With a win over the New York Giants on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys achieved a 6-5 record, the same record owned by the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands, these two teams are tied for the NFC East division lead. The catch is that the Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker from having defeated the Eagles earlier in the year.
Both teams will meet again in the regular season finale. Here's how their schedules look leading up to that point:
Eagles Remaining Games:
Cardinals (home) - Arizona (7-4) is next up. The Eagles are coming off their bye and it's a home game. Apparently the Eagles are allowed to win games there again. This will be a tough test. Former Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is running a very successful defensive unit. The Cards have a veteran QB in Carson Palmer and some pieces on offense: noted Eagle killer Larry Fitzgerald and rookie running back Andre Ellington come to mind. This game has the potential to be the Eagles' best quality win of the year yet. Arizona is competing for a wildcard spot at best since the Seahawks just about have the NFC West division crown wrapped up.
Lions (home) - Detroit (6-5) struggled against the Buccaneers on Sunday and have now dropped two games in a row. They will be competing for the NFC North lead and possibly a wildcard spot. Calvin Johnson will be a real tough test for the Eagles secondary.
Vikings (away) - The Vikings (2-8-1) aren't a very good team, but they still have Adrian Peterson. The Eagles have fared well against the run, however. This is absolutely a game the Eagles should win but it could be a little difficult since it's on the road. The Vikings don't have much to play for other than pride.
Bears (home) - Ugh, the Bears (6-5). It feels like the Eagles can never beat this team in recent years. The games are usually ugly, too. At least it won't be held on the poor quality surface (generously described) that is Soldier's Field. Jay Cutler will be back for this game assuming he can stay healthy.
Cowboys (away) - The season finale. This one could possibly be for all the marbles depending on how things shake out.
Summary: Four out of these five teams have winning records. The Eagles have defeated one team with a winning record all year, and that was the Packers without Aaron Rodgers at QB. Philadelphia is currently enjoying a three game winning streak and including their first win at home in over a year. Nick Foles and the offense is playing well. On the other side of the ball, the Eagles are the only team in the NFL to allow 21 points or less in their last seven games.
It's going to take some effort for the Eagles to make the playoffs. None of these teams look unbeatable by any stretch, but for the most part they look like tossups that could go either way. A good way to look at this stretch is that the Eagles will make the playoffs if they deserve it. If they can run the table down this stretch, they should be in good position to at least grab a wildcard spot. There are no guarantees, but their chances are still very much alive.
Prediction: The Eagles go 3-2 the rest of the way, with losses to Arizona and the Bears. The team would finish with a 9-7 record.
Cowboys Remaining Games:
Raiders (home) - Can The Pride of Penn State University, Matt McGloin, upset the Cowboys in Dallas? It may not be favorable, but the Raiders seem to have more of a shot with him than they do a regressing Terrelle Pryor.
Bears (away) - I can see the Cowboys falling victim to the poor footing at Soldier Field, but that Bears defense isn't what it used to be.
Packers (home) - Aaron Rodgers could be back by this date. With no NFC North team taking a commanding lead of the division, the Packers will very much be alive and fighting for a playoff spot. The Packers will be tough to beat if Rodgers is back.
Redskins (away) - Washington will play Dallas hard but it won't be enough. Dallas will likely get the job done here.
Eagles (home) - The season finale. Philadelphia will put up much more of a fight than they did the first time these two teams met. That could mean a division series split.
Summary: The Cowboys' schedule doesn't look too daunting but that Packers game could be a real tough one if Rodgers is indeed back and healthy. Dallas didn't exactly look impressive in their 24-21 victory over the New York Giants. A returning Sean Lee will give a boost to their defense, but they could easily drop some of these games if their play doesn't sharpen up.
Prediction: Two wins, three losses. Dallas falls to the Bears, Packers, and then the Eagles in the season finale. That gives them a 8-8 record, one game behind the Philadelphia Eagles.