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Washington at Philadelphia update: The other game Cowboys fans care about this week

A look at what’s going with the two teams that could help decide the Cowboys’ playoff fate.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If the Dallas Cowboys can take care of business in the 1 PM ET hour on Sunday versus the New York Giants, then the scoreboard watching will begin. The NFL has moved the Washington and Philadelphia game to the Sunday Night Football time slot, meaning all Cowboys fans’ eyes will be on that game if the Dallas wins earlier in the day.

Of course, the Cowboys need the Eagles to beat the Football Team, and that will be an interesting task for the team from the City of Brotherly Love. One, they will have nothing left to play for as their loss to the Cowboys eliminated them from playoff contention. Two, they will be helping their hated rival by winning. But, NFL players have pride, and coaches do too, so you never know what will happen.

For Washington, the big question is who will play quarterback. They hope it will be Alex Smith. They are optimistic after he was almost ready to play this past Sunday.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Smith was “very close” to playing in Sunday’s game against Carolina, but there’s a better chance for the regular-season finale.

“I thought he had an exceptional day on Friday, but it’s always about how that person feels the next day and he felt it was still grabbing him a little bit,” Rivera said Monday, via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post. “This week, I’m optimistic about the opportunity.”

If Smith can play, that’s a huge advantage for Washington who generally win when he is under center, and generally lose when he is not. If he can’t go, it won’t be Dwayne Haskins under center, but Taylor Heinicke. The Football Team has released Dwayne Haskins.

Heinicke played the end of the game when Washington benched Haskins and was pretty effective moving the ball.

Heinicke replaced Dwayne Haskins Jr. in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers and completed 12 of 19 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown.

Before Sunday, Heinicke had not played in an NFL game since 2018, and he spent last winter in the XFL. He is familiar with Washington’s offense, having played for coordinator Scott Turner with Carolina and Minnesota.

For Philadelphia, there are a few items in the mix in this finale. One, they would like for Jalen Hurts to have a good game and hit the offseason with some momentum. Hurts was the belle of the ball until the Dallas game. He still was able to produce some decent stats, but his turnovers were a big issue along with some errant passes. The team, and Hurts himself, would like to get back on track.

Hurts had only turned the ball over once in his first two starts and the rookie was adamant about turning the game into a learning experience. He said he believes that he and the team will “be better from this” in the future.

“That failure teaches you a lesson and that pain does nothing but motivate you,” Hurts said, via the team’s website. “That pain is going to continue to motivate me and I’m going to be better for it.”

Let’s hope that Hurts is a fast learner and that motivation to play better will manifest itself on Sunday night. There is another matter hanging out there in Philly. That is the status of head coach Doug Pederson. There has been speculation about his future, along with other members of the front office, but Pederson expects to be back next year.

“I feel fully confident to be the head coach of the Eagles in 2021,” Pederson said on WIP. “The thing I’m most proud of this football team, we have been in the postseason three of the last five years since I’ve been here and that’s pretty good. We have won a championship here. We have gone through a season where a lot of our veteran guys are not playing due to injury. We are playing with a lot of young players. There is always going to be evaluation in the offseason and my job is evaluated as well. I fully expected to be the coach next season and I welcome the opportunity to get things right, get things fixed and take this team into next season.”

Going out with a win over a division rival might help his cause, so maybe he’ll have some motivation heading into Week 17.

Of course, more than anything, the health of Fletcher Cox could be the most important factor. When he left the Dallas game with injury, the Cowboys rolled the Eagels.

Get well soon, Mr. Cox.