The final week of the regular season is here and for the second straight week the Dallas Cowboys have a meeting with an NFC playoff team on the horizon. Dallas (11-5) travels to face the Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night.
The Cowboys have an opportunity to finish undefeated against the NFC East for the first time since 1998, while Philly aims to improve their playoff seeding and keep their momentum rolling into the playoffs.
Here are five additional storylines for each team heading into Saturday night in Philadelphia.
- Philadelphia needed a come-from-behind effort to down the hobbled Washington Football team in Week 17, 20-16. Washington held a commanding 16-7 lead at the halftime break but were blanked in the second half and allowed 13-unanswered points to Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense. The win clinched a playoff spot for Philly and pushed them to 9-wins for the first time since they won the NFC East in 2019.
- The Eagles are dealing with their biggest COVID-19 breakout of the season, placing 12 players on the reserve list on Monday. The list includes big names such as Fletcher Cox, Jason Kelce, Dallas Goedert, Rodney McLeod, Jordan Howard and Boston Scott. New NFL protocols state that players can return to the team after just five days but must be symptom-free. So it's possible those players can play against the Cowboys. However, with the Eagles already clinched a playoff spot and even a win doesn't guarantee them to improve their seeding, head coach Nick Sirianni said the coaching staff is still discussing whether to rest players against the Cowboys in Week 18.
- The Eagles continue to be one of the hottest teams down the stretch having won four straight games and six of their last seven. Their last loss came back on November 28th against the New York Giants, a loss they avenged in Week 16 against the Giants, 34-10. In their last seven wins, the Eagles have scored 30 points in all but two and have hit 40 points twice behind the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.
- Their win along with some help from Green Bay and San Francisco on Sunday clinched a spot in the playoffs for Philadelphia. At the moment, Philadelphia would be No. 7 seed in the playoffs behind the 49ers but could move as high as the No. 6 seed if all falls into place. For that to happen, the Eagles would either need to beat the Cowboys and have the 49ers lose to the Texans. Or for both San Francisco to lose and the Saints win, forcing a three-way tie that would have the Eagles in the sixth spot.
- Both the Cowboys and Eagles are much different teams now than they were back in their Week 3 meeting on Monday Night Football. In that game, Dallas extended their home winning streak to four-straight over Philadelphia, 41-21. In the win, Dak Prescott tossed three touchdown passes and had just five incompletions while Ezekiel Elliott had 116 yards from scrimmage. Hurts and the Philadelphia offense had over 360 yards of offense but only 64 of those came on the ground in their worst rushing performance of the season.
- In their final regular season game at AT&T Stadium, Dallas failed to start fast and saw their comeback efforts come up short in a 25-22 loss to Arizona. The Cardinals jumped out to a 22-7 lead before closing the gap to a single possession late in the fourth quarter. Dallas looked to have a shot at one final drive to tie or take the lead with a near fumble by Arizona running back Chase Edmonds, but he was called down by the officials. Without a timeout to challenge the ruling, Arizona was able to secure the first down and run out the clock on a three-point victory.
- The loss was their first since Thanksgiving Day when they fell to the Raiders and only their second against an NFC opponent. It also ended their hopes of earning the top-seed in the upcoming playoffs and allowed the Packers to clinch the first-round bye with their win over Minnesota Sunday night. Dallas could still climb as high as the 2nd seed in the NFC if the Buccaneers, Cardinals, and Rams all lose in Week 18.
- Just one week after the Cowboys offense had seemingly found their groove in a 56-point outburst over Washington, they took a step backwards. Dallas was held to a season-low 45 rushing yards as Ezekiel Elliott only managed 16 yards on nine carries. Additionally, Dak Prescott was visibly affected by multiple Arizona blitzes and finished with 226 passing yards, a fumble, and three touchdown passes. Sunday marked the first time all season that the expected 2021 starting offensive line had played together, yet Arizona still finished with six QB hits and eight pressures.
- To add insult to the loss, Dallas will be without wide receiver Michael Gallup for the rest of the season with a torn ACL he suffered upon leaping for a touchdown grab in the second quarter. Jerry Jones confirmed the news to the media after the game after the star receiver never returned to action. Gallup missed seven games earlier in the season due to a strained calf he injured in the season opener against Tampa Bay and will be unavailable for the Cowboys playoff push.
- Much like the Eagles, the Cowboys are in a situation where extra rest for key players could pay off more than the risk of injury while pushing for a higher seed. Dallas has been nursing injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard for much of the season and each could use an extra week of rest. However, the other side of the coin for Mike McCarthy's decision has the small possibility of a higher seed with a win, and the opportunity to gain momentum into the Wild Card Round.