Mathematically, the Eagles still have a chance. The NFC East division leader sits at 5-5 and the Eagles at 4-5.
But on paper, by record alone, the Eagles are no better than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sunday’s opponent that carries the same 4-5 record.
So do the Eagles nip this in the bud this week and really turn a corner, or does the season come to an unofficial close at the hands of Tampa Bay?
Here are six keys to Sunday’s game.
Mark Sanchez – Whatever dimming playoff hopes the Eagles have left now sit in the hands of backup quarterback Mark Sanchez. Sanchez seems better equipped to run the Chip Kelly offense than Sam Bradford, but his ability to produce turnovers at the worst times may get in the way again.
Jameis Winston – The first overall pick at the Draft has settled into the starting role nicely after a bit of a rough start. The kid has tons of potential, and it’s easy to see why he went tops in his Draft class.
Jason Peters – He hasn’t practiced all week so it looks like the Eagles will be without him again. Very rarely is the lack of a player a key to the game, but in Peters case, given the Eagles offensive line, a third straight game out would be a huge loss.
DeMarco Murray and the Eagles running game – Bradford, Peters, Ryan Mathews. Those are the three most talked about Eagles on the injury list. Why is Mathews loss so huge? It makes the Eagles running game, which has been primarily powered by DeMarco Murray and Mathews all season, one dimensional and a lot easier to predict. That should play into Tampa Bay’s favor.
Eagles linebackers – The Eagles first test without Jordan Hicks didn’t go so well. It’s hard to believe that a third-round pick was a catalyst to this team, but it is certainly looking that way. With so many battered and brittle pieces in the linebacker group, a game where they take total control would be huge.
Quick start, but finish strong – It took 10 weeks, but the Eagles finally got off to the start they were looking for against Miami, jumping out to a 16-3 lead within the first 12 minutes of play. They scored three points the rest of the way. So the slow starts and somewhat strong finishes had a complete role reversal with the same result for the Eagles. A complete game is going to be important if they want to at least muffle the doubters for another week.
Kevin Durso is managing editor for Eagledelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.