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Eagles Notebook: With no control of destiny, Nick Sirianni weighs rest, recapturing winning form

Eagles have 83 percent chance of 5th seed, needing a Dallas loss to win NFC East

Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith walks to the locker room during the second half of Sunday’s game against Arizona. While not serious, Smith has an ankle sprain that might keep him out of Sunday’s finale against the Giants. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith walks to the locker room during the second half of Sunday’s game against Arizona. While not serious, Smith has an ankle sprain that might keep him out of Sunday’s finale against the Giants. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

PHILADELPHIA — The Eagles are all but locked into the NFC’s fifth playoff slot and a wild card game at Tampa Bay due to a late-season slide featuring four losses in five games.

That is according to the probability tables of the always accurate website. The Eagles have an 83 percent probability of finishing fifth, the Buccaneers a 75 percent chance of settling in with the No. 4 seed.

The Buccaneers (8-8) must defeat the Carolina Panthers (2-14) to win the NFC South division and the fourth sport, and the road-awful Dallas Cowboys (11-5) must prevail at Washington (4-12) to lock up the NFC East pennant.

The dilemma for the Eagles (11-5) is how to approach the regular season finale at the New York Giants (5-11).

The Eagles and Cowboys games Sunday both start at 4:25 p.m., so as not to allow either team an easy choice on resting regulars. Nonetheless, with nothing to gain if the Cowboys roll as expected, the Eagles haven’t ruled out resting players.

“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to win this game,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said Monday. “But still, that’s a consideration. We understand we are at the mercy of another team to win the division, all those different things. So, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to win this game. We’ve also got to get out of the rut that we’re in, and so I’m not saying to you yes, I’m not saying to you no. I’m saying to you that everything is discussed but there are some unknowns about the game, Dallas and Washington. And we’ve got to … play and coach good football, too. So, everything is on the table.”

The Eagles are 6.5-point favorites over the Giants at MetLife Stadium. The Cowboys, just 3-5 on the road, are 13.5-point favorites over the Commanders.

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Don’t expect wide receiver DeVonta Smith to play against the Giants due to a sprained ankle.

While Sirianni wouldn’t rule Smith out, the coach said his guy was on crutches Monday with a boot on the ankle.

“He’s tough as anybody we have on this team,” Sirianni said. “This guy, he’s a warrior. He’ll do everything he possibly can to get himself back on that field as fast as he possibly can. And what he means to this football team is not only the play-making ability that he has to change the game with the ball in his hands, but also just his toughness is contagious. I think his toughness is super contagious.”

Elsewhere in the injury department, cornerback Darius Slay still is working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery. Nickel back Avonte Maddox may have re-injured a pectoral muscle that cost him 13 games this year.

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If you’re keeping count, Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown again blew off reporters seeking comment Sunday, explaining that it wasn’t personal.

The previous week, following a win over the Giants, he declined comment saying he didn’t have anything nice to say, so he wouldn’t say anything.

Clearly Brown is frustrated over his role. Late in the 35-31 loss to the Cardinals, the Eagles took their foot off the accelerator to angle for the go-ahead field goal. Kyler Murray promptly marched the Cardinals 70 yards for the triumphant touchdown.

Rest assured, Brown wanted the Eagles to be aggressive and go for the end zone rather than play it safe and take three points.

“I don’t want to speak for him,” Sirianni said. “But you know, obviously when you have a dynamic playmaker like A.J., he’s going to want to change the game at all times and he’s capable of doing that at all times. We’re all frustrated right now, especially coming off that loss yesterday.

“I know this, and I said this to you guys on the record, off the record, everything. There’s nobody that is as good of a teammate. There is nobody that’s as good of a person as A.J. and shoot, he’s one of our very best players and one of our best players since I’ve been here in the past three years. I can’t say enough good things about him. We’re all frustrated, I think.”

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Speaking of frustrated, Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick is in a sacks drought that began when Matt Patricia began calling the defensive plays.

Reddick has lately dropped into coverage more, which is not his forte. Reddick had 2.0 sacks against Dallas, giving him 11.0 on the season, when Sean Desai last called the defensive signals. In the last three games, he has zero sacks, one tackle for loss and four quarterback hits.

“We know he gets paid to rush the passer, and he’s really good at it,” Sirianni said. “But again, it’s the predictability. The quarterback is going to get it out even quicker if he knows exactly what’s happening. So, again, there’s some games, he’s going to drop a little more than other games. But make no mistake about it. You know what, I think he dropped six times maybe.”