|by Ryan Messick
|More Headlines: Jackson on Critics|
The Eagles and Giants will play as big of a regular season game as you can play Sunday, with major NFC East and playoff implications on the line. Both teams come in at 9-4, with the Eagles holding the tiebreaker based on their 27-17 win in the first meeting.
While the Giants are currently the sixth seed in the playoffs as a wild card, the loser on Sunday will likely be on the outside looking in with just two games remaining.
The Packers and Buccaneers, both 8-5, are looming. Green Bay already holds a tiebreaker on Philadelphia, and squares off with New York next weekend. The Packers have to get by the Patriots first, and Aaron Rodgers hasn’t practiced yet this week due to a concussion.
With Tampa Bay, facing Detroit this week, the tiebreaker would involve conference record against Philadelphia, with Tampa Bay holding an edge if the Birds lose this weekend and Tampa Bay wins. If it’s the Giants who fall, it would go all the way to strength of victory – New York is 4-0 with one common game left, Tampa Bay is 3-0 with two remaining.
From there, it gets very complicated, but the obvious point is that the loser of Sunday’s Eagles-Giants game faces a big uphill battle to get into the playoffs, even at 10-6 or 11-5. That just makes the rivalry even fiercer in this particular meeting.
“Absolutely, I mean, obviously we want to beat them but we don’t want to have to see them again in the playoffs,” Quintin Mikell said. “So if we can beat them and not have to see them in the playoffs, that’d be much better.”
Of course, the Eagles are no stranger to big games and big audiences. Sunday’s game will be Philadlephia’s fourth this year at 1:00 in the afternoon, while the Birds will play their sixth 8:20 or 8:30 game when they host the Vikings on Sunday night the following week. Six, by the way, is the league limit on prime time appearances.
“We’re used to playing in big games,” said DeSean Jackson. “As a Philadelphia Eagle I know my guys will be ready too, and the coaches are getting us ready and everything like that. As far as my slate, I’m used to playing in big games also, it’s just something about them big games when everybody’s watching, I just like to pull out the best.”
The players aren’t the only ones who relish the challenge of the spotlight and the pressure brought on by the high stakes of the game. Andy Reid is up for the challenge as well.
“That’s what we all work hard for,” Reid said. “It’s neat that both teams are in a position where it matters this late in the season and, so, our guys are going to go through the process. Again, we understand there will be a lot of media attention and distractions. It’s important, again, that we all – as coaches and players – focus in on the job at hand and that’s getting ready to play a very good football team.”
One very good football team will win on Sunday and be no worse than tied for the two-seed and a first round bye. A less fortunate, but still very good football team will lose, and may end up watching the playoffs from home. It doesn’t get much bigger than that in the regular season.
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