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Points by Ben Simmons during Game 3 victory over Nets

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On November 14

The bye week brought good news and bad news for the Eagles.

The good news: the NFC East race is just about over. If the Eagles (8-1) defeat the Cowboys (5-4) on Sunday night (8:30 p.m.), they will have a four-game lead over Dallas, which would need to win four of its remaining six games to catch the Eagles – if the Eagles don’t win another game this season.

So what’s the bad news? There are three teams right on the Eagles’ heels in the battle for homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

With victories Sunday, the Vikings, Saints and Rams are all 7-2, just one game behind the Eagles. The Panthers (7-3) also shouldn’t be dismissed.

The Eagles don’t have much margin for error. They also have a difficult schedule. They have road games against the Cowboys, Seahawks, Rams and Giants, with the final three coming on consecutive weeks in December. In between the Cowboys game and the three-game road trip is a home game against the Bears. The Eagles finish the season with home games against the Raiders, who could still bet battling for a playoff berth, and the Cowboys, who won’t be if they lose to the Eagles on Sunday.

But the teams chasing the Eagles don’t have a cake walk, either. Four of the Rams’ next five games are against top NFC competitors. They visit the Vikings on Sunday, and then have home games against the Saints and Eagles sandwiched around a road game against the Cardinals, and then travel to Seattle (6-3).

The Saints, winners of seven straight games, host the injury-riddled Redskins on Sunday, but then will face, in order, the Rams, Panthers and Falcons, with the Rams and Falcons games on the road. The Saints finish with home games against the Jets and Falcons and a road game at Tampa Bay, so they could post an impressive record if they can emerge from their diffuclt three-game stretch with only one loss.

After the Vikings host the Rams on Sunday, they hit the road to face the Lions, Falcons and Panthers. After a brief reprieve against the Bengals at home, they travel to Green Bay and then host the Bears in their season finale.

The Panthers have a bye this week, then visit the Jets and Saints. If they split those games, they’ll be 8-4, with home games against the Vikings, Packers and Bucs the next three weeks before finishing their schedule on the road against the Falcons.

The Eagles, of course, control their own destiny. They can render all of this schedule comparison useless by winning their games, particularly those against the Seahawks and Rams.

Why does homefield advantage matter? The Eagles’ road to the Super Bowl would be much smoother going through Lincoln Financial Field than through domed stadiums in New Orleans or Minnesota.

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HELP ON THE WAY: The Eagles are certainly making roster moves as if they are aiming for a Super Bowl. The Eagles signed veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbee and veteran offensive tackle Will Beatty this week. Before anyone gets too excited, both Ellerbee and Beatty were out of football before the Eagles signed them. But the signings demonstrate that the Eagles are trying to bolster their depth at thin positions before the playoffs.

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GATOR CHIPS: There are rumors that former Eagles head coach Chip Kelly will be the next head coach at Florida. Kelly should have more success back in college than he had in the pros, where he couldn’t recruit faster athletes than other teams had.

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HALL TALK: I have mixed feelings about Mark Recchi being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday. Part of me is happy to see a former Flyer inducted. Recchi played 10 seasons for the Flyers, and still holds the franchise record for points (123) in one season.

Recchi ranks 20th all-time in career goals, but he played 22 seasons. The two players immediately behind Recchi on the career goals list, Mike Bossy and Alex Ovechkin are geat players. Recchi was a very good player for many years, with a few moments of greatness mixed in.

Forwards Dave Andreychuk and Teemu Selanne, who joined Recchi in being inducted Monday, also rank in the top 20 on the career goals list after playing for more than two decades. Selanne ranks 11th and Andreychuk ranks 14th.

Longevity should be admired, but Andreychuk never finished in the Top 10 in Hart Trophy (MVP) balloting. Recchi finished ninth once. I’d put Paul Kariya, who ranks 91st in career goals and also entered the Hall of Fame this year, in the Hall before either Andreychuk and Recchi. He ranks lower because he played fewer seasons.

With the exception of active players, the top 31 goal scorers are all in the Hall of Fame, so it’s difficult to argue that Recchi and Andreychuk don’t belong. But, and this is true of every sports Hall of Fame, I’d reserve the Hall for the truly great, not those who were very good for many years.

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DRAMATIC START: Big Five teams didn’t waste any time. On Monday, Penn and La Salle battled through two overtimes before the Explorers emerged with a 75-71 victory. That’s the type of drama that makes the Big Five the best multi-team city rivalry in the country.

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DEAD MAN WALKING: With his slick haircut and 1-8 record, Giants head coach Ben McAdoo reminds me of one of the characters on “The Sopranos” that everyone knew was going to get whacked but didn’t realize it himself.

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PREDICTIONS ON TRACK: The four finalists for NASCAR’s championship race on Sunday at Miami-Homestead Speedway are Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski. My pre-playoff preview predicted Busch and Truex would reach the final race.

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MAJOR NEWS: Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square will host the 2020 Women’s PGA Championship and the 2027 PGA Championship.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 29 years, did not get much of a break during the bye week.

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