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Playoff Foe Remains Murky Though There are Scenarios

An ugly 51-26 setback to Dallas cut nine potential playoff scenarios down to five with the last day of the NFL's regular season looming

PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles chose rest over rust on Saturday essentially sacrificing a game against their most heated rival the Dallas Cowboys.

And perhaps a 51-26 loss will sting all the more if Philadelphia can't pull off an upset in the wild-card round of the playoffs but one thing is certain - if Nick Sirianni and company can advance, all will be forgotten when it comes to the somewhat meaningless regular-season finale.

Before Saturday's game, there were nine potential scenarios for the Eagles, which were going to be cut to four with a win and five with a loss.

The setback means there are five paths to decide the Eagles' opponent entering Sunday with four games being of interest to Philadelphia fans and the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers the most likely opponent in the first round.

There is still a path for three other potential opponents: the LA Rams, Arizona, and yes, even a rematch against the Cowboys.

Four games on Sunday, all with 4:25 ET starts, will decide the Eagles' fate. 

They are San Francisco at the Rams, New Orleans at Atlanta, Carolina at the Bucs, and Seattle at Arizona.

If the favored Rams top the Niners and the Saints best Atlanta, the Eagles would become the No. 6 seed and will be on their way to Florida to face Tampa Bay in the first round, The other avenue toward the Bucs is as the seventh seed with the Niners beating the Rams and Tampa topping Carolina.

A trip out to LA will be in the offing if the Rams beat San Fran and the Falcons take care of the Saints.

The desert will call only if the Niners top the Rams, Carolina upsets Tampa and the Cards top Seattle.

The least likely scenario is Door No. 3 against Dallas which will be scheduled only if there are three upsets: 49ers over Rams, Panthers over TB, and the Seahawks beating Arizona.

"We don't know obviously when we're playing, right? Could be Saturday, could be Sunday. It's going to have to be business as usual," Sirianni said when asked how he will spend his Sunday. "We'll be preparing for multiple teams. We'll take educated guesses to have a little bit more for one team than we do another team.

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"We've been through things like this before because you rarely know who you're going to play in the playoffs. If it shifts late, then we'll refocus our attention to that other team. So, it will be a day that we're just working, business as usual, and we'll keep an eye on the television and see what's going on there."

The coach admitted that odds play into things and the Bucs and Rams have been the bigger focus to date.

"There has been some of that, yeah," Sirianni admitted when asked if prep has started for those two potential opponents. "There has been some of that by some of our coaches, so we have a little bit of a head start."

Dallas obviously took care of itself.

"Most of our attention was going towards Dallas and trying to win that football game," Sirianni said. "Credit to them. They played a really good game. We didn't play good enough."

Whoever the opponent turns out to be the Eagles will be underdogs so in a lot of ways it's just about pressing forward.

"It’s big. It’s big because it’s the next game," receiver DeVonta Smith said of the postseason. "You play to continue. Just go out there and get a win to continue playing. I mean, that’s been it the whole time.

"Get to the playoffs and try to win. Win it all. That’s what it is and that’s what it’s all about. We didn’t come this far just to stop now.”

Sirianni spoke in a similar tone.

"The goal is not to just make the playoffs. The goal is to win games in the playoffs and advance as far as you can advance," the coach said. "That's our mission and our goal. We'll take it one day at a time, one game at a time."

-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at jmcmullen44@gmail.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.