The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to finish unbeaten against the NFC East for the first time since 1998 when they visit a Philadelphia Eagles team hoping to improve its own playoff positioning Saturday night.
While owner and general manager Jerry Jones said the Cowboys (11-5) don’t plan to rest their starters, the Eagles (9-7) are dealing with their biggest COVID-19 outbreak of the season.
“We plan to play. We plan to play to win,” Jones said on his radio show this week, even though a victory isn’t likely to alter the team’s NFC playoff seeding.
The NFC East champion Cowboys currently are the No. 4 seed in the conference. According to NFL Research, there are 32 possible Week 18 scenarios that don’t involve ties, and Dallas would retain the No. 4 seed in 28 of them. The Cowboys would need to win in Philadelphia and get lots of help to move up to the No. 2 or No. 3 seed.
Either way, thanks in part to its 5-0 record against the division, Dallas is guaranteed to host a wild-card game.
Jones noted that having the regular-season finale moved to Saturday night adds another rest day to the calendar.
“Obviously, the debate over the two ways to go is pretty obvious, but I like to play. In this particular case, we’re going to have an extra day’s rest between our last game and the first playoff game,” he said. “I think we’re better served by going out there and executing and having our team out there really playing like it’s the playoff game we’ll be playing the next week.”
One Cowboys starter who could miss the game against the Eagles is standout rookie linebacker Micah Parsons. He was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, jeopardizing his shot at an NFL record. His 13 sacks are 1 1/2 shy of the rookie mark set by the Tennessee Titans’ Jevon Kearse in 1999.
Fellow linebackers Keanu Neal and Francis Bernard also were on the COVID list for Dallas as of Wednesday, along with defensive tackle Trysten Hill, safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Jourdan Lewis. Wide receiver Michael Gallup is out for the season after tearing his left ACL in last Sunday’s 25-22 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
As of midweek, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was still mulling whether to play his starters. The argument in favor of using them — at least for part of the game — is to keep the momentum rolling for a team that has won six of its past seven games.
Philadelphia holds the No. 7 seed but could move up one spot.
“We’ll keep everything on the table,” Sirianni said. “Not quite sure what we’re going to do yet.”
Complicating matters is the fact that 12 Eagles landed on the COVID list Monday, including such starters as defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, safety Rodney McLeod, center Jason Kelce and tight end Dallas Goedert. Three players missed practice Wednesday due to injuries: tackle Lane Johnson (rest, knee), running back Miles Sanders (hand) and guard Landon Dickerson (thumb).
Dallas won the first meeting in Week 3. Dak Prescott passed for 238 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-21 win on “Monday Night Football” in Arlington, Texas.
–Field Level Media