They were both forecasted to be the class of the NFC East. Countless fans and experts alike predicted the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles would battle all the way through Week 17, with the victor laying claim to the NFC East crown.
No doubt I was riding shotgun on that train. If asked in August to pick the most important game of the Cowboys’ season, there’s little doubt my choice would be this Sunday’s showdown in Dallas. Defeating the Super Bowl contending Eagles three weeks ago on their home field was assumed to be a monumental task.
So with that predicted Week 10 loss in Philly, it would have been a must for the Cowboys to defend their own turf this week against the most threatening team in the division title race. Was I ever wrong, and certainly have plenty of company eating crow at the table with me.
HARSH REALITIES OF 2012
- Together they occupy the bottom two spots of the NFC East Division
- Both teams have losing records: Cowboys (5-6) , Eagles (3-8)
- Combined NFL overall record is a miserable (8-14)
- Combined NFC Conference record is an embarrassing (5-12)
- Of their 8 combined wins in 2012, their conquered opponents’ currently have a losing record of (41-47)
Dallas is clinging on to their last shred of playoff hope. Both Green Bay and Seattle are strongly poised to claim the two NFC wild card spots.
These teams will hold significant tie-breaker advantages if they finish tied at (9-7) along with the Cowboys.
Unfortunately both the Packers and Seahawks have remaining schedules VERY favorable for them closing at (9-7) or above. Sure many scenarios can still occur and stranger things have happened.
Realistically, Dallas must win their 5 remaining games and lock down (10-6) to have a solid chance at the post-season.
INJURY DEPLETED ROSTERS
QB Michael Vick and RB LeSean McCoy are nursing serious injuries which have kept them out the last few weeks and will continue to do so this week.
WR DeSean Jackson freshly exits to IR ahead of the rematch with Dallas. Along the offensive line the Eagles are in complete disarray, with both starting tackles and the starting center stashed away on IR.
The Cowboys are in a little better shape, but not by much, RB DeMarco Murray has been MIA for several weeks now and his return is targeted at this game, but the team is still unsure. WR Miles Austin dealt with a small injury last week but should be back for the Eagles. WR Kevin Ogletree has been missing the last few weeks (slight play vs. Cleveland), and his return is questionable this week.
The offensive line has been a ragtag bunch the last two weeks. The Cowboys were missing three starters (two altogether, and one had to play a new position to help cover the holes). In those two weeks, Dallas has gained a total of 98 rushing yards and surrendered 9 sacks.
If Dallas is slightly lacking in the devastation department on offense when compared to Philly, they certainly make it up on defense. Along the defensive line, Dallas has been without star NT Jay Ratliff for several games and could be once again. Also, starting DE Kenyon Coleman is done for the year.
Worst of all, Dallas is now without BOTH starting and emerging star inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. The Cowboys will rotate in two ILB’s who weren’t even on the roster last month.
With Jay Ratliff, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, and Barry Church all missing, the center of the Cowboys defense is virtually hemorrhaging.
The Eagles defense has not been gutted by injuries anywhere near the state of the Cowboys. They have had a decent share of guys on the bench nursing injuries in spots, yet relatively have been one of the healthiest defenses in the league. In contrast to Dallas, very rarely did any starter miss an entire game.
Hats off to Rob Ryan and the Cowboys’ original starters and new replacements on defense. Dallas has allowed less points, rushing yards, and passing yards than the much healthier Eagles bunch. When this season is in the books, the team and fans need to realize how impressive of a job that Rob Ryan has actually done in holding this defense together with so many major pieces falling off.
COACHES UNDER HEAVY FIRE
Lately there has been much talk about Jerry Jones giving Jason Garrett a pass this year, instead blaming the Cowboys’ woes on injuries. Sorry Jerry, that excuse doesn’t fly here.
For example, just last week JG called a QB sneak on 3rd down and inches, problem was that it was really 1st down and 10. Two key games were lost in the final minutes in direct relation to Garrett’s poor game management decisions.
Back to injuries. Injuries have not prevented the Cowboys from reasonably sitting at (7-4) right now. The only two key offensive starters who were out before two weeks ago were RB DeMarco Murray and C Phil Costa. Dallas only lost one of those games. Aside from the center position and the last two games, the o-line has played together most of the season.
The starting receiving corps has been relatively healthy. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin have started more combined games together this season than any other year in their NFL careers. And remarkably QB Tony Romo has stayed injury-free throughout the immense onslaught of defenders he has faced.
Certainly the vast number of defensive injuries is no scapegoat. Rob Ryan commands the 8th best unit in yards surrendered despite all his perished starters. The defense has played well enough to be (7-4) now. In Garrett’s first two FULL seasons as the man in charge, he owns a highly unimpressive (13-14) losing record.
If Dallas fails to make the playoffs this year, it’s a no-brainer that JG has to go. The team has severely lacked intensity in the first half of most games, and they understandably don’t respond to Garrett’s inconsequential attitude towards poor performance.
Andy Reid has unjustly been in the cross-hairs of Eagles fans for the last few seasons. He is the current longest-tenured head coach in the NFL. It only took one devastating season to get some real steam behind the ongoing fire Reid movement.
Now that this very talented Eagles squad has vastly under-performed their Super Bowl contending expectations, it’s a forgone conclusion that Reid will coach the Eagles for the last time in 2012.
From 2000-2010, he led the Eagles to the playoffs in 9 of 11 seasons. In 14 years as head coach of the Eagles, this will only be Reid’s 3rd losing season. That is excellent coaching and enviable results that Cowboys fans would relish these days.
Reid barely missed the playoffs last year with an (8-8) record, and it’s much worse this season currently sitting at (3-8). While his team has fallen on hard times the last 2 years, so has his personal life.
Reid has dealt with serious substance abuse problems in the past from his two oldest sons. However, last August it all came to a head when his oldest son was found dead from an accidental heroin overdose.
Not many Cowboys fans have even considered Andy Reid as being a possible great hire if the head coaching spot comes open in the off-season. My advice is take a good long look at Andy Reid’s results in Philadelphia.
His only legitimate knock is never winning a Super Bowl as head coach of the Eagles. As I recall, Reid’s 5 Eagles teams that made it deep into the playoffs were axed by a superior opponent most of those seasons.
One would be hard-pressed to find a Dallas Cowboys fan who wouldn’t trade their lone playoff win since 1997, in exchange for 5 trips to the NFC Championship Game (1 Super Bowl appearance) since 1999.
In the unexpectedly underwhelming clash between the wounded bottom feeders of the NFC East….
COWBOYS 23, EAGLES 16