Heading into week 10, the Philadelphia Eagles will be hosting a game against the Dallas Cowboys that will all but certainly end the season for one of the two teams. Both teams are 3-5, meaning the winner has an opportunity to climb back into the playoff race but the loser will be looking at a 3-6 record, which will realistically eliminate them from playoff contention.
For the Eagles, the road to 3-5 has been an unusual one. They started the season strong, winning three of their first four games, which included last-second comeback victories against both the Baltimore Ravens and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. But they lost their next two games, against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions, on walkoff field goals. During the bye week, head coach Andy Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, inserting defensive backs coach Todd Bowles as the new coordinator. But the Eagles have been blown out in their last two games, against the Atlanta Falcons after a bye (a first in the Reid era), and against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football.
Their fans are officially in all-out panic mode, and it’s not looking bright for both this season and the future of the franchise. Owner Jeffrey Lurie stated before the season that an 8-8 record will not be acceptable for Reid to keep his job. With the Eagles at 3-5, most would estimate that the team needs to win at least nine of their next 11 games (a postseason berth and a pair of postseason victories) to save the job of the greatest coach in franchise history. If not, rumors have already indicated that the Eagles would be interested in bringing former Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden out of retirement, meaning Gruden would have the difficult decision of figuring out whether the Eagles want to use Vick or Nick Foles as their quarterback in 2013.
For Dallas, their season has been inconsistent. They’ve looked unbeatable in some games, such as their week one road victory against the Giants. But they’ve suffered embarrassing losses, such as a blowout to the Seattle Seahawks in week two, and they’ve found ways to lose games that don’t even seem possible. Against the Giants in week eight, the Cowboys overcame a 23-0 lead and took a 30-29 lead in the final seconds on Dez Bryant’s long touchdown reception, only to see the replay show that his hand touched out of bounds, nullifying the touchdown.
The Cowboys are currently 3-5, following a two-game losing streak. They’re missing star linebacker Sean Lee for the rest of the season, running back DeMarco Murray is fighting through injuries, and Bryant is showing signs that he may never turn into a legitimate first round wide receiver.
You really can’t get two more desperate teams than the Eagles and Cowboys in week 10. This is their first matchup of the season and it’s bound to get ugly for the losing team, especially if the Eagles lost at home. I think the Eagles have more to lose than the Cowboys, because they could have a new head coach and quarterback next season. Owner Jerry Jones reportedly wants to keep Jason Garrett as the team’s head coach in 2013, unless he can somehow acquire Sean Payton from the Saints, but that’s unlikely.
For the Eagles, the biggest key to victory will be protecting Vick against a Dallas pass rush that includes linebacker DeMarcus Ware, one of the greatest blitzing linebackers in league history. Ware had six sacks in two games against the Eagles last season, so I can only imagine how he will do against an injury-depleted line that is currently missing Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans for the remainder of the season.
For Dallas, they’ll need a solid game from Tony Romo, who can take advantage of Miles Austin, Bryant, and Jason Witten against a struggling Eagles’ secondary. If Romo avoids his turnovers, this one could turn into a blowout pretty easily, because the Cowboys have shown that they can score and the Eagles cannot.
That’s my prediction. I think the Cowboys have been a much better team than the Eagles this season, and I think Romo, who hasn’t beaten the Eagles since 2009, throws for three touchdowns and ends the Eagles’ season in a 34-16 rout. That will all but end the Reid era in Philadelphia after 14 seasons, nine trips to the postseason, and zero Super Bowl victories.