With their entire season on the line, the (9-6) Philadelphia Eagles return to the confines of AT&T Stadium to face their rivals, the (8-7) Dallas Cowboys in a do-or-die week 17 matchup (Sunday 8:30pm ET).
The implications are simple as only the winner will go to the NFL playoffs. Rest assured this will be one football games fans of the sport will not want to miss.
Dallas Cowboys Year in Review
Favorites to win the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys had a bit of a bumpy start that was caused by one of the toughest schedules in the league. Dallas opened up with a tight win over the (6-9) New York Giants before facing the (11-4) Kansas City Chiefs and (8-7) San Diego Chargers on the road. The Cowboys lost both of these games.
Out of the San Diego game, the Cowboys returned home and gave Peyton Manning and the (12-3) Denver Broncos all they could handle. Primed to win the game, it wasn’t until a costly Tony Romo interception late in the fourth quarter that the Cowboys let it slip away.
Following the 51-48 loss to the Broncos, the Cowboys won their next two games including a 17-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Dallas went 6-5 over their last 11 including going 3-1 at home. On the season, the Cowboys are 5-2 at home as well.
Philadelphia Eagles Year in Review
With a new head coach and a team not expected to do any better than 8-8 by most standards, the Philadelphia Eagles surprised with their opening night win over the division rival (3-12) Washington Redskins. Their schedule didn’t afford them any favors however and as a result of the AFC West, the Eagles lost their next three games as well as their starting QB.
In week 6, Nick Foles (pictured) took over as the starter and the Eagles started to play better. And after back-to-back divisional losses including the one to the Cowboys, Philadelphia won each of their next five games and six of their last seven. Despite having a better record against Dallas, the Cowboys have the better head-to-head and divisional record. As a result, the winner of the final game will be the NFC East champion.
No Romo Equals Advantage Eagles?
Both teams enter this game in almost identical positions in terms of wanting the win and needing the win for one reason or the other. However, the Eagles look to have the perceived advantage that their QB, Foles, has been playing as one of the best in the league since becoming the full time starter. Dallas meanwhile, which has always had its share of December problems, is without its number one signal caller.
But as the media seems to agree, losing Romo is not exactly a disadvantage for the Cowboys. At the very least, it doesn’t seem that it will provide any sort of edge for the Eagles.
On his best days, Romo is quite an elite QB but on his worst, he looks like an amateur. Regardless, he is a known commodity. Good or bad, Philadelphia knows what they are going to get when Romo is on the field. They don’t however have that same knowledge of Romo’s backup, Kyle Orton.
Putting that aside, there is also the interesting question of what Romo’s absence will mean for the Dallas running game. Starter Demarco Murray is averaging 5.4 yards a carry, which is more than the NFL’s leading rusher, Philadelphia’s own LeSean McCoy. However, Murray is receiving close to four carries less per game.
The underutilization of Murray of season is something that has had many shaking their heads. But considering their year and perhaps some of their jobs are on the line as well as the absence of the regular QB, it seems unlikely this will occur in week 17. Philadelphia’s run defense will certainly need to show up big.
Is the Law firm of Foles, Jackson and McCoy Too Difficult to Stop?
In short, the answer is yes. The Eagles lead the league in rushing (161.9 yards a game) largely as a result of McCoy’s incredible ground performance this year. The 25-year-old has found holes, created opportunities and run hard in a style that reminisces of Barry Sanders. He has been unstoppable at times.
But McCoy isn’t the only unstoppable one. DeSean Jackson is also having a great year. He continues to be one of the best players in space and has gotten open when needed this year, especially in the endzone. Jackson has also been supplanted by Foles’ security blanket, Riley Cooper, who is also having a great year.
And then of course there is the man who is making it all happen. Foles leads all QBs in passer rating with 118.8 and is eighth in touchdowns despite collecting significant time in just 10 games. He brought the Eagles to a place where playoffs were an option and has played with poise of a veteran not first year starter.
It should be noted that Foles’ worst game this year was the one against the Cowboys (11-29, 80 yards, 37.9 completion percentage). Since this game however, the young QB has been outperformed statistically only by Peyton Manning. In many ways, it looks like that Dallas game fueled him. He hasn’t looked back since and neither have the Eagles.
Eagles at Cowboys Betting Picks
Tensions will be high, especially considering the week 17 history these two teams share.
The Cowboys are desperate to save their season and right the ship. They have been in this position before. In fact they have been there each of the last two years. The result was the same and one Dallas would hope to avoid in 2013.
However, Philadelphia is hungry and doesn’t want to lose another week 17 to the Cowboys. They have been hot and their offense was electric just last week. They could be primed to take advantage of the weakened Dallas secondary.