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Expect The Cowboys To Play Hard Against The Eagles

How do teams play “meaningless” end of season games when their playoff seeding is locked up? Some expect the Cowboys to almost take it easy tomorrow. That’s not what one should expect.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Every week, four writers at the Mothership, - Bryan Broaddus, Rob Phillips, Nick Eatman, and David Helman - offer their “gut feelings” before that week’s Cowboys’ game. All four of them this week predict the Cowboys will lose, either because Dallas will be using some backups for much of the game, or because the Eagles will have more to play for in terms of wanting to finish strong, and being at home.

Is that how you expect the game to play out tomorrow?

Here are three reasons why the Cowboys will be playing with plenty of intensity tomorrow and seeking to get the win.

A Lot of Players Have A Lot to Play For

Whether motivated to play better than they did last time, or wanting to showcase skills that haven’t received a lot of playing time this year, expect every Cowboys player who suits up to play hard tomorrow. For example:

  • Dak Prescott. The first Philadelphia game this season was Dak’s worst up to that point in the year. He was especially bad in the first half, 5 for 13 with a pick in the Philly end zone. Expect Dak to want to rectify that outing, and play like he did in the fourth quarter and overtime of that game (or build on the Detroit game from this last week). Putting up a touchdown (or two) and looking sharp is also the quickest way for him to see the bench for a well-deserved rest.
  • Tony Romo. Tony has just as much to play for in this game as Dak Prescott, having not played in a regular season game for more than a year. In the press conference where he said Dak deserved to start, Tony didn’t concede that his competitive drive was gone. Far from it. He said it was stronger than ever. He’s not going to want to leave a sub-par effort out on the field when so many will be watching.
  • Mark Sanchez. Mark, of course, used to play for the Eagles, and helped hand Tony Romo and the Cowboys a stinging defeat on Thanksgiving in 2014. Mark is also a free agent in the offseason. So he may be auditioning to be Dak Prescott’s backup next year, or to get a decent contract from another team.
  • Ezekiel Elliott. Zeke has only one gear. To the extent the Cowboys use him, he’ll be ready to go.
  • Darren McFadden. As a potential free agent with perhaps the most carries he will see all year, DMC will be auditioning for his next job. (I hope the Cowboys re-sign him.)
  • Alfred Morris and Lance Dunbar. If Morris gets any carries, they will be the first in several weeks. He’ll be motivated. Dunbar is another free agent.
  • Dez Bryant and the receivers and tight ends. All will want to remain sharp. Brice Butler and Terrance Williams are pending free agents.
  • The offensive line. Emmett Cleary could be auditioning for a backup tackle role next year. All of them will be doing their best to protect whomever is playing quarterback and open holes for the running backs.
  • The defensive line. Irving, Mayowa, and Collins were fantastic last week with a lot of snaps. Hopefully, they will get a few less this week, but expect them to try to keep building on what they’ve been doing since Thanksgiving. Plus, Randy Gregory will be trying to show his value, and the new signee Richard Ash will be auditioning for a job.
  • The linebackers. Sean Lee only has one gear. If Gachkar or Nzeocha get their first snaps in ages, they will want to make the most of it.
  • The secondary. This group will also still be sharpening themselves for the playoffs.

The lineup is filled with guys who can’t take it easy, and who may be auditioning for another team next year.

For Jason Garrett Teams, It’s Always About the Process

For Garrett, he preaches getting better every day. Take care of the moment, and continue striving to do your best, and the results will come. There’s no question that message has completely taken over this Cowboys’ team, probably down to the equipment manager spot.

It’s not so much about accolades that will come if the Cowboys achieve a franchise best 14 regular season wins, or for players to get individual records, although both of those would be nice. For example, Jason Witten is only 27 yards from overtaking Michael Irvin for most receiving yards in Cowboys history, and Dak Prescott could set a new rookie record for wins (he’s tied with Ben Roethlisberger at 13). It really is about being present and your best. If the Cowboys do that, they have more than enough talent to win the game.

It’s the Eagles

If the Cowboys needed any other motivation to get them riled up about the game, it’s a divisional game against that team from Philadelphia, where there’s a bit of history involved. No matter the situation, these games are always intense.

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