Eagles Thrilled to Avoid Another Wild-card Nightmare

EAST RUTHERFORD - They lost in the wild-card round the last three times they reached the playoffs - 2009, 2010 and 2013.

They've lost in the wild-card round six times since 1989, four of them at home. 

The Eagles are 6-6 in the wild-card round since 1989, and only three teams have lost more wild-card games during that span - the Lions (0-8), Vikings (3-7) and Bengals (1-7).

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Nobody has lost more home wild-card games since 1989. Nobody.

The Eagles haven't won a wild-card game since 2008 in Minneapolis and they haven't won one at home since 2006 against Eli Manning and the Giants.

So the message, if you're the Eagles, is: PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THE WILD-CARD ROUND.

And this year, thanks to their 12-2 start, the Eagles can.

The Eagles on Sunday clinched a first-round bye for the first time in 13 years.

"To me, the significance of having a first-round bye is it puts you one game closer to the Super Bowl," Malcolm Jenkins said. "Two is obviously a lot easier than three. You've still got to win some games, but at least we know we don't have to play that wild-card weekend, we don't have to go on the road that second weekend. You're off that first weekend, your odds go up."

The Eagles can clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as early as Saturday if the Vikings lose to the Packers or with a win Monday night against the Raiders at the Linc (where Nick Foles has won eight straight starts).

"It's big," Brandon Graham said. "Get your body together before getting to the real, real deal. 

"It's a reward. To know that we've got a first-round bye and we don't even have to worry about that first round of the playoffs? Third time I've been in the playoffs, second time I've played, first time I've gotten a first-round bye. It's huge."

The Eagles have only earned a first-round bye five previous times since the AFL-NFL merger and the inception of the wild-card round in 1970 - in 1980, 1988, 2002, 2003 and 2004.

They were at home for the conference semifinals every year but 1988, when they lost to the Bears in the Fog Bowl at Soldier Field in Chicago.

"We're slowly checking boxes," head coach Doug Pederson said. "NFC East a week ago and a bye and a home game (in the conference semifinal round) now. Check the box."

If the Eagles don't clinch the No. 1 seed this coming weekend, they can do it the last weekend of the season either with a win over the Cowboys at the Linc or a Vikings loss at home to the Bears.

"It's something this organization earned, and we have to keep on fighting and have the same mindset that got us to this position and keep on winning football games," Nelson Agholor said. "Stay hungry."

If anybody understands that simply clinching a first-round bye doesn't mean you're going to make it to the conference championship game, it's Foles.

He was with the Chiefs last year as Alex Smith's backup when they earned a No. 2 seed before losing at home to the Steelers.

"I was fortunate enough to be a part of one last year in Kansas City, but … we can't focus on that," he said.

"It's a long season and guys who are nicked up, it can help with their injuries. But we have to finish these games out strong and keep improving. We still have a lot of work to do this season."

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