Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles: Week 17 Preview and Prediction

robert aSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2008

If the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles were college teams, and this Sunday's game was a bowl game, only one name would be fitting for this great rivalry's matchup: The Inconsistency Bowl.

Both teams came into the season with lofty expectations. The Cowboys were up there with the defending champion New York Giants as one of the most commonly picked teams to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Many even picked the Cowboys to win the whole tournament.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia was one of the more popular dark-horse picks to go to and possibly win the Super Bowl. They were at the least expected to be a playoff team and contender.

Unfortunately, both teams have at times looked more like pretenders than contenders throughout much of this season.

Since the start of the year, both teams have taken a spin on one of the worlds most treacherous, up and down, twisting and turning roller coaster rides in the entire world: the NFL season.

I have already highlighted all of the twists and turns of the Cowboys' season, but the Philadelphia Eagles have seen much of the same.

After a back and forth start start to the season, hope for the Eagles to make the playoffs faded after they tied with the lowly Cincinnati Bengals in Week 11. The following week, Donovan McNabb was benched in a blowout loss to the Ravens, and not only was there talk of the end of the Eagles' season, but there was talk of the end of the Reid and McNabb era in Philadelphia.

Rather than packing things in, the Eagles pulled together and won their next three games, and after watching the Cowboys and Tampa Bay Bucanneers lose in Week 16, they were in position to control their own destiny with a win against an embattled Washington Redskins that had dropped their three previous games.

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they lost in a 10-3 snoozer and now find themselves back in the same jam they were in before the Cowboys and Buccs lost. They need to win out and get help, or they will find themselves on the couch next weekend.

That brings us to the Week 17 matchup between the Cowboys and Eagles. If the Cowboys win, they are in. The Eagles need to beat the Cowboys to have any prayer of making the playoffs. However, they will also need the Chicago Bears to lose to the Houston Texans and The Buccaneers to lose to the Oakland Raiders.

The likelihood of both of those happening is slim to none, and with the start time changing to 4 ET on Sunday, the Eagles will know whether they are still breathing before kickoff.


Other Game Outcomes and Their Mental Effect

I think that Chicago helps the Eagles by dropping a game at Houston, but there is no way that I can see Tampa Bay losing to the Oakland Raiders. Stranger things have happened, and if the Eagles only needed one loss or the other, I would give them a chance. However, both teams losing is highly improbable.

The Eagles should know by kickoff that their playoff chances are over. All they will have left to play for is pride and the joy of taking the Cowboys down with them. Many point to this as a reason the Cowboys will certainly win. I do not.

While it is certainly possible that the Eagles might mentally pack it in after hearing the bad news, this could just as easily doom the Cowboys. If they enter the game thinking that Tampa and Chicago just wrapped things up for them, and they take the game lightly, they could be on the wrong end of a blowout.


Weather should not be much of a factor. According to AccuWeather, it will be "rather cloudy with a couple of showers" on Sunday, but the temperature will be fairly comfortable at around 65% (feels like 60.) We have seen Romo struggle in the cold this year, but a few showers should not benefit either team.

Position Comparisons:


These teams are very similar. Both have quarterbacks that are at times Eli Manning-Unstoppable">unstoppable (just like Eli Manning), but both can also make boneheaded decisions that can change the course of the game.

Running Game

Both have a strong running attack. The Eagles' Brian Westbrook is one of the most underrated players in the league, and is in my opinion the most versatile and best all-around running back. For the Cowboys, Tashard Choice has been a welcome surprise. Other than the one dropped pitch, he has been just about perfect. If the Cowboys get an even semi-healthy Marion Barber this week, their running back duo will be as good as any in the league.


Although the talent of the Dallas Cowboys receiving core is superior to the Eagles, they have yet to show it as of late. With Jason Witten and rookie Martellus Bennett, the Cowboys have the best tight-end duo in the league.

Offensive Line

I have not seen enough Philadelphia games this season to accurately gauge their offensive line play. Obviously their rushing yards is in the bottom half of the league, but that is attributed more to their play-calling than offensive line ability. Donovan McNabb has been sacked 22 times, not great but not terrible either.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys offensive line, like the team as a whole, has been terribly inconsistent. Much of this can be attributed to Romo's ability to make them look better than they really are with his elusiveness.

Defensive Front Seven

Both teams are very similar in this respect They both have fronts that love to blitz and can get to the opposing team's quarterback.


The Eagles have the edge here, although with both Terrence Newman and Adam "Pacman" Jones playing, the gap is closed considerably. The Cowboys biggest weakness is at the safety positions, where they have been riddled by injuries this year.

Making the Call

This game, despite what happens in the 1 ET games, can go either way. The teams are very similar in a lot of ways, and both have been terribly inconsistent throughout the year.

In the end, I am going to have to call this game the same way I called the 'Boys-Giants game a few weeks ago. Give me the team that needs to win over the team that just really really wants to win.

I'll take the Cowboys 21-17.


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