Why the Eagles are favorites to claim the last NFC playoff spot

PHILADELPHIA -- The Philadelphia Eagles can awake from their bye-week slumber, throw open the windows, and breathe in that sweet scent of opportunity.

With four games remaining, they are the favorites to capture the seventh and final seed in the NFC playoffs.

Sure, the air has a whiff of mediocrity to it. Twenty-six of the NFL's 32 teams are either in a playoff spot or within a game of one, according to ESPN Stats & Information. No one has clinched a playoff berth to this point, and there are five squads in the NFC with a 6-7 record, including the Eagles.

When you add that level of parity with an expanded playoff format, where an extra team from each conference gets in this year, hope is going to be abundant across the league.

The Eagles, though, have slightly more reason for optimism than the rest of the pack. They currently have a 32.7 percent chance to make the postseason, according to ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI). Those are better odds than their primary competitors, who are all also 6-7, for the last playoff spot: the Minnesota Vikings (29.1%), New Orleans Saints (26.3%), Washington Football Team (24.6%) and Atlanta Falcons (7.0%).

Philadelphia holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints, Falcons and 5-8 Carolina Panthers. It also has the league's fifth-easiest closing schedule, per the FPI. Three of the Eagles' last four games are at home, and they're all within the division. They play Washington (6-7) twice -- starting with a home game on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, Fox) -- face the New York Giants (4-9) in Week 16, and close the regular season vs. the Dallas Cowboys (9-4), who may be locked into a playoff position by that point so they could rest some starters.

The games against Washington loom large. Quarterback Jalen Hurts is expected to return to the lineup Sunday after missing their Week 13 game against the New York Jets with a sprained left ankle. The bye came at the right time for coach Nick Sirianni's crew, allowing the likes of Hurts, center Jason Kelce (left knee) and running back Miles Sanders (right ankle) time to heal up.

Washington has won four of its last five and currently holds the final NFC playoff spot as a result of tiebreakers, but comes into Philly banged up. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke (left knee) and receiver Terry McLaurin (concussion) left Sunday's loss to Dallas with injuries, while four players were added to the Reserve/COVID list at the start of the week, including standout defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. Tight end Logan Thomas and defensive end Chase Young are out for the season.

The Eagles are 6-7 for a reason. They've had high highs, including blowout wins over the Falcons and Denver Broncos, and low lows, like their Week 12 loss to the Giants. They've had their share of stumbles. But they've also won four of six since turning to a more ground-based attack on offense, hit the homestretch relatively fresh, and travel a total of 112 miles over the final four weeks.

They are set up well to make a playoff push.