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No pressure, just the biggest game of the year

Until the next biggest game

Philadelphia Eagles v Cleveland Browns Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

To paraphrase BGN alum Patrick Wall, Dallas week before Halloween doesn’t feel right. So Eagles-Cowboys in Week 6 is this month’s edition of “Game That Is Being Played Too Early In The Season To Be A Big Game.”

But it is also a “Big Divisional Showdown With Potential Major Playoff Implications.” So this is a big game. But not just any big game. Not just any Eagles-Cowboys game.

This is the biggest game to date in Nick Sirianni’s young head coaching career

Bigger than any regular season game last year because the Eagles were rebuilding, and the meat of their schedule last season was early when no one expected them to be a playoff team. Bigger than the playoff game last year because the Eagles weren’t expected to win it.

And it’s not just that it’s the Cowboys. Whoever wins is in the driver’s seat for the division title, and potentially the top seed in the NFC.

An Eagles win would put them two games up overall on the Cowboys and 2-0 in the division. They would also be at least one game up on the Vikings, who they have the head to head tiebreaker with, and two games up on the Buccaneers and 49ers, the other division leaders. In order for the Cowboys to overtake the Eagles after losing to them, they would at the least have to play two games better than the Eagles the rest of the season, including winning in the second matchup and have the Eagles lose at least two other divisional games.

A Cowboys win would bring them even in overall record, and with a win over the Eagles in hand for a potential tie breaker. And they’d do it without Dak Prescott, and with the return game in Dallas. The Eagles can win and still lose the division, they can lose and still earn the #1 seed. Nothing will be written in stone following Sunday, but an Eagles win would give them reason to get a quote from a quarry during the bye week.

Adding to the tension, this is both the best and worst time to face the Cowboys. Playing at home against the uninspiring Cooper Rush is in a high leverage game is a significant advantage. But the engine that drives the Eagles, the offensive line, is coming off a game where three starters missed various amounts of playing time. Their counterpart, the Cowboys defensive line, is Dallas’s engine and is playing at a high level, though their most dangerous pass rushers are also dealing with injury concerns. Those don’t even out, it only takes two or three fortuitously timed plays in the backfield by a pass rush to change a game.

Dallas is coming off an empty calorie hype feeding win

Of course, it’s also a big game for the Cowboys. They have to go on the road to the first place Eagles in prime time, and will start their backup QB unless they foolishly rush Dak Prescott back into action early. Are the Cowboys up for this game? Their resume so far is lackluster.

The Los Angeles Rams are the defending Super Bowl champions. That’s about all they have going for themselves this year. They have the second most turnovers, the third worst sack rate, are 25th in overall DVOA, 26th in offensive DVOA, and are 29th in scoring. Matthew Stafford led the league with 17 INTs last year, he already has 7 this season. The Rams are all but broken down, no one should be surprised when they fail to make the playoffs.

But because the Rams are defending Super Bowl champions and the Cowboys are the Cowboys, Dallas gets the “are they legit?” talking points on debate shows. Meanwhile the team who beat the Rams by a greater margin the week prior did not. That team was the 49ers, who beat the Cowboys in the playoffs last year.

Criticisms of the Eagles soft schedule have merit, but they apply equally to the Cowboys. Their previous wins were against the Commanders, who are on the verge of an implosion; the Giants, who are this year’s NFC entry for “how did they make the playoffs?” team (last year’s installments were the Eagles and Raiders, this year’s AFC team is TBD in a stacked field); and the Bengals before they realized that they should block for Joe Burrow. And against the Rams they scored one (1) touchdown on offense. The best team they played and more importantly the team that played their best against them was the Bucs in Week 1, the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown.

The Eagles are the best team the Cowboys have faced yet, and will be all season because their schedule is weak (as is the Eagles). Win on Sunday and then the “are they legit” questions will be legit. But Cowboys legitimacy or lack thereof has never been a barrier for hype, and hype they have.

Stat of the Week That May Only Interest Me

Jalen Hurts has played in 35 regular season games, he has 18 rushing TDs.

In his last 35 regular season games, Ezekiel Elliott has 15 rushing TDs.

Top 5 Eagles-Cowboys Games

1. 1980: NFC Championship Game

It doesn’t get any bigger than that

2. 2008: 44-6

An end to the season so incredible they made a movie about it (happening in the background)

3. 2004: Monday Night Football

The bizarre Desperate Housewives intro, the 14 second scramble, and the most points scored by the Eagles in any Cowboys game

4. 2006: Terrell Owens’ return

Overshadowed by Lito Sheppard’s interception return

5. 2001: Pickle Juice Game

The McNabb era truly kicked off by not kicking off

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