The Philadelphia Eagles sat idle this weekend as the rest of the NFC's top contenders battled for second-fiddle to their 8-1 record and No. 1 overall seed.
I'm sure anybody would've signed up for an 8-1 record entering the bye week, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. But it's now a record that will be put to the test over the next five weeks. First is a Monday Night Football battle on the road against the Chiefs, then a home game against the Bills, then home vs. the hated 49ers, then Sunday Night Football in Dallas and finally a tough matchup in Seattle.
Nick Sirianni's team will need to play its best stretch of football as the schedule heats up. And it so happens that as the Eagles' schedule is set to get tough, their top contenders seem to be playing their best football. Those contenders all found wins in Week 10, some of them doing so in impressive fashion.
Here is how those contenders should be ranked, based on the likelihood of defeating the Eagles and representing the NFC in Super Bowl 58:
1. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers, who had lost three straight entering their bye week, looked like a well-oiled machine Sunday in Jacksonville against one of the NFL’s hottest teams. The 34-3 win does a justice for how lopsided the contest was.
The deadline acquisition of EDGE Chase Young makes their defensive line arguably the scariest in the NFL, while Brock Purdy now seems to have put a few tough weeks behind him.
Plus, the Eagles are struggling to run the football at the moment. Having to drop Jalen Hurts back 35-40 times against a dominant new-look 49ers could spell trouble.
Eagles fans won't want to hear it, but this full-strength 49ers defense might be the only in the NFL that could shut down Jalen Hurts and the Eagles attack. And I'm no Purdy fan, but their offensive personnel is hard to argue with.
It looks like the potential NFC Championships game would be in Philadelphia. But a healthy 49ers team by far presents the Eagles their toughest test.
2. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys might’ve been the Eagles top contender for a minute, especially if they had won the Week 9 contest in Philadelphia.
But still, the team now gets a stretch of games in JerryWorld — a place they haven’t lost since Week 2 of 2022. Any slip-up from the Eagles and that Week 14 battle looks a lot more important.
Even if you don’t believe in Dak Prescott and Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys are the team with the most realistic shot at keeping the Eagles from the No. 1 seed. Week 14 Dallas could play a big role if the Eagles slip up beforehand.
And we know how the Cowboys play: Any lead turns into a snowball when they play from ahead. It happened again today as Prescott finished with 404 yards and 4 touchdowns in only three quarters during the team’s 49-17 win over the Giants.
The Eagles are the better team. But when operating at full-go, this Dallas team can be scary good.
3. Detroit Lions
Sunday was actually a day of bad news for the Eagles, as along with Dallas and San Francisco victories, the Lions defeated the Chargers on a last-second field goal to move to 7-2 on the season.
With the 49ers and Cowboys both at 6-3, the Lions are actually the closest team to the Eagles in the standings. Even if the Cowboys have a head-to-head game, the Lions’ easy remaining schedule would give them an inside track at home field advantage.
But that’s where the fright ends. Yes, Jahmyr Gibbs and the Lions rushing attack presents a tough matchup. But a Dan Campbell/Jared Goff team isn’t winning the NFC this year, even if it somehow hosts the playoff games.
It isn’t an intimidating environment, Campbell has struggled with some late-game management and the defense appears ordinary. This Lions team is like the Eagles of last year, just without the MVP quarterback and record-breaking defense.