Eagles fans’ hopes and dreams came true Saturday night.
The Cowboys won.
As strange as it seems, the Cowboys helped the Eagles Saturday with their 20-19 win over the Lions at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
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Because even though the win lifted the Cowboys to 11-5, the Eagles remain in control of the division at 11-4 and will become the first team to win consecutive NFC East titles since the 2003 and 2004 Eagles by beating the 3-12 Cards at the Linc Sunday and the 5-10 Giants at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford next weekend.
And by dropping the Lions to 11-5, the Cowboys gave the Eagles the opportunity to get in front of Detroit in the NFC playoff hierarchy because the Lions – already with five losses – can’t catch the Eagles if they get to 13 wins. The Lions would have won a two-way 13-win tiebreaker with the Eagles based on a superior record vs. common opponents.
Thanks to the Lions losing, two wins guarantees the Eagles the No. 2 seed at worst. And that’s crucial because even if the 49ers lock up the No. 1 seed by winning their last two games – at Washington Sunday and home vs. the Rams next weekend – there’s tremendous value in earning the No. 2 seed, even without a bye.
The No. 2 seed can’t play on the road in the postseason until the NFC Championship Game, and if the Eagles were the No. 2 seed and the 49ers lost in the conference semifinal round, the Eagles would host the NFC Championship Game.
The Cowboys took a 20-13 lead on a Brandon Aubrey field goal with 1:45 left, but Jared Goff drove the Lions 75 yards in nine plays over 78 yards and brought the Lions within a point with an 11-yard TD pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown with 27 seconds left.
Lions coach Dan Campbell elected to go for two and go for the win, but Goff's successful conversion pass to offensive lineman Taylor Decker was negated because Decker didn’t declare himself an eligible receiver. After the five-yard penalty, the Lions tried again from the 7-yard-line and Goff’s pass failed, but Micah Parsons was called for lining up offsides, giving the Lions a third try from the 3-yard-line. Goff threw incomplete to tight end James Mitchell, and the Lions had their 16th straight home win.
Now that the Lions have lost, if the Eagles win twice and the 49ers lose once, the Eagles become the No. 1 seed in the NFC and get a 1st-round bye for a second straight year and two home wins get them to the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys’ win does make the Eagles’ road to the division slightly more challenging. If the Lions had won, the Eagles could have clinched the division title Sunday with a win over the Cards because that would have made the Eagles 12-4, and the Cowboys would have been 10-6 with one game left.
But the scenario that’s best for the Eagles was the Cowboys winning, because these last two games are so winnable that you have to like the Eagles’ chances of winning the division anyway by getting to 13-4, which the Cowboys can’t match.
If the Cowboys beat Washington next week in Landover, the Eagles would need to beat both the Cards and Giants to win the NFC East.
The Eagles are in the postseason for the 16th time in the last 24 years. Nick Sirianni is the first coach in franchise history to take the Eagles to the postseason in each of his first three seasons.