Why Eagles-Cowboys Still Matters

Eagles-Cowboys
1 p.m. on FOX
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The Eagles' Week 17 tilt with the Dallas Cowboys may be meaningless in terms of the playoffs, but the NFC East rivals have plenty to play for in the final game of the regular season.

Dallas is eliminated from postseason contention, yet still has an opportunity to finish above .500. Redemption may be on the Cowboys' minds as well after losing the first meeting of the season 37-9 at JerryWorld.

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As for the Eagles, the top seed in the NFC is wrapped up, though most of the starters will see at least some action as the squad looks to maintain its edge heading into the tournament.

The game matters, even if the outcome doesn't.

Milestone watch
The Eagles may have more motivation to win than it would seem, as a victory would set off some cool milestones - and even put them in the history books.

They can set a franchise record with 14 wins in a season. They can go undefeated at home for the first time since 1992. And they can sweep their six divisional matchups for the first time since 2004.

Ultimately, none of those marks are as important as getting to January as healthy as possible. That being said, the Eagles probably wouldn't mind making a little history along the way.

Bold strategy?
Some would argue the health of the team is paramount, so it would be a mistake to play the starters at all Sunday. Yet, while one more key injury has the potential to devastate the Eagles, there isn't a whole lot of choice in the matter.

Sure, Eagles coach Doug Pederson could sit a guy or there. But with gameday rosters maxing out at 46 players, some regular players inevitably will have to take the field. For example, there are only eight offensive linemen and nine defensive backs on the roster, but often, at least five of each playing at a time.

Plus, if the goal is to get the offense some additional reps with Nick Foles under center, would you want him standing in the pocket behind anything less than the best five offensive linemen?

Pederson said he wants the team to get some work in, but also acknowledged his hands are tied to an extent. Even when a starter comes out of the game, an injury to the backup could force the starter back into the game.

Naturally, if a key starter gets hurt, Pederson is going to get torched by the fans. Regardless, the reality is some of the starters have to play.

It's Sudfeld time
While Pederson stressed most of the starters will play, the coach also acknowledged Nate Sudfeld will replace Foles at quarterback at some point during the contest.

The chance to see Sudfeld play is arguably the most compelling reason to tune in - right up there with the debut of second-round draft pick Sidney Jones at cornerback. The difference is expectations are sky high for Jones, whereas Sudfeld is a total mystery.

Sudfeld has become an incredibly important name for the Eagles because he's one play away from becoming the starting quarterback. And if he performs well Sunday, his profile may be on the rise.

The Eagles could opt to trade Foles if there's a market in the offseason, and install Sudfeld as the No. 2 behind Carson Wentz. Or, another team may view Sudfeld as a prospect and try to engineer a swap for the second-year player.

A sixth-round pick out of Indiana in 2016, Sudfeld has garnered quite a bit of attention. The Eagles swiped him from Washington after training camp, stashed him on the practice squad and then added him to the 53-man roster when another team attempted to sign him. It's time to find out what all the commotion is about.

Coming up with the inactive list
Pederson more or less confirmed defensive end Brandon Graham will not play because of an ankle injury. But in doing so, the coach also provided some insight into how the inactive list will look Sunday.

Expect players who are a little banged up right now to take a seat this week.

Joining Graham could be cornerback Jalen Mills, who has also been dealing with an ankle injury. Running back Jay Ajayi could also make the list. Though Ajayi is not on the injury report, his chronic knee condition might be reason enough to give him a rest.

Pederson also said left guard Stefen Wisniewski will play after missing the last couple games with an ankle, so maybe it's not so simple.

Whatever the case is, the inactive list is the place to stash the few starters who won't be taking the field at all. With that in mind, it might not be a bad idea to stash key players like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and linebacker Nigel Bradham there, too.

How ‘bout them Cowboys?
Whether the game matters or not, what would Dallas week be without a little trash talk?

With a 21-12 loss to the Seahawks last week, the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, and the Eagles have a chance to leave their divisional foe stranded at eight wins for the season. And while All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott has returned from a suspension, Dallas still looks like a mess.

The Eagles may very well beat the Cowboys while using the back end of their bench, including a bunch players who are ordinarily inactive. Who wouldn't get a kick out of that?

Just one more reason to tune in at 1 p.m.

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