By Kevin McGuire
The Eagles already have home field advantage in the playoffs under their wings and with the Dallas Cowboys eliminated from postseason contention, there will be little more than pride on the line on Sunday afternoon in Lincoln Financial Field. The Eagles have a few issues they need to work out before heading into the playoffs though, and working through them against the Cowboys may serve the Birds well in the month of January. With Ezekiel Elliott back in the lineup after a six-game suspension, the Cowboys will hope to be able to end this forgettable season with a win and look forward to a return to competing for the division next season.
Cowboys’ Record: 8-7
The Cowboys can clinch a second-straight winning season. If they do that, it will be the first time since a four-year stretch from 2005-2009 the Cowboys will end consecutive seasons with a winning record. Dallas was eliminated from the postseason when they lost at home to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. The winner-stays-alive game was won by Seattle, 21-12, in the first game Ezekiel Elliott returned to the lineup. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak Dallas had to bust out of a three-game losing streak. Mixed in that three-game losing streak was a 37-9 loss at home to the Eagles.
Cowboys on Offense
During the first three games of Elliott’s six-game suspension, the offense in Dallas looked lost. Dallas scored 21 points in three games during their three-game losing streak, but Dak Prescott and the offense pulled it together with three straight solid outings against the Redskins, Giants, and Raiders. With Elliott back for the final two games, the running game is once again formidable and has potential to be a factor in the game. The last time the Eagles played Dallas, Alfred Morris was the leading rusher for Dallas with 91 yards, but the running game of the Cowboys was not much of a concern.
Cowboys on Defense
The Cowboys may have lost last weekend, but they did so with a strong effort from the defense against Seattle. Dallas limited Seattle to just 136 yards of offense and allowed just two offensive touchdowns. It was the Dallas offense and three turnovers that ultimately cost them a chance to stay alive for the playoffs. The Cowboys have been playing well on defense since the last time these teams played. Dallas has allowed fewer than 20 offensive points to opponents in four straight games. Having Sean Lee on the field is a big plus for the Cowboys.
Cowboys Players to Watch
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back: This will be the first time the Eagles have faced Elliott this season. It will be just the second time the Eagles have seen the second-year running back after he was rested in the season finale last year with the Cowboys having their spot in the playoffs locked in. Elliott rushed for 96 yards in an overtime Dallas win last season the first time the teams played each other.
Sean Lee, Linebacker: The anchor of the Dallas offense had a monster day against the Seahawks with a game-high 14 tackles, including three tackles for a loss. Expect him to be mentioned plenty of times on Sunday as well.
The season finale will be a difficult one to predict because it remains to be seen just how much Doug Pederson plays his starters. It may also be difficult to tell just how much the Cowboys will play their starters or how much they can get fired up for the game after being eliminated and having nothing to play for on the road. But given how the Eagles treated the Cowboys in the season finale last year and earlier this season, there could be a slight revenge factor in play. Regardless, the Eagles need to polish up some things on both sides of the football and the Cowboys should be able to give them a good test before getting a bye week to prepare for their first playoff game in a few weeks.