For the second consecutive week, the Philadelphia Eagles lost. Now, suddenly, that once-farfetched notion the Cowboys could still win the NFC East doesn’t seem quite so farfetched. Once down three games with only three games left to go, the dream is still alive.
Now just one game behind the Eagles, Dallas has the potential to leapfrog their division rival and claim the division crown in back-to-back seasons. It seems plans to rest a few key starters in Week 18 were a bit premature. All the Cowboys need to make these dreams come true is for Philadelphia to lose and for Dallas to win.
No problem, right?
The problem is the Eagles might not lose, making attempts to go all-in for Dallas somewhat futile. Philadelphia faces the New York Giants this coming weekend and the Giants are officially locked into their playoff spot, the No. 6 seed. With nothing to gain, it’s quite possible the Giants mail it in for Week 18, gift wrapping a win for Philadelphia, and ensuring the Eagles claim the NFC East crown.
Hence the giant dilemma.
Good news for the Cowboys: Eagles lost to Saints. That sets up scenario in which Cowboys can win NFC East next weekend with win at Commanders and Eagles loss vs. Giants.
Bad news: Giants just became locked into NFC's sixth seed. Little incentive to play starters in Philadelphia.
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) January 1, 2023
Clearly, if something can be gained in Week 18, the Cowboys absolutely must do all they can to win. They can’t just assume Week 18 will be a cakewalk for the Eagles and waste this opportunity they’re extremely lucky to have.
At the same time, Dallas can’t charge in with reckless abandon and ignore the looming postseason staring them in the face. Mike McCarthy has a somewhat notorious reputation for being ultra-cautious with his players’ health. If a player needs time, he’ll give him time. But there’s a difference between “beat up” and being “injured.”
Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy on whether team to rest starters in regular-season finale at Commanders: "I think I should probably answer that Monday for you."
— Michael Gehlken (@GehlkenNFL) December 30, 2022
McCarthy isn’t going to sit players for a game that could mean something simply because they’re beat up. Everyone’s beat up this time of year. Yet, dents and dings add up, and players like Micah Parsons are looking noticeably different than they did earlier in the season.
If resting Parsons means he comes back able to play more snaps at a more productive rate in the postseason, maybe sitting out a game is worth it. The same reasoning can be applied to anyone on the Cowboys roster.
The Cowboys aren’t going to give up and rest all their key starters in Week 18. Not when the game has the potential to mean something. But that doesn’t mean some sort of middle ground can’t be found and concessions can’t be made either.
It’s a situation that will be watched closely this week with some decisions likely to come down to the wire.