The 2020 Eagles suddenly got a lot more interesting, didn’t they?
With two weeks to go, the Birds sit at 4-9-1. Their odds of winning the NFC East, while not extinguished, took a big hit with last Sunday’s 33-26 loss to the Cardinals in Arizona. In order to win the division, the Eagles need to beat the Cowboys in Dallas and the Washington Football Team at home, hope Washington loses this week to the Carolina Panthers (more on that in a moment), and the New York Giants must lose one of their last two games (at Baltimore and at home vs. Dallas).
It’s not inconceivable that could all happen. After all, Washington might have to play this week without their starter, Alex Smith, who is recovering from a leg injury, and back-up Dwayne Haskins, who was photographed at a strip club without wearing a mask after Sunday’s game and could be suspended for his foolish violation of NFL COVID-19 protocol.
"The team has disciplined him, though it’s unclear whether it was a fine or suspension, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. He is not expected to be released." https://t.co/90xfLTrsyL— Jake Russell (@_JakeRussell) December 22, 2020
Even if Haskins is in there, his erratic play and the controversy surrounding him could suddenly turn a very winnable game for Washington much less so, especially with third stringer Tyler Heinicke under center.
By the time the Eagles kick off against the Cowboys at 4:25pm ET, they’ll know the outcome of the Giants vs. Ravens game, and the WFT will have started their game against Carolina a few minutes earlier. An NFC East title could still be hanging in the balance, high atop the squared circle with two ladders leading up for one of them to grab and pull down to the canvas.
But is that a good thing?
Normally during Dallas Week, Eagles fans are obsessed with one thing — destroying the Cowboys. Just one year ago, these two teams clashed in a legitimate battle for divisional supremacy, and the hype was large. Both were 7-7 and both had struggled during the course of the season, but the Eagles were coming on, Dallas was fading and Carson Wentz was playing extremely well.
There is simply nothing better than a game against the Cowboys with a playoff spot on the line. It’s what we, as Eagles fans, live for.
This week won’t be like that.
Sure, as outlined above, an Eagles win, coupled with losses by Washington and New York, could put the Birds in a good position to win their second straight NFC East title heading into the final week of the season. But how legitimate would a division title at 6-9-1 really be? Is it a division title worth winning?
The Cowboys are in a similar position. At 5-9 entering this week’s game against the 4-9-1 Eagles, Dallas needs to win its last two against the Eagles and Giants and have Washington lose its last two. A postseason berth is there for the taking, with a little help. But what’s better for the Cowboys long-term?
If both Dallas and Philadelphia came into this week like they did last year, 7-7, everyone would be all-in on beating the Cowboys once again, but the Eagles are 4-9-1 and Dallas is 5-9. Neither team is good and both team’s fanbases should be focused on rebuilding a couple of rosters in desperate need of attention. The long-term benefits of losing Sunday’s game are greater than winning and giving themselves an outside chance at making the postseason.
Eagles and Cowboys fans should be rooting for their teams to lose to each other. That’s what the head says, but who listens to the head when Dallas and the Birds take the field?
It’s going to be difficult for Eagles fans to root for a loss to the Cowboys, even if they say that’s what they want. When the ball is kicked off on Sunday afternoon at 4:25pm, draft picks and long-term thinking will go right out the window. Eagles fans want to see Ezekiel Elliot get stuffed at the line of scrimmage on every play, to see Andy Dalton get sacked 10 times, and to watch Jalen Hurts light up the field yet again.
And as far as the Eagles are concerned, if the Giants lose in the early game, there is incentive for this team to make the postseason.
With Hurts under center, the offense suddenly looks respectable. Not good, mind you, but respectable. Last week, Hurts’ play-making ability helped result in the Eagles moving the ball down the field in bigger chunks.
Looking for chunk plays? Jalen Hurts has seven completions of 20+ yards.— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) December 21, 2020
Last time that happened? Nick Foles vs. Houston on Dec. 23, 2018.
It was an exciting brand of football, one most Eagles fans wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of in 2020. There’s reason to believe Hurts could lead the team to a productive output in the wild card round of the playoffs and, if nothing else, give the front office one extra game of reps with which to make decisions for 2021 and beyond at the quarterback position.
If the NFL Draft were held tomorrow, the Eagles would have the 7th overall pick. Dallas would pick 8th. Both squads have lots of holes and a rebuild is certainly coming for the Eagles. For the Cowboys, a postseason without Dak is probably less palatable than moving ahead of the Eagles in the prospective draft order.
It makes the most sense for each fanbase to root for their team to lose. It would be the smart thing.
But when it comes to Eagles vs. Cowboys, the heart always wins out.