Dallas Week: Why Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game is such a big deal

If the Birds pull this off, it’s huge.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher / USA TODAY Sports

Correction appended

How important is the upcoming Eagles-Cowboys game in South Philly? Immediately following last week’s comeback win over Washington, safety Malcolm Jenkins preached about it in a huddle — and didn’t hold back. “You all know what fucking week it is,” the captain told his teammates.

What week is it? It’s Dallas Week.

In case you haven’t gotten the gist from all the articles and radio shows and social media posts about it, this Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field is basically the showdown of the season for the Birds.

Why? Philly is still somehow in the running for the playoffs, despite a record with just as many losses as victories. Plus, these two teams have a history going back to 1960.

Here’s eight reasons this Sunday’s game is such a big deal for Philadelphia football.

The Eagles could win the NFC East

At the start of the season, head coach Doug Pederson said winning the division was a primary goal. The possibilities of that looked dim throughout most of the fall, as key players dropped out with injuries — or just let their performance slip. Fun memes don’t help the Eagles’ record.

But with a win this Sunday, the NFC East title has a decent chance of landing in Philadelphia.

If the Eagles lose, it’s the nail in the coffin — because if they end up tied at the top with Dallas, the Cowboys have the better divisional record, which gives them the in. The only path to the postseason for Philly is the Eagles winning this weekend, then winning their final game against the Giants and the Cowboys losing to Washington at home in Week 17.

It’s a fight to be the best worst team in the league

The Eagles and Cowboys are sitting together at the top of their division — with the worst records of any division leaders across the NFL. No other group is led by two teams touting a mediocre 7-7 going into the final two weeks.

The Birds’ most consistent trait this year has been religiously following every act of good football with an act of bad football. Honestly, win or lose, the franchise should be on the line for fans’ therapy co-pays for at least the next two months.

Then again, maybe the entire NFC East deserves to be stonewalled this year, since the other two teams — the Giants and Washington — did even worse. No playoffs for you!

The only reason Philly’s here is because the entire NFC East is bad. But if we pull off a win, it’ll at least mean we’re the best of the worst.

A war with a long history

The Eagles and Cowboys have a decades-long feud of somewhat mythological proportions. As one former Eagles tackle put it: “We hate them. They hate us. Our fans hate each other. Pure hatred.”

There’ve been lots of close and hard-fought games on both teams’ turf, and fan fights galore — with an emphasis on Philly’s debauchery, of course.

You can find evidence of the hatred Philadelphia has for the Texas team in the ubiquity of the phrase “Dallas Sucks,” which is emblazoned on t-shirts, signs and is even the name of a beer brewed by Weyerbacher.

(In a weird aside, there’s a sizeable number of Cowboys stans who live in Philly. We feel sorry for them.)

A chance to bring the universe closer to balance

This will be the 122nd game between the Eagles and the Cowboys, according to the Football Database.

The Birds hold the fairly steep losing record (69-52) in those matchups. A win on Sunday would would be the Eagles’ first over the Cowboys in over two years.

Carson Wentz might actually play in the postseason

With just two weeks left, this is the closest that franchise quarterback Carson Wentz has come to finishing a full regular season since his rookie year.

Two years ago Wentz went out with a bad knee on Dec. 10, forcing backup QB Nick Foles to replace him after his stellar season start. We all know what happened after that: the heavily endowed Saint Foles led the Eagles to their first-ever Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl 52.

Last year a similar scenario played out, at least the first part. On Dec. 12, 2018, Wentz left with a back injury, never to return. Foles again picked up the mantle, and took the Birds into the playoffs.

Though they were eliminated after an upset win in the Wild Card round, the Foles-led team did make the postseason. That’s something Wentz has yet to do.

Wentz could show his franchise tag is worthwhile

Needless to say, watching your franchise QB succumb to injuries mid-season twice in a row — even if one of those seasons got us a Super Bowl ring — doesn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence for his longevity. But Eagles management insists Wentz is their longterm plan.

Like him or not, Wentz has been the most persistent force on the field for the injury-rattled team this year. Finishing with a strong showing is a must for the Eagles’ quarterback to silence his haters.

Key receiver DeSean Jackson could return

If the Eagles do make it into the playoffs, the team has a chance of getting back a key player they lost at the beginning of the season.

Wide receiver DeSean Jackson — who played in Philly previously and returned to the fold this year after being traded away — played fantastically in Week 1 this year. He connected with Wentz and added to a positive rhythm. Then he got hurt, and has been sidelined since.

Now there’s a chance that if the Birds win this weekend, and make it to the postseason, the offensive weapon could return to help them through. He’s doing “everything” he can to be in “the best position, to be 100% or even 110%,” Jackson told reporters earlier this week.

A win avoids another excuse to rag on Philly

Every time the Eagles suck — which they often do! — rage bloggers and bighead pundits inevitably take a massive dump on Philadelphia. The team’s performance is and always has been a barometer by which to measure the city’s moral failings. A bad team is the product of a deficient home, they suggest, almost exclusively of the Eagles.

In his assessment our lackluster 2018-19 season, former Deadspin dude Drew Magary concluded his takedown by calling Philly “basically a turnpike rest stop between D.C. and NYC” (eat a rat, Drew), a place where “the city’s biggest celebrities are all local news anchors” (this is only 50% accurate), and “potholes in Philly the size of calderas” (OK, 90% accurate).

The point is, when the Eagles suck, everyone says it’s because Philly sucks. This kind of causality feels true even if it isn’t. A loss would also mean another tired jab at fans too. That Santa snowball fiasco was like a hundred bloody years ago and we’re still taking flak for it.

The dogging only adds to the already crippling imposter syndrome Philly grapples with on the road to self-acceptance as a top-tier U.S. city. For the city’s collective mental health, beating the Cowboys on Sunday at home would be what the therapists will later refer to as “progress on journey to self-healing.”

On the one hand, No one likes us and we don’t care!

On the other hand, it is nice to win. Go Birds.

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