3/4 of the way through the season. Dallas Cowboys have a magic number-- 4. Any 4 Dallas wins and Philly losses and Dallas cliches*— jim scott (@realdirkg) November 30, 2013
Thanks to our good friend and BTB member The Real Dirk Gently, we all know exactly what has to happen for the Dallas Cowboys to secure their first playoff appearance since 2009. While there is an obscure route where both teams can lose out and tie the final game of the season that would allow the New York Giants to win out and win the division, it is essentially a two-team race between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. Knowing that, it behooves us to take a look at what lies ahead for the two main contenders.
The 7-5 Philadelphia Eagles will play host to the 7-5 Detroit Lions on Sunday. Both teams boast identical records, and both are coming off of critical late-season wins; the Lions defeated the Green Bay Packers in dominating fashion on Thanksgiving Day while the Eagles prevailed against the Arizona Cardinals in a close game on Sunday. Theoretically, the Eagles will have home field advantage in this game but, with the exception of a couple recent games, Chip Kelly's team has not fared well in the confines of Lincoln Financial field. According to the Sporting News, the opening line for this game has the Eagles (-3); the traditional three point advantage for the home team. All told, this game could go either way, but my impression is that Megatron could be the difference maker in this one. Let's hope he turns in a performance similar to the one that he had against Dallas.
The Dallas Cowboys, also boasting a 7-5 record, travel to the Windy City to face the 6-6 Chicago Bears. While Dallas defeated the Oakland Raiders after a slow start on Thanksgiving Day; Da Bears lost an overtime contest against the lowly Minnesota Vikings team that had also given the Cowboys fits earlier this season. The biggest question looming for this game is who will start at QB for the Bears, will Jay Cutler return to action or will his back up, Josh McCown, start against Dallas? No matter who takes the helm on Monday, Dallas is going to face a bigger challenge than Oakland gave them, and they cannot afford another lethargic start. So far the line for this game has not been set.
With both teams in equally matched games, anything could happen. A two game swing in favor of either team is a very real possibility, and that would put the team that is able to take advantage in the driver's seat for the remainder of the season.
The Eagles have what once would have been considered a "gimme" game as the travel to the frozen north to battle the Minnesota Vikings, but after seeing the Purple-clad hoard give the Cowboys all they could handle recently and then watching them send the Bears down to defeat over the weekend, nothing is for certain. Did I mention that the Vikings also fought the Green Bay Packers to a draw? While the Eagles should prevail in this contest, they will have to deal with Adrian Peterson who can take over a game at any time. If the Eagles take this game lightly, they may find themselves in dire straits.
Dallas will also face a team from the "Black and Blue" division as the Green Bay Packers travel to the Metroplex. What once should have been the cause of ulcers for Cowboys fans, is now starting to look like a game where Dallas should find themselves with a clear edge. Word out of Green Bay is that there is now talk of sitting QB Aaron Rodgers for the remainder of the season, especially if the Pack find themselves eliminated from contention. Even though the Cowboys cannot afford to take anyone lightly, the Boys should face little threat from the Rodgers-less Packers at home, unless they decide once again to play with their heads inserted into their nether-regions.
Once again, this is a week that shows a strong potential to go either way. Neither team can afford to let up at this point, but from here on things really get serious.
The Philadelphia Eagles return home to host the Chicago Bears in a game that will likely have playoff implications for both teams. For the Eagles, this could be the game where they face elimination, but just as likely it could be the game where they clinch the division. Either way, Cowboys fans are going to be rooting hard for the Bears in this match up.
For Dallas, the next to last week of the season brings with it a trip to our nation's capitol to face the Washington Redskins. We all know that our oldest rival, long since eliminated from contention, would like nothing more than to knock Dallas out of the playoff hunt. On the other hand, some of us would find a division-clinching victory celebration to be even sweeter if it occurred on the Redskins home turf. No matter how the Skins fare between now and then, the trip to FedEx Field is going to be a war for the Cowboys.
It might all come down to this; the Eagles will pay their annual visit to the friendly confines of AT&T Stadium in what will likely become a winner-take-all slug-fest between the two contenders for the NFC East title. The Cowboys have been there before; in 2011 they went to New York for a Sunday night showdown with the Giants for the crown, and in 2012 history repeated itself as the 'Boys and 'Skins met to decide the division winner. In both cases, the home team prevailed. What does fate have in store for the home team if it all comes down to the head to head meeting in 2013? Only time will tell.