The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys have been on a collision course for a Week 17 showdown to determine the NFC East championship since the schedule was released back in April. At least that’s how it feels. Neither club has been able to build more than a one-game lead in the standings at any point this season, while New York and Washington never factored into the equation.
Now that they’ve finally arrived at the regular-season finale, it looks like the Cowboys are going to be down a key player—their franchise quarterback.
There has to be some disappointment among Eagles fans over the potential loss of Romo for such an epic meeting. After all, he can’t "Romo" the division title away if he’s in street clothes!
In all seriousness, though, it’s a shame the Birds won’t get the Boys’ best shot if Romo can’t go.
Running back LeSean McCoy encapsulated that exact sentiment in a radio interview for 94 WIP, transcribed by Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News:
"I would love to have Romo out there. You want your best. You want everybody" playing in the showdown for the NFC East title, McCoy said. "You wait this long and put everything into it? The hard training in the offseason, get the new coach . . . We're finally here at the last game . . . You put all your chips on the table . . . We're all in."
The Eagles must ensure they don’t treat Romo’s backup, Kyle Orton, with the same ambivalence they did Matt Cassel of the Minnesota Vikings only a couple weeks ago. Cassel, the Vikings’ so-called “third-string” QB, threw for 382 yards as the offense dropped 48 points on a befuddled Philadelphia defense.
There’s no denying the Eagles will have caught a huge break if Romo is inactive this Sunday, whether they asked for it or not.
But can they capitalize, beat Dallas and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010?
NFC East Standings
|Philadelphia Eagles||9-6||3-2||W vs. CHI||@ DAL|
|Dallas Cowboys||8-7||5-0||W @ WAS||vs. PHI|
|New York Giants||6-9||2-3||W @ DET||vs. WAS|
|Washington Redskins||3-12||0-5||L vs. DAL||@ NYG|
In case you were wondering, the Eagles will win the division if their tilt with the Cowboys ends in a tie, because 9-6-1 is still better than 8-7-1.
A few notes about Kyle Orton: A veteran of nine NFL seasons, Orton has a 35-34 record as a starter with an overall passer rating of 79.7. His last start came in 2011 during his brief stint with the Kansas City Chiefs, a 7-3 loss in which he completed 15 of 29 attempts for 180 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the scale of starting quarterbacks the Eagles have faced this year, Orton falls somewhere between Matt Cassel and Green Bay’s Scott Tolzien. The only concern is over the defensive effort.
Since jumping out to an 0-6 start, New York has gone 6-3 and has a chance to end its season on a high note against hapless Washington this week. The Giants still need a lot of work, but they certainly aren’t the lost cause they appeared to be back in October.
The No. 1 priority will be fixing an offense that is finishing near the bottom of the league in almost every category. The G-men are 30th in total yards, 28th in scoring, 31st in rushing and have all but clinched dead last in the NFL with 41 turnovers this season.
Washington fans do have a couple of things to look forward to this offseason—a new head coach (more than likely) and the expiration of a salary-cap penalty that has complicated efforts to build around Robert Griffin III.
The draft will be a sad time, though. Washington’s record puts the franchise in line for the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, but that selection belongs to the St. Louis Rams as part of the trade for RG3.
Still, if Griffin returns healthy and with the right attitude next season, expect the Redskins to jump right back into the mix in the NFC East.
This Week’s Opponent: Dallas Cowboys
Frankly, the Cowboys have much bigger problems than who’s under center.
Their defense is atrocious. Dallas ranks 32nd out of 32 teams in total defense, 31st against the pass, 27th versus the run and 25th in points allowed.
Of course, in their last meeting, the Cowboys completely shut down the Eagles. Nick Foles completed less than 38 percent of his passes, LeSean McCoy barely averaged three yards per carry and the Birds were held out of the end zone in a 17-3 loss when first place was on the line back in Week 7.
The Eagles were prevented from scoring a touchdown the following week against the Giants, but since then, the fewest points they’ve scored in a game is 24, and they’re averaging an impressive 34.5.
Don’t count on the Cowboys to repeat their early-season success.
|S Colt Anderson||Knee||DNP Week 16|
|S Kurt Coleman||Hamstring||DNP Week 16|
|S Earl Wolff||Knee||Left Game Week 16|
Pro Football Reference
Remember when some folks suggested the Eagles rest their starters against the Chicago Bears so nobody would get hurt in advance of their Week 17 confrontation in Dallas? Great news: Head coach Chip Kelly played everybody the whole way, and the squad emerged almost completely unscathed.
The only “new” injury was to Earl Wolff, and really the rookie safety aggravated an old injury—the knee that caused him to miss the previous four weeks. During his postgame press conference, Kelly told reporters Wolff could have reentered the game, but there was no need.
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Bill Davis updated Wolff’s status to “day-to-day,” via the Eagles' official website.
What Must Improve
Nothing. Zip, zilch, nada. Philadelphia defeated the Chicago Bears 54-11 last week. Nick Foles managed the game flawlessly, the Eagles ran for 289 yards and the defense held a top-five offense to 11 points.
Duplicate that game plan in Dallas, and Philly fans will be shopping for new T-shirts and hats come Monday morning.