota. It’s possible he could be back for a Week 15 game against Carolina, and the Packers, even with Brett Hundley at quarterback, have three winnable games before then. The Pack get into the playoffs with a healthy Rodgers and anything is possible.
Minnesota Vikings (7-2)
Mike Zimmer would deserve the coach of the year award if the season ended right now, but it’s difficult to imagine a team with Case Keenum at quarterback being a serious threat to reach the Super Bowl.
Atlanta Falcons (5-4)
Three of the Falcons’ next four games are against Seattle on the road and Minnesota and New Orleans at home. Matt Ryan and the defending NFC champions looked great last week against Dallas, but at 5-4 they probably need to win at least two of those three aforementioned games.
Dallas Cowboys (5-4)
Two weeks ago the Cowboys might have been atop this list. But you lose Ezekiel Elliott to a six-game suspension and then watch Tyron Smith and Sean Lee go down with injuries and everything changes. Beat the depleted Cowboys Sunday night and the Eagles should easily clear the hurdle of winning their first NFC East title since 2013 while also seriously damaging the Cowboys’ chances of even making the playoffs.
Seattle Seahawks (6-3)
The Seahawks would have been near the top of this list last week, but the losses of cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor could mean the end of the Legion of Boom and the end of Seattle’s Super Bowl hopes for this season. The first test without those two is Monday night against the Falcons.The Eagles are 1-5 in their last six games against the Seahawks and have averaged just 13.4 points in the five losses. They get a crack at the Seahawks’ depleted secondary Dec. 3 in Seattle.
Detroit Lions (5-4)
They have a high-powered offense, but they are the Detroit Lions, the team that has not won a playoff game since 1991.
Tom Coughlin already had a Hall of Fame resume, but in his first season as Jacksonville’s executive vice president of football operations he has added to it. The two-time Super Bowl winner as coach of the New York Giants also took Jacksonville to a couple of AFC championship games as the Jags coach. Now as an executive he has 6-3 Jacksonville headed toward its first winning season since 2007. The Jaguars had only three winning seasons after Coughlin left as coach in 2002.
The Buffalo Bills have not been to the playoffs in this century and, despite a 5-2 start, it does not appear as if rookie head coach Sean McDermott is going to be able to put an end to that dubious streak. The Bills followed up a road loss to the New York Jets by taking a beating from the Saints at home last week. McDermott benched quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the middle of last week’s game and is sticking with rookie Nathan Peterman on Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. Peterman will be the 17th quarterback to start for the Bills since Jim Kelly retired after the 1996 season.
This week’s best
Sunday at 1 p.m.
L.A. Rams at Minnesota
Jared Goff and Case Keenum spent last season in the same quarterback room with the Rams and there was no indication that either one could lead a team to a 7-2 start in 2017. Keenum started the Rams’ first nine games and was 4-5 with nine TD passes and 11 interceptions. Goff started the last seven games and was 0-7 with five TD passes and seven interceptions. Now they have a combined 27 scoring passes and nine interceptions for teams that lead their respective decisions.
New England vs. Oakland in Mexico City
This is the second straight season the Raiders have played in Mexico City, and the huge crowd was behind them during last year’s win over the Houston Texans in a packed Azteca Stadium. In order to remain in the playoff race, the Raiders will need to pull off an upset against a 7-2 New England team that has won five straight behind a resurgent defense.
Eagles at Dallas
Andy Reid was 13-1 after regular-season bye weeks during his 14 seasons as the Eagles head coach and 20-2 when given extra time to prepare if you count the postseason and Thursday games. Doug Pederson lost his first game after a bye week last season, when the 3-0 Eagles got off to a sluggish start before losing at Detroit, but he had the Eagles ready to play on extra rest earlier this season against Washington. The Eagles have won five of their last seven at AT&T Stadium after losing their first two games in Jerry’s Pleasure Palace by a combined 58-14 score.
Atlanta at Seattle
Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Falcons last season in Seattle after Matt Ryan had thrown three third-quarter touchdown passes to put Atlanta in front. Both teams need a win here to keep their hopes of a divisional title alive. Wilson’s 290 rushing yards this season in nine games are already 31 more than he had a year ago, when he played with myriad injuries.