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December 20, 2022

Eagles-Cowboys: A look at the odds and Philly's unique backup QB history

Can Gardner Minshew step in and get the Eagles past Dallas for the NFC East title and the No. 1 seed? Philly backups have done wilder before.

The long-awaited Christmas Eve matchup at Dallas, with the NFC East and the conference's No. 1 seed within grasp, is finally here.

But of course, it isn't going to be easy for the Eagles. 

Jalen Hurts sprained his shoulder in last week's win over the Bears and now it's looking highly likely that Gardner Minshew will be the one under center Saturday trying to wrap things up. 

The offense will have plenty of support around him – a strong line, a reliable running back in Miles Sanders, dangerous receiving threats in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, and a returning Dallas Goedert at tight end – and a defense with a front that can punish opponents on the other side.

But Hurts, in an MVP-caliber season, was the engine making the whole thing go. Losing him at the biggest point of the regular season, against a division rival still looking to keep pace, isn't good no matter how anyone tries to spin it. 

The Cowboys are coming off a devastating overtime loss to Jacksonville after a near-defeat to the league-worst Houston the week before. 

They're showing clear signs of instability, but the news of no Hurts is enough for sportsbooks to project them as the favorites now. 

Here's a look at several:

 Book Spread Money LineTotal (O/U) 
DraftKings DAL -5  PHI +180
DAL -210
FanDuel  DAL -5.5PHI +188
DAL -225
BetMGM DAL -5.5 PHI +200
DAL -250
UniBetDAL -5.5PHI +195
DAL -245 
 PointsBetDAL -5.5 PHI +185
DAL -225

Now on to some history. 

Rivalries ebb and flow, and Eagles-Cowboys is no different. 

The Eagles took Round 1 this season with a 26-17 win at the Linc back on October 16, but since the 2017 Super Bowl run, and even during it, Dallas has had a pretty good grip on the series, going 7-4. 

Here's a quick look at the results along with the starting quarterbacks in each over the past six seasons:

Game Result  Eagles QBDallas QB 
10/16/22 @PHI PHI W, 26-17  Jalen HurtsCooper Rush 
01/08/22 @PHI DAL W, 51-26 Gardner Minshew Dak Prescott 
09/27/21 @DAL DAL W, 41-21 Jalen HurtsDak Prescott 
12/27/20 @DAL DAL W, 37-17 Jalen Hurts Andy Dalton 
11/01/20 @PHI PHI W, 23-9 Carson Wentz Ben DiNucci 
12/22/19 @PHI PHI W, 17-9  Carson WentzDak Prescott 
10/20/19 @DAL DAL W, 37-10 Carson Wentz Dak Prescott 
12/09/18 @DAL DAL W, 29-23 (OT) Carson Wentz Dak Prescott 
11/11/18 @PHI DAL W, 27-20 Carson Wentz Dak Prescott 
12/31/17 @PHI DAL W, 6-0 Nick Foles Dak Prescott 
11/19/17 @DAL PHI W, 37-9 Carson Wentz Dak Prescott 

Given this week's circumstances, there are three games to note, two of which involve Dallas, two Minshew, and all an Eagles backup QB:

January 8, 2022 vs. Dallas last season at the Linc: The Eagles locked up their playoff spot and elected to rest their starters in the regular-season finale, so it was Minshew and the second-stringers against Dallas and its first-team looking for better playoff seeding. The Eagles got trounced. Minshew went 19-33 passing for 186 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, while Prescott carved the Eagles' second team up for 295 yards and five touchdowns. The game became an ego stroke for the Cowboys more than anything, and can't really be used as much of a measuring stick for how Minshew will fare if he does in fact see Dallas again on Saturday. The Cowboys lost to the Niners in the Wild Card round the next week, by the way. 

MORE: A doctor's take on Jalen Hurts' shoulder sprain

December 5, 2021 last season vs. the New York Jets in the Meadowlands: Hurts was banged up, and needing to keep their playoff hopes alive, the Eagles turned to Minshew. Against a lowly Jets squad, which was an incredibly favorable matchup, Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen kept things simple. They emphasized the run behind 24 carries and 120 yards from Miles Sanders, and Minshew relied heavily on Dallas Goedert with quick decisive throws on short-midrange passes to the tune of six completions, 105 yards, and two touchdowns between the two (you can read more about that game in Shamus Clancy's latest mailbag HERE). The Eagles won, 33-18, Minshew stepped in, kept things chugging along, and was amped about it afterward. 

December 25, 2006 at Dallas: Only because this won't be the first time the Eagles have gone into Dallas at Christmastime with a backup. Donovan McNabb tore his ACL Week 11 against the Titans, meaning it was Jeff Garcia the rest of the way, and while the Eagles didn't initially have it that next week against Peyton Manning and the Colts, they found magic after just squeaking by the Panthers on Monday Night Football, ringing off five straight wins to capture the NFC East ("LISTEN"). That run included a 23-7 pummeling of Tony Romo's Cowboys on Christmas Day, when Garcia went 15-23 passing for 238 yards, a touchdown, and an INT, while Brian Westbrook took off for 122 yards rushing on 26 carries. Garcia even ran for 43 yards himself. But notice the similarities between this game and Minshew's against the Jets 15 years later: A respectable performance through the air while the Eagles dictated everything on the ground. 

Nothing is set in stone yet. 

Sirianni wouldn't show his hand when he met with the media on Tuesday, teasing that there is a chance Hurts could still play

But in the likely event that he doesn't, can Minshew step in and eke out that last win for the one seed against the now-favored Cowboys?

Backups in Philadelphia have done wilder things before

MORE: What could the offense look like with Minshew?

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