NFC East supremacy is on the line when the Cowboys and Eagles Sunday afternoon
The Dallas Cowboys face off with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday for first place in the NFC East. The Cowboys can clinch the division title with a victory while the Eagles will put themselves in the driver's seat with a win at home. With both teams at 7-7 the only way either is getting into the playoffs and as a division champion.
These teams faced off back in Week 7, a game Dallas won handily 37-10 in AT&T Stadium but much has changed since then. The Cowboys have gone just 3-4 since then but did snap a three-game losing streak in impressive fashion by dispatching of the Los Angeles Rams 44-21 at home last week. Philadelphia has fared one game better (4-3) in the same span and has won two in a row to draw even with Dallas record-wise in the NFC East.
It's Christmas time, folks, and Santa has gifted us with an excellent divisional matchup with a lot on the line.
Dallas at Philadelphia
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec. 22 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Dallas -1.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Injuries for both teams
The Cowboys and the Eagles are two of the more depleted teams in the NFL right now due to injuries.
The Dallas linebacking corps is dealing with injuries to starters Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and Sean Lee (pectoral, thigh), as well as reserves such as Joe Thomas (knee) and Luke Gifford (broken arm). Jaylon Smith has been doing a nice job compensating for all those losses, but it's still a concern. Vander Esch has already been ruled out for Sunday's game.
Philadelphia has lost its top two wide receivers for the year in Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. To make matters worse, former first-round pick Nelson Agholor (knee) continues to miss practice, which doesn't bode well for his chances of playing on Sunday. Additionally, Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson will miss his second straight game due to an ankle injury.
The scale-tipper in this matchup could be the health of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, who has been dealing with a hairline fracture to his index finger and a shoulder issue. Prescott did not carry an injury designation on the final injury report released on Friday and is expected to start, but it's a concern nonetheless.
2. Miles Sanders' emergence
Sanders was expected to be an important piece of the Philadelphia offense after the running back out of Penn State was selected in the second round (No. 53 overall) in this year's draft. It hasn't exactly panned out that way, or at least it hadn't until Week 15 against Washington.
Sanders was a major factor in that 37-27 victory, as he produced 172 total yards (122 rushing, 50 receiving) and two total touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry (19 attempts).
Considering what Philadelphia is dealing with at wide receiver, the offense has been forced to utilize its tight ends – Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert – and Sanders, both in the run game and the passing game. And while it's still a small sample size, the rookie has responded well.
3. Jason Garrett's hot seat
At this point, there's really no reason to beat around the bush about Garrett's job security, or lack thereof. Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has continued to voice his frustrations throughout the season, and one has to wonder the fate of Garrett should Dallas miss the playoffs.
The problem is the lack of consistency with a seemingly talented roster. Injuries have played a role, but the lack of experience with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and mind-boggling decisions from the rest of the coaching staff have been factors as well.
Dallas fans seem to be ready for new blood on the sidelines, and they very well might get it if the team doesn't win on Sunday.
This divisional matchup is one of the tougher games to predict in Week 16. With so many factors unknown at this time, it's hard to pinpoint how each team will look. The Eagles are at home and are currently riding a two-game winning streak, both over NFC East rivals, but the Cowboys are fresh off a 44-21 dismantling of the Rams.
It's certainly possible that the Eagles are able to get a victory, but for now, we'll ride with a Dallas team that looks better on paper.
Prediction: Cowboys 26, Eagles 21
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.