Tag Archives: CenturyLink Field

The Eagles-Cowboys Showdown is Important Today But Contrary to What Any National Narrative Might Suggest It Won’t Necessarily Decide the NFC East

By the time I finish writing this post, kickoff between the Eagles and Cowboys with first place in the division on the line will be less than nine hours away.

We’re getting closer, but that’s still a ton of time for more hype to be generated about the Thanksgiving matchup. This game has been circled on the slate for many since the schedule was released in late April, but the circumstances are a bit different than most expected, certainly a contrast to what I anticipated.

Yes, the Eagles head to Dallas with the exact same record as I thought they would at 8-3, but the Cowboys are also a surprising 8-3 when many picked them to win only five or six games. I like to think my predictions have been mostly decent, but Dallas right now, pending a ridiculous collapse that I don’t think even they are capable of, appears to be the big miss right now.

If you told me in August that the Eagles would head into this game 8-3, I would have told you that they would have the NFC East virtually clinched already, but they don’t, and despite what anyone tells you to create excitement, neither team will be that close to winning it as people loosen their belts tonight and settle in for Seahawks-49ers.

Today’s contest is no doubt important, and whichever team does win will have a bit of an easier path to the division crown, but unlike the Week 17 virtual playoff games in 2008 and 2013, this isn’t a do or die type of deal.

I do think though, that the Eagles head into today with a bit of a long-term advantage over Dallas. Let’s examine why:

These are the current NFC East standings:

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.16.05 AM

Take a look at that seventh column from the left there — The division record one.

You will see that the Eagles are undefeated in the division at 2-0 while Dallas sits at 2-1 after dropping a home game to Washington exactly one month ago to the day. That is so significant because if the teams split their two games and finish with the exact same record, it will be the first tiebreaker used to decide the division winner.

Below are both teams’ remaining schedules, with the Eagles first and the Cowboys below them.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.33 AM

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 8.21.47 AM

Discounting the two games against each other in a three week span, the Eagles common opponents have a combined record of 13-20 while the Cowboys face teams with a cumulative record of 15-18.

Since the Eagles have not yet lost within the division, they could split their two games with Dallas, win all of the others, and take the division at 12-4. The same does not hold true for Dallas. Going 4-1 down the stretch would certainly put them in the playoffs, but if the Eagles matched them and took a game from them, they get the NFC East crown, a home playoff game, and quite possibly a first round bye.

Such a scenario would have the Eagles with a 5-1 record in the division while Dallas would only be 4-2.

How realistic is it to expect the Eagles to win all three games against the Seahawks, Redskins, and Giants?

That is up to your interpretation. They have already defeated the latter two at home, and Seattle looks like a much different team away from CenturyLink Field, currently holding a 2-3 road record.

The Eagles have not been road juggernauts this season though, also holding a 2-3 record away from Lincoln Financial Field. The Giants and Redskins are certainly not the 49ers, Cardinals, or Packers, but playing back-to-back NFC East road games late in the season is never a slam dunk, even against squads who have packed it in.

In stark contrast to the Eagles, the Cowboys are undefeated on the road and currently hold a 3-3 home record. Three of their last four games after today will be played elsewhere, but that might not be so bad if you think their strong road play holds up.

We have examined a lot of hypothetical scenarios, but quite honestly, the Eagles path to the division is in theory quite simple:

Win at least one game against Dallas and don’t lose any others.

How you feel about things over the next month ultimately depends on how you feel about different elements of the Eagles right now. Do you trust Chip Kelly down the stretch? I sure do and personally think you should, especially with extra time to prepare for the Seahawks. Do you trust Mark Sanchez to beat Dallas at least once if Nicky Foles isn’t back in two and a half weeks? That answer might be a bit more dicey for some.

I am not intentionally trying to downplay today’s matchup. It should be fun. It may be stressful, and like a lot of you, I will probably be doing battle with a food coma right before kickoff from eating an early dinner.

It may seem like I am cautioning you against a letdown throughout this post, but I actually think the Eagles are going to win 30-27. Provided Mark Sanchez can exorcise some demons of Thanksgiving past and not turn the ball over more than once or twice, the birds should be able to move the ball against a better than expected but still somewhat vulnerable Dallas defense and contain DeMarco Murray.

Just keep things in perspective. If we’re celebrating a huge road victory tonight, the Eagles will be in a prime position to repeat as NFC East champions, and I’ll be pumped as all hell, but don’t panic and go jumping off the Walt Whitman in a tryptophan induced rage should things not go right.

The national narrative might be that the winner today gets the division, but either way, there is a lot more work to be done.

Advertisements

Predicting the Eagles Record Game-By-Game

I am a little surprised I am doing this only because this exercise rarely holds up in a couple of months.

It does not so much matter where a team’s wins are from over the course of the regular season as long as they are there after Week 17. Injuries and several other variables can throw things out of whack.

At the beginning of last season, I would have told you that the Eagles would beat Dallas at home but lose to Green Bay on the road two weeks later. Nick Foles getting hurt against the Cowboys, and Aaron Rodgers not playing against the birds obviously changed that. The Eagles still split those two games, but how they did it was the contrast to what I expected.

Still, this is a fun thing to do and evaluate, so we’re going to play win-loss with the Eagles schedule starting with this Sunday against Jacksonville and going through the season finale at MetLife Stadium against the Giants.

Let’s get to it:

Jaguars Logo

Win: This one reminds me of the 2008 opener where the Eagles just steamrolled an awful Rams team at Lincoln Financial Field. Nicky Foles, Shady McCoy, and Zach Ertz pick up right where they left off as Chip Kelly’s offense soars and Billy Davis’ defense gains confidence.

Colts Logo

Loss — I nearly gave the Eagles a road victory here, but I think the Colts take this one as Adam Vinatieri ends a Monday Night shootout with a game-winning field goal. Foles and Andrew Luck go back and forth all game, but the Colts need one this more after falling to the Broncos this Sunday. They find a way to get it done.

Redskins Logo

Win — DeSean Jackson catches a meaningless touchdown in the fourth quarter, but 70,000 at Lincoln Financial Field have already belted out the Eagles fight song four times. Kelly continues to own Jim Haslett’s defenses as the birds get back over .500.

Niners Logo

Win — Back in 2011, the 49ers went into Lincoln Financial Field in Game 4 and stunned an ill-prepared Eagles team with a one-point win. That Eagles team ended up not being very good, but the Eagles will turn the tables here and leave northern California riding high with a 3-1 record.

Rams Logo

Win — Lane Johnson returns just in time to keep Nick Foles upright against a staunch Rams defensive line. In a second half rout, Brandon Boykin picks off Shaun Hill and takes it to the house while Mark Sanchez gives a troll wave to Jeff Fisher on the opposing sideline. The Eagles are 4-1, their best start to a season since 2006.

Giants Logo

Win — The Giants are better than folks think and make this one tough, but Foles makes a play in the fourth quarter that Eli Manning can no longer make. The Eagles escape on Sunday Night football and open up a three game lead in the NFC East heading into their bye week.

Cardinals Logo

Loss — The Cardinals have given the Eagles fits over the past half decade and enact some revenge from last year where the Eagles may have kept them out of the playoffs. The offense finds its groove in the fourth quarter but leaves the desert with a loss.

Texans Logo

Win — Kelly vs. Bill O’Brien. Blink and risk missing an entire series J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney each sack Nick Foles once, but the Eagles win by 10 points on the road, sitting pretty at 6-2.

Panthers Logo

Win — The third Monday Night game at the Linc between these teams since 2006. With the Eagles clinging to a 28-24 lead late in the fourth quarter, Malcolm Jenkins pays homage to Lito Sheppard and intercepts a Cam Newton throw to the end zone.

Packers Logo

Loss — The defense comes in feeling good about itself, but Aaron Rodgers picks them apart. Foles keeps up most of the way, but Green Bay has too much firepower and outlasts the Eagles 31-27.

Titans

Win — The birds return home angry after the Packers game, and an overmatched Titans squad is the victim of their frustration. Jordan Matthews has a big coming out party, and the birds roll comfortably.

Cowboys Logo

Win — It is a happy Turkey Day in Jerry World for the visiting Eagles. Tony Romo keeps the Cowboys in it for a half, but Chip Kelly’s squad beats an awful Cowboys defense into submission by the time the third quarter ends. McCoy goes for 160 yards on the ground as the birds reach nine wins. Perhaps we get another GIF similar to this, (H/T @CrossingBroad)

Jerry Jones GIF

Seahawks Logo

Loss — Kelly has a few extra days to prepare for a visit from the defending Super Bowl champions, but talent wins out as Seattle gains a stranglehold on homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. The Eagles defense rises up and keeps them in the game, but the offense never completely gets on track as the Seahawks send a raucous Lincoln Financial Field crowd home disappointed with a 24-16 win.

Cowboys Logo

Win — The Eagles treat a Sunday Night national audience to a show, snapping their two-year home losing streak to the Cowboys and clinching the NFC East in the process with a 38-10 romp. The loss all but seals Jason Garrett’s fate as Dallas falls to 5-9 in a miserable season. The three-year streak of 8-8 mediocrity is over as the bottoming out begins.

Redskins Logo

Win — The Eagles start slow in Washington, but a long touchdown pass from Foles to Jeremy Maclin right before halftime wakes them up. The second half is sloppy, but Cody Parkey hits a 35-yarder with no time left to win it 23-20. The Eagles secure the number two seed as the Skins’ hope of finishing 8-8 in Jay Gruden’s first year fades away.

Giants Logo

Loss — Neither team has a ton to play for. The Eagles already know their playoff positioning, and the Giants are already eliminated. Tom Coughlin goes out on a high note, denying the Eagles a perfect 6-0 record in the division with a 26-23 win.

This puts the Eagles at 11-5 and gives them a bye on wildcard weekend for the first time since 2004 when they went to the Super Bowl.

In my season predictions for all 32 teams, I have the Eagles getting revenge against the Saints at home before succumbing to the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

We can discuss this more over the next couple of days and throughout the beginning portion of the season. I believe the Eagles are going to be very good but are in need of another offseason to address the defense before they can take out the Seahawks.

The unit was better last year than many people realize, but it has not yet shown me it could win a road playoff game against that type of team. Should this actually end up being the NFC Championship Game, I may change my tune once there is 18 games of film and data on each team, but for as much as I want to go all in and say see you in Glendale, I think the Seahawks win that contest right now.

An NFC Championship appearance in Year 2 under Kelly would be nothing to scoff at though. It would mean that in two years he turned a 4-12 mess into a legitimate contender for the Lombardi Trophy.

In an ideal world, the Eagles get one this season before Foles’ well-deserved payday, but the window of opportunity will still be very much open.

There you have it. 11-5, a second straight NFC East title, a home playoff victory, and an appearance in the final four. I want a ring, but this is a pretty good place to start.

What say you folks? Would love to hear your predictions before Sunday.