January 05, 2022
Who would've thought that we'd be sitting here in Week 18, as the Eagles prepare to face the Cowboys in their regular-season finale, and it would be the Birds — not the 'Boys — who would be likely resting the majority of their starters.
Sure, the Cowboys also already have a playoff spot locked up as well after clinching the NFC East title, but it appears they'll at least trot their starters out there. How long they remain in the game is anyone's guess. That certainly makes predictions difficult for Saturday night's matchup at the Linc, a game in which Dallas is favored by a touchdown. And that line actually makes it more difficult to predict.
See, if Dallas was planning on playing their starters all game, a blowout would very much be on the table. But with just a touchdown spread, it feels more like Mike McCarthy just wants his starters going through their typically game day routine and getting a few reps before pulling them just to be safe (a plan I actually said made sense for the slow-starting Eagles on this week's Post Flight).
If that's the case, we're still talking about more than half the game where it will be backups on backups, and that could make for some sloppy football on both sides — not to mention the likely vanilla game plan both teams would be implementing. Would Gardner Minshew and Co. get the better of Cooper Rush and the Cowboys backups? With not much information to go on other than a pair of wins in the only two games these two QBs started this season. And that was while playing with the rest of the starters, so who really knows?
Despite all that uncertainty, our writers are going to make one last regular season prediction for this weekend as we try to figure out the outcome. Let's take a look at how they see Eagles vs. Cowboys playing out...
TV: ESPN/ABC (Steve Levy, Brian Griese and Louis Riddick)
RADIO: 94.1 WIP (Merrill Reese and Mike Quick)
|DraftKings||DAL -7||DAL -278|
|FanDuel||DAL -7||DAL -303|
|UniBet||DAL -7||DAL -286|
|BetMGM||DAL -7||DAL -303|
It's almost better for the Eagles to lose this game, as we laid out on Monday. If they win, they will very likely have a date with Tom Brady in Tampa in the wildcard round. If they lose, a more favorable wildcard round opponent, such as the Rams, is more possible.
The Eagles will almost certainly be resting starters in this game, while the Cowboys have said that they will play theirs. We'll see how long Mike McCarthy keeps his best players out there. This seven-point spread would say, "not very long."
I am only picking the Eagles because everyone else is picking the Cowboys in this meaningless game. If you have tickets to it at the Linc, be prepared to leave at halftime due to boredom. The Cowboys really don't have much to play for and the Eagles are kind of deep? And 10 wins would be cool, so why not root for a win. A preseason game in the 25 degree temperatures of night time in January — glad this one was flexed.
As outlined in the intro, it's really tough to get a feel for how this game is going to play out. We don't know which starters will be playing — or even how many — and the ones that do play, there's no telling how long they'll actually be in the game.
What does seem apparent, however, is that Dallas is at least going to give their starters a bit of a run, which is interesting considering they're even more locked in to their seed than the Eagles are, who could move up to the sixth seed if things things break a certain way.
In the end, however, it doesn't really matter the outcome of the game for the Eagles, which should make for a nice, relaxing Saturday night. Normally an Eagles loss feels like the end of the world in Philly — and it's even worse when that loss comes against the Cowboys — but if the starters don't play, then who really cares if they lose? Just sit back and enjoy, knowing that the playoffs arrive the following week no matter what.
Predicting a game with very little meaning (that inexplicably got moved to Saturday night) is pretty arbitrary, so I took the responsibility out of my own hands and flipped a coin. We landed on tails, the side that represented the Eagles, so we are rolling with the Birds again. If it goes wrong, the gods of fate are to blame, not me.
No one is playing in this, so why should anyone care, Cowboys or not?
The Eagles are looking like they will sit their starters, which should allow the Cowboys to win this game rather easily. Dallas still needs this win for seeding purposes, and the NFL moved it to Saturday to help further the playoff drama on Sunday. The Eagles would stand a decent shot of winning this game — at least covering — if they ran out their starters, but they would rather keep a couple of guys healthy. Gardner Minshew won’t be outplaying anyone on Dallas like he did against the Jets, so don’t hold your breath for any major upset.
The amazing Eagles run will end in a rather anti-climatic fashion. The Birds are making this decision to sit guys, and do not get any benefit of the doubt in some bizarre Twitter hypothetical. No, the Eagles would not be “10-7” automatically if they started Hurts instead of taking a planned lump. The Eagles lose 27-12 and the loss goes down on the team and coach’s record.
No one knows who is going to play or how much other than Jerry Jones intimating that the Cowboys need to play some of their regulars to get back on track after a poor performance against Arizona. That presumably won't include Micah Parsons or Tyron Smith, however, because they were late-week COVID list additions.
The weather should also play a factor in that it's supposed to be very cold in Philadelphia on Saturday night and this is the lone opportunity the Cowboys will get to at least somewhat mimic a potential trip to the frozen tundra the NFL bracket runs through: Green Bay. No one understands the specter of playing in Northern Wisconsin than Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy, who spent 13 seasons with the Packers,
The Eagles, on the other hand, really aren't going to gain that much with a win or lose much with a setback so that theory is that Nick Sirianni will protect as many of his key pieces as possible.
Dallas would be expected to beat the Eagles at full strength so it stands to reason that if the Cowboys play more of their regulars for a longer period, they should come out on top even if it doesn't mean all that much. Cowboys 24, Gardner Minshew-led Eagles 18.
Some links provided in this content are sponsored by Sidelines.io, a PhillyVoice.com Sports Betting Partner, independently created by PhillyVoice. 21+ Please gamble responsibly.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @evan_macy
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports