You’ve got to love the circle of parity in the NFL.
As is well-known by now, the Eagles opened the door for the Cowboys to regain the NFC East lead this past weekend when they were crushed by a Minnesota team missing Adrian Peterson. The Cowboys responded in turn by losing to the Aaron Rodgers-less Packers.
Even more amusing: a month ago the Eagles downed Green Bay – then led by Scott Tolzien – by a convincing 14-point margin at Lambeau Field. A week before that, the Cowboys engineered some late-game heroics to slip past the Vikings.
It’s a pretty fitting microcosm for what has been an inconsistent – or at least, a consistently mediocre – division throughout the season. The feel-good vibes in Philadelphia generated by a five-game win streak don’t feel as strong after a blowout loss to a 4-9-1 team. The confidence created by Dallas’ two-game win streak at the tail end of November is an ancient memory.
What makes the approaching weekend even better: we’ve got more common opponents heading our way. The Eagles host Chicago, who bludgeoned the Cowboys just eight days ago and who is 2-1 against the NFC East overall.
There’s a few fun facts about the shambolic Washington team the Cowboys are traveling to face – aside from the obvious. Regardless of what happens Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas, Washington is the only divisional rival the Eagles swept this year.
Better than that – Philadelphia’s 24-16 home win against the Redskins on Nov. 17 was their first win at Lincoln Financial Field since Sept. 30, 2012.
The similarities this season extend far beyond that. The Cowboys and Eagles have played 11 games to this point against common opponents. Philadelphia is 6-5 in those games, the Cowboys are 5-6. Depending on the outcomes of this weekend’s games, they could both sit at .500 in that regard heading into their season finale showdown.
Both teams went 1-3 against the AFC West, with the lone win coming against the Raiders. The Eagles are 3-2 against the division with a road win at New York and the sweep of Washington, while the Cowboys are 4-0 with a chance to complete a sweep of the Redskins.
The biggest difference to this point is the Eagles’ ability to handle the NFC North, despite the embarrassing setback last weekend in Minneapolis. Though they still have to play Chicago, the Eagles are currently 2-1 against the division.
The Cowboys finished 1-3 against their North opponents, with the Detroit and Green Bay losses among the most painful of the season. If Dallas fails to reach the postseason, those two one-point losses are going to loom large when looking back at the schedule.
Look for the similarities to continue this week. Remember how poorly the Bears defended the run against
Of course, as you also might remember, how well the Eagles cope with Chicago’s passing game may also dictate how well they’re able to run. Philadelphia’s pass defense is ranked 31st in the league, with only the Cowboys’ atrocious secondary to keep it from bringing up the rear.
It hasn’t exactly been the same route for both squads. The Cowboys have ridden the roller coaster of ups and downs all season. They’ve never won more than two games in a row. It may change this weekend in Washington, but as of now they’ve also yet to lose more than two games in a row.
The Eagles slid into a three-game losing streak right at the start of the season. Then, when they looked like also-rans, they tore off five wins in a row.
That said, we’ve wound up at the same endpoint: the Cowboys sit neck-and-neck with a division rival, and for better or worse, something is about to give.