PHILADELPHIA - The Eagles don't want to be in this position, needing to win out over the final two weeks of the tortured 2020 regular season and getting plenty of help on top of that if the goal of a fourth consecutive postseason is to be reached.
And even if the stars align punching a ticket as the worst division champion in NFL history at 6-9-1 would be a worse fate to many in the fan base than a 2021 top 10 draft pick.
"If I had it any other way, I’d rather be playing our best at the beginning and you sustain that throughout the year," said head coach Doug Pederson before addressing past late-season runs Wednesday. "... I think our guys respond well to adversity. We've been faced with that the last couple of seasons.
“They don't dwell so much on kind of where we are, sort of that 'Woah, is me' mentality. They push forward and come closer together and find a way to figure it out down the stretch. I've been very pleased obviously with the last couple of seasons, the way we finished, and it looks like we're going to have to do that again."
Even if the Eagles take care of business and turn four wins to six by beating Dallas on Sunday and the Washington Football Team in Week 17 they would need the WFT to also lose to Carolina this Sunday and the New York Giants to lose one of their final two games: at Baltimore or vs. the Cowboys.
FiveThirtyEight.com has pegged all of that happening at a slim 9 percent, although Washington's issues at the quarterback position - Alex Smith's calf strain and Dwayne Haskins' immaturity - are the type of outliers that can throw off any projection model.
What can be guaranteed is that the Eagles and Cowboys will do a little scoreboard watching in North Texas this weekend.
The NFL flexed Washington-Carolina from 1 p.m. to 4:05 p.m. to ensure meaning to the Eagles-Dallas affair at 4:25 p.m. Had the league left the WFT game at 1 p.m., Philadelphia and Dallas could have been eliminated before kickoff.
The Giants, meanwhile, could still be waxed if they drop their 1 p.m. kickoff against the win-needy Ravens.
Things have fallen right for the Eagles in the past as recently as the 2018 season.
Pro Bowl defensive end Brandon Graham remembered Week 17 when the Eagles had to top the then-Redksins inside the Beltway while also hoping Chicago would top Minnesota.
It all came to fruition and the Eagles went on to top the favored Bears on Wild Card Weekend as well in the famed double-doink game.
“We ended up handling our business and everything happened the way it was supposed to,” Graham said. “I’m hoping it’s a remake of that.
"But we’ve got to take care of the Cowboys this week in order to make that happen. The Giants have got to do something for us, and (Washington) has got to do something for us but No. 1, we’ve got to take care of us and it’s the Cowboys this week.”
As Graham explained there are more moving parts this time and the Eagles technically have to jump over all three teams in the division so everyone has everything to play for coming down the stretch.
Washington has the inside track but the Giants will win the division by winning out coupled with one WFT setback. The Cowboys need to win out while hoping Washington loses out.
Dallas is facing the longest odds and head coach Mike McCarthy has been around a bit and reminisced about being the QB coach in Green Bay when the Packers were scoreboard watching point differentials and things didn't quite work out.
"I’ve been through it before," the veteran coach said. "I’ve also been in situations where if it was a home game you didn’t put it up on the board. I’ve also been in situations where it’s a benefit.
"I can recall back in the 1999 season, the Y2 game. I was coaching in Green Bay. We were playing the Cardinals and we had to win the game, but we had to win by more than 17 points to beat Carolina on a tiebreaker. Dallas was playing the Giants and the Giants had to beat the Cowboys."
It turned out to be an exciting afternoon but didn't work out for McCarthy and the Pack.
"We got into the game and Carolina jumped up on somebody. ... We were running the ball then all of a sudden, we were up, and we start throwing it because we were trying to win by 17 points," he said. "Then Arizona started throwing it more and they started coming back. That was one of the craziest ones I’ve been in.
"We won the game by more than 17 then the Cowboys beat the Giants, I think Chan Gailey was the coach here, but we didn’t get in the playoffs."
Graham said there can be good and bad to scoreboard watching.
"It does make you a little happy to see, when you get out there first quarter seven-nothing, ‘Oh, OK, whoo, starting good, OK,’ but you can’t worry about it too much because it will sidetrack you a little bit and that’s why we gotta make sure we do a good job — which we do — by staying in the game," the 11-year pro said. "Yeah, you’ll get an update every now and again and you’ll start seeing people on the sideline start cheering like ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and I’m sure with all the fans that’s there, they’re going to update it for sure.
"You’re going to see people screaming, Eagles fans that are in the stands, screaming if we’re looking good. I think that we just gotta stay focused like we do, go out there and play our game and worry about next week when it comes."
Middle linebacker Alex Singleton, meanwhile, boiled it down as an individual preference.
“If guys want to use it, hopefully, it just brings good energy and the Panthers are winning the whole time so the guys on our sideline are just fired up,” said Singleton. “I know I’m going to ignore it. Everybody knows what this (Cowboys) offense has, what weapons they have. If we’re not 100 percent focused on what they’re going to bring to the table, it will be a tough night no matter what’s going on in the other game.”
No matter the preference on scoreboard watching nothing good can happen unless the Eagles do their part.
"We know that we've been in those situations before, but I would prefer to go into a game not knowing, you know," said Pederson. "I think it does give you a level of concentration and focus that you need going into a football game. Listen, our guys, once we tee it up on Sunday, we're all about the game, we're into the game, we're coaching and playing, and we'll see what happens at the end."
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Tuesday and Thursday on "The Middle" with Eytan Shander, Harry Mayes and Barrett Brooks on SportsMap Radio and PhillyVoice.com. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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