Eagles-Cowboys predictions

Eagles-Cowboys predictions

Just like last year, this game means absolutely nothing. Yet unlike last season, the Eagles are the 13-2 team gearing up for the playoffs, while the Cowboys (8-7) were eliminated from playoff contention with their 21-12 loss last Sunday to Seattle. 

Though playoff spots or seeding aren't at stake, a win over the Cowboys would be the Eagles' 14th of the season, which would set a franchise record. A victory would also seal a perfect 8-0 home record. 

It appears Nick Foles will at least start at quarterback for the Eagles, though it seems unlikely he'll play the entire game. He's eager to show what he learned from a rough outing Monday night in the Eagles' 19-10 win over the Raiders (see story).

Eagles fans should, however, get a good look at quarterback Nate Sudfeld and a number of other backups heading into the postseason.

Reuben Frank (14-1)
So I apparently have to put my 14-1 prediction record on the line in a meaningless game where we don’t even know who’s going to play for either team. What’s that all about? The difference between 15-1 and 14-2 is huge. If I go 15-1, that’s a .938 winning percentage. If I finish 14-2, that’s only .875. So how am I supposed to decide whether to pick an Eagles team that could have Sudfeld playing a good portion of the game vs. a Cowboys team that’s finishing a lost season? There’s literally nothing to base a prediction on, so I’m just going to pick the Eagles on general principles. I just don’t see them losing at home. And 15-1 will be so sweet! 

Eagles 20, Cowboys 17

Dave Zangaro (12-3)
The final score in this game doesn't matter. 

This prediction doesn't matter. 

The Eagles will play Foles and hope to see some offensive life. They'll get Sudfeld out there and hope he looks like an NFL quarterback. They'll rest guys who need rest. There are plenty of things to watch in this game — the final score isn't one of them. 

The most important thing for the Eagles is, they don't get hurt. Would it be nice if they got to 14 wins for the first time in franchise history? Sure. 

Doesn't matter. 

Cowboys 26, Eagles 17

Derrick Gunn (12-3)
We've just about reached the finish line of the 2017 NFL season, and while this game is meaningless to the Eagles in terms of playoff positioning, it does have significance for a few reasons. The players say they'd like to finish off this run with a franchise-best 14 regular season wins, and they'd like to head to the postseason on a winning note. But at what cost are the Eagles willing to achieve those goals?

It's no secret the offense needs some work after their Christmas night performance against Oakland, but how long do you keep the starters in? Foles says he's preparing this week to start and work on a few things. Over the last two games, the defense has started at a sluggish pace but finished strong. As for Dallas, the Cowboys are going home after Sunday to begin a long offseason. Head coach Jason Garrett says all healthy bodies will play. 

I say minimize the risk and get the starters out no later than halftime. You can't afford to have another key player injured before the start of the second season. Ezekiel Elliott will play the Birds for the first time this year, and you know Dallas will try to establish their run game. It will be interesting to see how Doug Pederson handles this one. I say Dallas wins this one by default because Pederson pulls everybody he can and we get to see what Sudfeld, who has never played in a regular game, looks like under center.

Cowboys 24, Eagles 20

Ray Didinger (13-2)
Whatever incentive there is in this game belongs to the Cowboys. They are 8-7 so they need this game to finish with a winning record. Also, they are coming off a galling home loss to Seattle so they don't want to finish the season on a two-game skid.

Even with his suspension, Elliott still has a chance to rush for 1,000 yards (he has 880) so he will get plenty of carries, and while the Eagles have the No. 1 defense against the run, most of those guys will be watching this one from the bench in the second half.

This will be like a preseason game, only colder.

Cowboys 21, Eagles 17

Andrew Kulp (13-2)
It hardly seems fair to predict the result of what essentially amounts to a preseason game for the Eagles, but I suppose we may need a 50/50 game like this to create some separation in the standings. And the chances of the Cowboys' starters beating the Eagles' backups probably is around 50/50. After all, Dallas is only a 2.5-point favorite.

My guess is Foles will lead the first-team offense down the field for a quick score on the Eagles' first or second possession, then Sudfeld gets to flail around for the rest of the afternoon. Sudfeld will do OK, because the Cowboys' defense isn't anything to write home about, and may just quit on an offense that hasn't been capable of holding up its end of the bargain all season. A Derek Barnett strip-sack in the fourth quarter either shuts down Dallas' last gasp or puts the Eagles in position for the go-ahead score.

Eagles 20, Cowboys 17

Corey Seidman (10-4) 
The Cowboys were slight favorites early in the week because their key players are expected to play more than the Eagles' key players. Elliott talked this week about itching to play because he missed so much time with the six-game suspension.

As much as I'd like to see the Eagles finish 14-2 for the first time in franchise history, I can't see them holding onto a second-half lead if Sudfeld is under center. 

Who could have possibly predicted that a Week 17 game between the Eagles and Cowboys would have absolutely no meaning? The NFL tries to set up big divisional showdowns in the final week but will get no drama from the NFC East pairings.

Cowboys 20, Eagles 16

5 Minutes with Roob: Beau Allen getting better and better

5 Minutes with Roob: Beau Allen getting better and better

Beau Allen is definitely one of the unsung performers on this Eagles' roster.

Now in his fourth year as an undrafted free-agent defensive tackle out of Wisconsin, Allen played a career-high 28 snaps per game this year in the Eagles' D-line rotation and is a valued enough player that he was on the field when the Eagles stopped the Falcons on 4th-and-2 with the game on the line Saturday.

Allen joined us for this week's 5 Minutes with Roob.

Roob: We've got to start with the most important thing. Tell us about Seven-Layer Jello.

Beau: "Oh yeah, that is by far the most important thing. Seven-layer jello is a dish that my mom makes, and it's pretty self-explanatory. It's seven layers of jello. It's kind of a visual spectacle, too. It's different flavors of jello kind of stacked on top of each other. Usually, you have a clear bowl and it's a main dish at basically any Allen holiday event. It's pretty good. My mom's a great cook. She hates when I talk about it, but it's really an amazing dish."

Roob: The nucleus of this defensive line — Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and you — has been together a long time. All you guys have been together since at least 2014. How big is that for this group?

Beau: "I think we are a pretty well-seasoned group. We have spent a lot of time together and we all really like each other too. One thing that we're all pretty experienced, we've all gotten a lot of reps, and we all bring kind of a something different to the table. Fletcher is a different player than I am and Timmy (Jernigan) is different from Destiny (Vaeao), and the same thing with the defensive ends, and I think that makes it tough for offensive lines."

Roob: You played 17 percent of the snaps as a rookie, then almost 30 percent in your second year under Bill Davis, then up to 40 percent last year and 41 percent this year. How hard have you worked to go from an undrafted rookie free agent to a key part of this defensive line rotation?

Beau: "I don't really like to talk too much about how hard I'm working. I feel like if you're talking about how you're working hard you're probably not working that hard. But yeah, whenever you get to this time of year you kind of look back a little bit. It's been a heck of a journey for me. I tore my pec last offseason and it seems like it was a really long time ago, but it was just seven months ago or something like that. But battled back from that and to end up where we are now, playing for the NFC Championship against the Minnesota Vikings, it's really cool. It's always fun to look back and kind of see how far you've come."

Roob: What was your first career playoff game like?

Beau: "It was amazing. It was really cool. I was fortunate to be on the field there at the end of the game, and anytime you get a 4th-and-2 stop for your season, it was pretty electric. I kind of blacked out, but celebrating after that play was a lot of fun."

Roob: On that play and really the whole game, you guys seemed to approach it like any other game, despite what was at stake. How big was that?

Beau: "When you come to playoff football, what it really comes down to is just doing your job, just doing what you've done to get to that point. Not really trying to do anything above and beyond your role. That's one thing we all try to do, just perfect the little details of each play, and I think that gets even more elevated in the playoffs."

Roob: Chris Maragos is always talking about the crazy atmosphere at Wisconsin home games at Camp Randall Stadium. How did Saturday at the Linc compare to football on Saturday afternoons in Madison?

Beau: "It is pretty similar. One thing that I love about Madison and Camp Randle is 'Jump Around.' I think it's the coolest tradition in college football. But both are definitely rowdy fans that are really passionate about the game of football, so definitely similar in that aspect."

Roob: How important has it been to focus on the Vikings and not think about how the Super Bowl is just one win away?

Beau: "I'm definitely a one-day-at-a-time, a one-play-at-a-time kind of guy. You can't look too far ahead. We're just focused on this game Sunday and, like I said, doing all the little things. That's definitely how we've approached it this week and kind of how we've approached every game this season."

Roob: OK, you're from Minnesota. Can you please assure Eagles fans that you're not — and never were — a Vikings fan?

Beau: "I put an end to that narrative real quick. I grew up about 30 minutes west of Minneapolis. I was a Packers fan growing up. Not a Vikings fan. Nobody in my family is Vikings fans. They're all going to be out here cheering for us on Sunday. I made sure of it. I gave them lie detector tests and flashed a real bright light in everybody's face and made sure. They've all been vetted thoroughly."

These 4 Eagles want another serving or two

AP Images

These 4 Eagles want another serving or two

It took Nigel Bradham six years in the NFL before he got a chance to play in his first playoff game. 

He's not taking any of this for granted. 

"It's funny, man, because you think, 'Damn, I've been playing in the league six years and this is my first appearance,'" Bradham said this week as the Eagles prepare for Sunday's NFC Championship Game. "You kind of be like, 'Dang, man, why'd it take so long?' It's more than just you, obviously. It's a team sport. I've been fortunate enough to be on a great team and to have the opportunity. 

"Right now, I'm 1-0 and I'm looking forward to having more success in the playoffs. It's definitely an amazing feeling."

Bradham isn't the only Eagles player in a similar situation. Stefen Wisniewski, in his seventh season, and Rodney McLeod and Alshon Jeffery, both in their sixth seasons, all played in their first playoff game last Saturday against the Falcons. 

The group, which had a combined 369 regular-season games without a playoff appearance, finally got a taste of the postseason. They're not ready for this ride to end. 

Because no one ever really knows how long it might take to get back. 

"The feeling was great," McLeod said. "To go out there, first playoff game, at home and come out with the win. Couldn't ask for a better story. 

"But now knowing that game is history and moving on to the Vikings, who are a great team and they've been like that all year. We're going to have to elevate our game even more than last week if we want to get to that next step. The road to the Super Bowl doesn't get easier."

All four definitely made their impact felt against the Falcons last Saturday. Bradham played well all game and came up huge on the final fourth down. McLeod was called for a personal foul, but it was a weak call and either way, it saved a touchdown. Jeffery caught four passes for 61 yards, including some that came in huge situations. And Wisniewski played his best game since joining the Eagles two years ago. 

Jeffery called the atmosphere at the Linc against the Falcons "electric" and expects the same type of level from fans this Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. 

"I just try to stay in the moment, stay locked in," Jeffery said about his first playoff run. "I'm not trying to reflect on anything right now. I think I'll do that after the season, when the season is officially over with. Right now, I'm just trying to do a great job trying to stay locked in one day at a time." 

It's pretty clear it meant a lot to Jeffery to finally make it to the playoffs, but he's also very clearly not happy with just getting there. He's always a calm guy during the week, but it's obvious he's working to keep his emotions in check. 

"Of course, we all know we're one game away from the Super Bowl," Jeffery said, "but you just have to be relaxed and try to not go out there and think about that." 

Of course, these four players aren't the only first-timers the Eagles have in the playoffs. They have many more. It's just that these four had to wait the longest. 

In the week leading into the Falcons game, head coach Doug Pederson admitted he of course wondered how his first-timers would perform under the bright lights of the playoffs. Based on one win, he got a pretty quick answer. 

One thing is for sure: the four guys who had to all wait at least six seasons for their first taste of the playoffs will do almost anything to keep this going. 

"This is what we worked for," Bradham said. "When you go back to OTAs and all your training and doing everything in the offseason with the guys, 7-on-7 and things like that. This is what it's all for. You put all that work in, man, and you know what's on the line. We all are excited. We're just ready to go out here and play."