Let’s put to rest the notion that the Dallas Cowboys as an organization are out to wreak havoc upon the Eagles this Sunday.
It’s pure balderdash, a nasty talk soup cooked up by the media at both the regional and national levels.
The days of the miserable feud between Buddy Ryan and Tom Landry are long gone. RIP…
What we have here in Week 17 is a professional understanding between both teams. Dallas is out of it, the Eagles will be resting starters for at least part of the game, and the Cowboys are not going to expose their franchise players to needless risk. You still have to play the game to fulfill your league contract. So the idea on both sides is to go through the motions while attempting to make it look good. Nobody on either side wants to get hurt in this game. Nobody in their right mind wants to be the guy who hurts somebody else in this one. This is the kind of game where the fraternity aspect of belonging to the same labor union takes precedence over all else.
Sure, the Cowboys would love to get a win over the Eagles, and vice-versa, just to get that little extra swagger of personal satisfaction to carry over into the divisional rivalry next season. But in fact, the game is meaningless in terms of right here, right now. Contrary to popular mob opinion, these teams do not hate each other…especially in light of the current standings and professional acceptance of the situation.
When you break it down, the only guys on both teams who don’t get to take half the game off in this one are the special teams units. They are expected to perform at an intensity level as if this game were deciding the NFC East title. Part of the reason for that is if you’re playing special teams in Week 17, you’re probably not sure you even have a roster spot secured for the following season. You don’t have the luxury of job security. You have got to put your best effort on tape for the sake of your future employment. If anyone on either team is trying to make a splash play, it will most likely be a guy on special teams.
As for the starters on both teams in this one, the same principle applies: Get most of the starters early snaps and hope they put a few good drives together to enter the bye week (or the offseason in the case of the Cowboys) on a positive note, but try to escape the game healthy and take a look at down-the-depth-chart players in the second half.
Speaking of putting stuff on tape, there is no way Doug Pederson or Jim Schwartz are going to call anything close to an exotic or unique look on offense or defense. They are going to play it so vanilla and close-to-the-vest it will seem like they are coaching a Pro Bowl exhibition. Spies everywhere for the upcoming playoffs…
The Cowboys on the other hand have the freedom to experiment. They just might trot out some novel looks to mix things up. When you’re on the outside looking in, why not have some fun with it?
Do you want to “punish” Nick Foles for his previous sub-par outing by making him play past half-time? I don’t, and I don’t think Coach Doug is thinking that way at all, either. Get him his reps with the starters early then get him the heck out of Dodge, preferably before the first half ends.
In fact, for me the best scenario would be for Nate Sudfeld to take over at QB midway through the 2nd quarter. It doesn’t matter what the score is anyway. Get the young kid in there and let him finish the game. It would be even better if Sudfeld managed to get Jake Elliott in FG range a few times before the day was over. Can you imagine Elliott beating the Cowboys on a last-second field goal? That would be the kind of simulated playoff pressure that ends up being more valuable to the Eagles’ chances in the playoffs than anything else that could possibly come out of this game.