Dallas Cowboys

Sidney Jones in, multiple starters out today

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AP Images

Sidney Jones in, multiple starters out today

Now it's officially official. 

Sidney Jones is active for the Eagles' regular-season finale against the Cowboys at the  Linc on New Year's Eve. 

Jones, 21, had been on the Non-football Injury list all year until he was officially added to the active roster on Saturday. Jones has been recovering from an Achilles tear he suffered at his pro day before the draft. 

The injury dropped him out of the first round and into the Eagles' lap in the second round at No. 43. The Eagles were interested in Jones in the first round before the injury, so they viewed getting him in the second as incredibly valuable. 

Jones began practicing three weeks ago and has been impressing coaches and players. Sunday will give us a chance to see what he can do in game action. He's expected to play a decent amount. 

Because Sunday's game is meaningless, there are six starters and a key rotational player inactive. 

Here are the Eagles' inactives: Brandon Graham, Jay Ajayi, Derek Barnett, Nigel Bradham, Tim Jernigan, Rodney McLeod and Jalen Mills. 

Graham (ankle) was ruled out on Friday and Mills (ankle) was questionable. No reason to risk further injury. 

Barnett has been dealing with a groin injury, while Jernigan has had a lingering ankle injury for a good portion of the season. McLeod and Bradham have played a ton this season. Ajayi will be well-rested for the playoffs. 

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

Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

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USA Today Images

Why Eagles-Cowboys still matters

Eagles-Cowboys
1 p.m. on FOX
Eagles +2.5

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.

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.