With the Giants taking on the Jets this Christmas Eve at 12:00 and the Cowboys set to take on the Eagles at 3:15, the Dallas Cowboys could find themselves in a unique situation.
The eyes of Cowboy fans (and coaches and players though they’d never admit it), will be fixed upon the outcome of the Giants’ game earlier in the day.
If the Giants lose to the Jets, a Cowboys’ win over the Eagles later in the afternoon would give Dallas the NFC East title and a spot in the postseason, whereas an Eagles’ win could keep their playoff hopes alive as well, setting up the most important game of the season so far for each team.
On the other hand, if the Giants defeat the Jets, Dallas’ match-up vs. the Eagles would be rendered meaningless, extinguishing the Eagles’ playoff hopes and setting up an NFC East “title game” next week between the Cowboys and the Giants.
Furthermore, a Giants’ win over the Jets would put the Cowboys in a very unique situation vs. the Eagles, and poses an interesting question.
If the outcome of the Cowboys vs. Eagles game doesn’t matter, would the Cowboys be smart to sit their starters, or at least limit their playing time?
Of course Dallas fans want the Cowboys to be ready for the Eagles no matter what, and
when presented this question by the Dallas Morning News, Jason Garrett said all the right things; they are not concerned with other teams and only focused on playing their best right now.
But is this simply just another example of coach-speak?
Sure, one could argue that at this point of the season, momentum is everything, and riding the momentum of a victory over the Eagles into the Giants game would be great for the team. Resting your best players probably wouldn’t provide this momentum.
On the other hand, it would be disastrous if the Cowboys were to lose a key contributer in a game that doesn’t affect the season’s outcome whatsoever, especially considering the lack of depth at key positions (most notably, running back).
If it indeed comes down to it, the Cowboys should do the smart thing: rest their players, and set their sights on the New Year’s Day match-up with the Giants.
Of course, if the Giants lose to the Jets, all of this is a moot point, and for the Cowboys, the chance to clinch the NFC East title vs. the arch rival Philadelphia Eagles would be absolutely perfect.