As the final week of the regular season beckons, Doug Pederson’s squad finds itself in the enviable position of controlling its postseason fate. And that’s all the Eagles are focused on, their sights set upon defeating the Giants — nevermind what’s happening in Dallas, where the second-place Cowboys are facing the Redskins.
“We have to win this game, bottom line,” Pederson told the media on Friday, per team transcript. “We’re trying to go 1-0 against a really good Giants team right now, so that’s our focus.”
Plain and simple, with a victory over the Giants (4-11), the Eagles (8-7) are NFC East champions and punch their ticket to the playoffs. However, if Philly falls and the Cowboys (7-8) defeat the Redskins (3-12), Dallas will improbably win the division and prolong its season.
Thus, Pederson maintains there will be no scoreboard watching.
Then again, as the coach pointed out, following his rivals’ ballgame isn’t really plausible, anyway.
“No [I won’t be following the Cowboys‘ game], because I think we play at the same time,” he said.
Not only is a division title and a season on the line for the Eagles, but Pederson believes the Giants his team faces are playing far better than their record. Since Philly squeaked by New York in overtime in Week 14, the Giants have won two in a row.
“They can play spoiler just a little bit,” Pederson said. “That’s what you have to guard against. That’s why we have to be prepared for everything.
“I challenged the coaching staff to make sure our players are on point with everything and dialed in on the game plan, because for us this is a playoff game and we have to treat it that way.”
Obviously, Big Blue would like nothing more than to end its trying season on a high.
“I think our mindset is to go out and win our last game,” said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, via team transcript. “We know that this is our last game and we’re trying to do what we can to go out and win it. What happens beyond that, after that, we’ll just see what happens.”
While Shurmur might well be coaching his final game for the Giants, Pederson is delivering a message to his Eagles that every game going forward is bigger than the last. All eyes were on the Week 16 showdown between the Eagles and Cowboys in which Philadelphia emerged as the NFC East frontrunner. That win certainly didn’t lessen the stakes going forward, though; it heightened them. This is it for Philly, as every game going forward is a win-or-go-home scenario.
“This to me is a bigger game obviously than last week,” Pederson said. “I know our guys are going to be ready. They’ve prepared this week that way. But for me as the coach, just keep reminding them the importance of this week and the importance of this game and staying focused.”