It should be painfully obvious at this point that no one respects the Eagles, whether it be or whether it be to the NFC Championship Game. No one is betting on the Eagles and no one believes in the Eagles. Quite a spot to be for the No. 1 seed in the NFC set to play a game at home with a shot to head to the Super Bowl on the line.
Philly can take more solace in the chip-on-the-shoulder status with some look-ahead lines for the Super Bowl, because the Eagles would be underdogs against either the Patriots or the Jaguars if they were to beat the Vikings on Sunday.
There are only three NFL games (super sad emoji here) left in the season and only four possible Super Bowl matchups. Let's dive into some hypothetical Super Bowl lines for those games, courtesy of Bovada.lv.
Jaguars (-2.5) vs. Eagles
This would mean a pair of pretty massive upsets on Sunday during the conference championship round. The Jags are nine-point dogs to the Patriots in New England, while the Eagles are three-point dogs at home to the Vikings, which would mean if the field was flipped, they would be nine-point dogs in Minnesota. Weirder things have happened in the NFL and much weirder things have happened this season. Jags-Eagles would be the most bizarre Super Bowl matchup we've seen in recent years -- these two teams combined to win 10 games last season and both finished in dead last in their respective divisions. But they're good now, in large part because of some dominant defenses that center around dangerous defensive lines.
The Eagles have Fletcher Cox, Timmy Jernigan, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Derek Barnett; Jim Schwartz has been excellent at deploying these guys this season. The Jaguars have Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler. Both teams have a weakness at quarterback, although Nick Foles looks a little more trustworthy than Blake Bortles. And both teams love to run the ball. The over-under for this game would be roughly 34 points and the folks at NBC would be pushing the "anything can happen in this league" angle hard. Don't sleep on the entertainment value of these two teams over the course of two weeks though.
Patriots (-7) vs. Eagles
This would be better, for the purposes of selling the game. But it would lead to a lot of "could this be a blowout" chatter and a whole lot of coronation for the Patriots and discussion of what exactly this would mean for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady's legacy. That's not the way it should go down, but there are two weeks to fill and this is how it gets filled. The large spread here, however, might not matter for the purpose of pitting two rabid fanbases against one another. The Eagles are desperate for a Super Bowl and they might have the recipe -- great defensive line and a strong running game -- for taking down the Patriots. It's just hard to imagine a situation where Foles outduels Brady to lead Philly to victory.
On the other hand, if the Eagles get through the NFC Championship Game and move past the Vikings, who are lucky to still be playing after Drew Brees electric second half on Sunday night in the divisional round, they might just have proven they're capable of beating a stout defense. The Pats are not a stout defense (32nd in yards/drive allowed), but they still manage to prevent people from scoring (sixth in points/drive allowed) at an alarmingly disparate rate. It is truly a bend-but-don't-break defense. The Eagles would need to come out of the gates on fire, take a lead over the Pats and salt the game away by pounding Jay Ajayi all while pressuring Brady.
Patriots (-3) vs. Vikings
This is the top-end matchup for the suits at NBC based on the four teams left. The Pats making the Super Bowl is always good for business and the Vikings becoming the first team to play in their home stadium would be a juicy as all get out storyline. The Pats have the top-rated offense by DVOA, yards per drive and points per drive. The Vikings have the most balanced defense in the NFL and are playing as well on that side of the ball as anyone in the NFL right now. Mike Zimmer against Bill Belichick would be a fantastic coaching matchup. Brady against Zimmer's defense, a unit that has no weaknesses and requires Hall of Fame play in order to give up any points or yards (see: Brees on Sunday), would be tremendous. The Vikings as underdogs is understandable given how the Patriots are a public team and have the best quarterback of all time on their roster, but this defense could slow down New England.
Just like against New Orleans, it would be up to the Vikings offense to be the differentiator here. Belichick and Matt Patricia could scheme up some stuff to stop Case Keenum, but don't sleep on the job Keenum and Pat Shurmur have done offensively. Stefon Diggs is explosive, if you didn't hear, and Adam Thielen is a stud as well. This could turn into a sneaky shootout if it's the matchup we get.
Vikings (-5.5) vs. Jaguars
This is my favorite potential matchup. What's the over/under here? 34?? This would pit the two best defenses in football by DVOA, as well as the two best defenses just from the eye test. Both Minnesota and Jacksonville are nasty, fast, hard-hitting and young defenses. Both were built (mostly) through the draft and both have talent at every level. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye can nullify the strength of the Vikings passing game (Diggs/Thielen). It's possible to run on the Jags, but even with Minny's rebuilt offensive line, they could face issues against a stout Jaguars front seven. How are the Jags scoring on the Vikings? Minnesota will stop the run and you do NOT want Bortles throwing more than 20 times against Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith.
We've talked about low-scoring games already, but this over-under might legitimately be something in the low 30's range. A total rockfight, where field position matters more than anything, as both teams take a couple of aggressive chances down the field but mostly try and pound the ball to prevent giving up some kind of unforced error that allows the other team to score. This is secretly the matchup I want to see the most.