One might think that needing a win to wrap up a playoff berth would best be gained against a team with a losing record and out of postseason consideration.
One would be wrong.
In fact, the best situation for a team needing a win is to play a team already locked into their postseason slot, and second best scenario would be playing a team assured a playoff berth and only vying to enhance their seed.
Because a team with a losing record and no chance of participating in the postseason has only one goal left, screw up their opponent looking to advance. It might be right out of the misery loves company book, but it is more than that for the team knowing they are playing their final game of the year.
While a team assured of advancing to the postseason is commonly protecting athletes from injury that they will need to count on when the game means more to them in the week, and hopefully for them, the weeks to come. A team knowing their bags are packed and they are headed home after Sunday’s season finale, have nothing to lose and can play with reckless abandon. Put that up against a team that can be tight based on their need to win, and suddenly a team out of the running plays as if they have the wind to their back.
This week, a perfect example of this is the game in New Jersey when the New York Giants host the Philadelphia Eagles. In order for the Eagles to advance to the postseason, they need either to beat the Giants or have their NFC East Division competition, the Dallas Cowboys, lose to the Washington Redskins.
The chances of Dallas getting beat by Washington is nearly null.
Because they need to win and get help, and that serves as a clear motivational boost. The Cowboys will likely drill Washington, and off of last week’s crushing defeat at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, will most assuredly do it in convincing style. Which means this, the scoreboard at MetLife Stadium will be showing the Cowboys lead over the Redskins, and Philadelphia will know that the only way they secure a postseason berth is to win over the Giants.
Which means this, the Giants, who have had little to play for since coming out of the gate like a horse that trips and only trots well behind the field, will suddenly have something to play for big time. Affecting the postseason participants with a win over one of their most hated division rivals.
The Eagles got a win last week as a home team underdog to the Cowboys. In that game, Dallas could have clinched the division with a win, but failed miserably while failing to score a touchdown in a 17-9 crushing defeat.
The Eagles were prepared for a war last Sunday against Dallas, while this week they will look to make that win mean something with a seemingly overmatched road opponent. That shift in going from the hunter to hunted will be the Eagles undoing this week … and Jerry Jones’ team is going to participate in the playoffs right before he fires his head coach, Jason Garrett.
Unless, of course, last week’s Dallas loss serves as the springboard to vault the Cowboys to a Super Bowl title.
Stranger things have happened.
But we start here, with the Eagles suffering a crushing last day of the season.
Qoxhi Picks: New York Giants (+4) over Philadelphia Eagles