The Philadelphia Eagles should not be favored over the Dallas Cowboys on Dec. 24. Even Eagles fans like myself know that Philadelphia is as likely to get blown out by Dallas and be utterly humiliated as it is to pull off an upset. However, due to the Birds winning two straight games for once and somehow still being alive in the NFC East, they have become the popular pick.
The Cowboys are the one who control their own destiny, lead the NFC East by a game and are extra motivated to avenge the 34-7 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 30. Now that Philadelphia is being talked up as the scariest 6-8 team in history - even by owner Jerry Jones - it gives Dallas an extra reason to play with a chip on its shoulder.
It isn't like the Cowboys haven't taken care of a red hot Eagles team before. In 2009, the Birds came in on the last week of the season on a seven-game winning streak. But Dallas still utterly slaughtered Philadelphia to win the NFC East, and then destroyed the Eagles again the next week for its only playoff win in 15 years.
These Eagles should be a lot easier to defeat, especially if they have one of their off weeks. They haven't won three games in a row this season, so they may be due for a collapse pretty soon. Of course, the Cowboys aren't one to judge since they have been up and down all year themselves, although it has paid off for two more wins so far.
Dallas can easily defeat Philadelphia and get closer to the NFC East title, despite all of the buzz favoring the Eagles lately. On paper, it should be simple - although both the Eagles and Cowboys are much better on paper than they have been in reality in 2011. Fourth quarter collapses have doomed them both all year, yet the Cowboys' only blowout loss was to the Eagles almost two months ago. At the least, Dallas has pulled out a few close victories since then, while Philadelphia hasn't really been tested in the fourth quarter in the last two weeks.
The entire complexion of this game could change even before kickoff, depending on the New York Giants-New York Jets showdown. If the Giants win, the Eagles will be eliminated and will really have no reason to play. Of course, the Cowboys will be rooting for the Jets as well, since they can clinch the NFC East with a win and a Giants loss. But no matter what, Dallas can clinch the division with a win next week while Philadelphia has absolutely no margin for error left.
These are two teams that can each shoot themselves fatally at a given moment, or blow each other out. Yet even though the Eagles are still closer to last place than first place and are on the road, the Cowboys are the ones being underestimated. That kind of disrespect could give Dallas all the added motivation it needs to kill off its arch-rivals once and for all.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident who has followed the Eagles since he was eight years old.
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