The Cowboys are getting ready to play their final game of the regular season with a Week 18 road trip to Philadelphia. We already know that Mike McCarthy’s team will be coming back to Dallas to host someone next week in the playoffs, while the Eagles will be traveling somewhere to take on another playoff team.
Both the Cowboys and Eagles can improve their playoff seeding, but it would take a win and a few favorable (and unlikely) outcomes throughout Sunday’s slate of games. The odds are low for each team, but McCarthy is publicly committed to trying to win this game despite losing several players already to COVID-19 and other illnesses and injuries:
CB Trevon Diggs (illness), S Jayron Kearse (hamstring) and RB Tony Pollard (foot) will not travel with the team to Philadelphia, and all have been ruled out for the game.— Dallas Cowboys Public Relations (@DallasCowboysPR) January 7, 2022
S Donovan Wilson (illness) is not traveling with the team but remains questionable.
On top of that, Micah Parsons, Anthony Brown, and Tyron Smith are all out as well. So will this game really be a clash between two playoff teams, or will it look more like a preseason game? That question looms large over our writers’ predictions for this season finale.
When Philadelphia has the ball
Stop the run
Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni needs to be commended for the 180 he did with this offense in the middle of the season. They went from a floundering pass-heavy attack to a multifaceted smash-mouth rushing attack that’s gotten the most out of Jalen Hurts.
But it turns out that Jalen does indeed still hurt after coming back from an ankle injury a few weeks ago. Sirianni has hinted that he may rest Hurts in this one, along with several other starters. Either way, expect a lot of running plays. That’ll give Dan Quinn some opportunities to try out some new tricks, as his defense has been struggling against the run in recent weeks.
When Dallas has the ball
Show signs of life
Remember when the Cowboys put up a 50-burger just two weeks ago and all their problems on offense were resolved? All that progress seemingly got undone by a Cardinals defense that was missing several starters Sunday.
Add to it that Michael Gallup’s year is done, and this offense will need to find its footing if it wants to do anything in the playoffs. This is the perfect week for that, then, as this Eagles defense has looked solid against bad quarterbacks and terrible against good quarterbacks. Dak Prescott and this group put up 34 points and 380 yards against Philly last time, and that was also without Gallup on the field. If they can play more like that and less like last week’s team, it should be enough for the players to get some confidence heading into the postseason.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Let’s just pull some numbers out of a hat. There are so many unknowns going in all we can do is guess. We have no idea if we will see starters or just scrubs for either team at this point. The game probably will not change the seeding for Dallas. This could turn into nothing but a glorified preseason game if the coaches are smart.
So let’s just take a flyer, and say the Cowboys get a narrow win, 23-20. (The score for Dallas is predicated on an obligatory missed XP from Greg Zuerlein.)
As the debate rages on about whether or not the Dallas Cowboys should start or sit their players, Covid has started to sit players bypassing the Cowboys decision making process. Micah Parsons, Tyron Smith, and Anthony Brown are all potentially out in the final game of the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles who are going through their own bout with players on the Covid list.
In a perfect world this would be the week for the Cowboys to rest their starters and give their backups more playing time, they’ve already locked up the division and look like they will remain as the fourth seed in the conference. The Eagles may play some of their starters but for the Cowboys on the offensive and defensive side of the football the best thing to do is sit your players and not risk injury. For that reason I have the Cowboys falling to the Eagles this week in a effort to rest and get players healthy.
Eagles 17, Cowboys 13.
It’s hard to handicap this game with the COVID issues on both sides, but even with some players out I think the Cowboys will play their starters for a good portion of this game. With that being said, nothing they showed us last week makes me believe this will be an easy game, even if Philly is down multiple starters. It’s a shame this game got flexed to primetime, because I don’t see it being very exciting.
Give me the Cowboys in an ugly one, 23-17.
The Cowboys are adamant they intend to go play their starters and win this game Sunday so they can carry some momentum into the postseason and, based on what we’ve seen from the offense the second half of the season, can you blame them? Unfortunately, reality and aspirations don’t always meet as we’d like for them to do. Micah Parsons, Tyron Smith, and Anthony Brown getting added to the COVID/Reserve list certainly complicates things, as do reports that “multiple” Cowboys yet to be named are also reportedly ill in some way that’s not COVID positive. Assuming no one else finds themselves added to the list, say, Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb, Dallas may still have a chance if it really cares about closing out the regular season with a win.
The Eagles are also hampered by a rash of players on the reserve list. It was so bad in fact, we couldn’t run our Madden simulation this week with all of the adjustments. As such, we played everyone. But Dallas and Philly can’t do that obviously. The Michael Gallup injury and risk of more illnesses to come makes me think the Cowboys are either going to get spooked or outright “punt” on this generally meaningless game Saturday night. Philadelphia, meanwhile, playing in front of its home crowd who would love nothing more than to smack the Cowboys ahead of the postseason, is playing pretty well in recent weeks and looking to carryover their momentum to their own playoff matchup in the wildcard.
My gut says this one probably goes something to the tune of Philadelphia 24-16.
If we take Mike McCarthy at his word, we will assume the starters will be playing in this matchup, even if it feels wrong. However, if Dallas is going to play their best 22 players, they need to fix the issues that arose during last week. For offense, this means playing a complete game of sound football, giving Dak time to throw against a formidable defensive line, and running an up-tempo offense after the big plays.
For defense, there is less we need to see. But treating Jalen Hurts as a trial run for a possible Kyler Murray rematch next week means Dallas needs to focus on keeping him in the pocket and not allowing him to extend plays. This should also allow the Cowboys to get off the field on third down, which they struggled at last week. Who knows how much of the starting lineups from both teams we will see. If Dallas plays their starters for the entire game, I expect it will be closer than the last matchup, but they will still leave with a win.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 20.
This is essentially an extension of the preseason, but don’t tell that to Mike McCarthy. The Head Coach is eluding to going out and playing the starters with the intent to win. We’ll see if that comes to true or not, but with everything going on due to Covid and injuries, I’ll believe it when I see it. I think we are in for a game mostly between Cooper Rush and Gardner Minshew.
I look for the Cowboys to pull out a win 23-17 as they complete a 12 win season, and get ready for their first playoff game since the 2018 season.
The Dallas Cowboys have an interesting dilemma in the season finale in Week 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Word is they already plan to play their starters, and with the #1 seed all but out of the reach, they can either play for the win this week or use this last regular-season game to try to iron out many of the wrinkles that keep rearing their ugly head week after week.
Personally, I’m hoping they choose the latter because it’s their last chance to correct many of their issues before games are do or die in the playoffs. With that in mind, the final score and outcome of this divisional matchup means little in the grander scheme of things. That’s why am going to go against the grain and predict a loss for the Cowboys this week, albeit hopefully a learning one that profits them in the postseason.
Score prediction: 24-17, Eagles.
It’s hard to know which players will take the field on Saturday, but regardless of the arrangement, the Cowboys should have the edge in talent. It’s also tricky to predict what each team hopes to accomplish in a game that doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things.
Look for Kellen Moore to try to get the ground attack working, even if it means a little more Corey Clement than we’re used to. Don’t expect a lot of points, and it will be tough to stomach at times, but the depth of the Cowboys defense prevails as they add another defensive score helping the team take down a sweep of the NFC East.
Cowboys 18, Eagles 13.
Since I live in Arizona and the Cardinals just beat the Cowboys last week, allow me to share a memory from the 2015 Cardinals season. Entering Week 17, Arizona could theoretically jump to the top seed with a win and a Panthers loss. Head coach Bruce Arians talked all week about how he didn’t care about resting players and he was going to try to win their last game. Arians pulled his starters at halftime after some very conservative playcalling before readily admitting to lying all week in the lead up to the game.
That’s been on my mind since Mike McCarthy made a similar proclamation earlier this week. Then COVID-19 popped up again and has made a few decisions for the coach. We know that Micah Parsons and a few other big players on defense will be out, as well as Tyron Smith and Tony Pollard. I see McCarthy pulling his few remaining starters by halftime after a pretty conservative game plan designed to avoid anything too risky. With Philly possibly doing the same, that makes this pick a coin toss for me.
Cowboys lose 20-16.