Today’s battle between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles is more than a game to determine who will be leading the NFC East. It’s also a battle that could decide who carries an advantage into week 17. In a strange twist of fate, the Cowboys will host a week 17 game against the Eagles.
If we go back over the course of the past two seasons, we’ll notice the Cowboys have lost de-facto division championship games two years running in week 17. It’s those types of games that have cursed Tony Romo’s tenure in Dallas, and there’s a very good chance he’ll be subjected to another high-stakes game to close out the season. That, however, is a story for another day.
Chip Kelly’s offense and the rivalry between the Eagles and Cowboys will take most of the post-game headlines, but today’s game will likely be determined by the defenses playing the game.
For the Eagles, there’s a relatively simple formula for beating the Cowboys. Tony Romo is the beginning and end of the Cowboy’s offense. Like three pointers in basketball, the Cowboys live and die by Romo. The Eagles defense has to ensure the Cowboys die by Romo, and doing so is easier said than done. Tony Romo is known for making big mistakes in big moments. That being the case, expect the Eagles to bring heavy pressure in clutch moments of the game.
The Cowboys’ sideline has a more complex task. The Eagles’ offense is more difficult to deal with simply because it is less conventional than nearly every other team’s offense in the NFL. That means it’s difficult to simulate in practice, and because teams only see it once or twice per year, it has a surprise factor, giving the Eagles an edge early in games.
Granted, with the news that Michael Vick would not be playing against the Cowboys, the Cowboys’ job got significantly easier. Nick Foles is athletic, but he doesn’t pose the same problems to defenses that Michael Vick does. Even so, the Cowboys’ plate is full.
The NFC East is a mediocre division as a whole, but these two teams are the best the division has to offer. This is a rivalry game, a potential tie-breaker, and it’s one of those games that has long-term implications that could last into the postseason. Don’t know which game to watch? I suggest you start with this one.