Extra Points: Eagles-Cowboys rivalry set to be renewed
By DAVID WEINBERG
It's been said the Eagles could go 2-14 and fans would be OK with it as long as the two victories were against the Cowboys.
How about 4-11-1?
That could well turn out to be the case this season. The Eagles are somehow in first place atop the putrid NFC East with a 2-4-1 record and a sub .500 record, say 6-9-1 or even 5-10-1, could be good enough to win the division. In order to do that, however, the Eagles absolutely must beat the Cowboys twice, starting with Sunday night's meeting at Lincoln Financial Field.
Based on what's transpired to this point, I don't see them beating any of their remaining non-division opponents: Cleveland (4-2), Seattle (5-0), Green Bay (4-1), New Orleans (3-2) and Arizona (4-2). Thus, their best shot at reaching the playoffs for the fourth straight year is to pick up two wins against the Cowboys (2-5), complete a sweep of the Giants (1-6) and beat Washington (2-5) in the regular-season finale.
The Eagles haven't provided much recent evidence that the are capable of achieving that goal - they were lucky to beat the Giants after suffering two straight losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore, respectively - but there is cause for slight optimism.
The Eagles activated the 21-day practice window Monday for four players - rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor (torn thumb ligaments), tackle Jason Peters (sprained foot), starting linebacker T.J. Edwards (strained hamstring) and special teamer Rudy Ford (strained hamstring) - who have been sidelined for a few weeks.
In addition, look for players such as tight end Dallas Goedert, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Miles Sanders to return in the coming weeks. Tight end Zach Ertz is due back in about three weeks.
Reagor and Jeffery provided some much-needed depth at wide receiver, especially now that DeSean Jackson (high ankle sprain) will miss at least a month. For the past few weeks, Carson Wentz has been relying on Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward as his top receivers.
Fulgham has been nothing short of terrific and has earned the right to remain a key part of the offense. He has 23 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns in three games. Fulgham, who joined the Eagles as a free agent just before the regular season, is the first Eagles receiver to score at least one TD in his first three games since Terrell Owens in 2004.
And the odds of Fulgham doing situps in his driveway while poisoning the locker room are pretty slim.
Peters' return presents some intriguing possibilities. If I'm Doug Pederson, I keep Jordan Mailata at left tackle and move Peters to right guard, where he was scheduled to play this season before Andre Dillard got hurt. He's no longer an elite left tackle and couldn't possibly be worse at guard than Jamon Brown, who became the first offensive lineman to sack his own quarterback against the Ravens.
The Eagles can't expect to be very productive on offense until Sanders returns, however. The second-year back is their best weapon as both a runner and receiver. A more balanced attack also takes some of the pressure off Wentz, who has been suffering through an inconsistent season.
He's shown flashes of being a franchise quarterback, but has also struggled at times. He's currently tied with Minnesota's Kirk Cousins for the league lead with 10 interceptions to go with 10 TD passes. The Eagles didn't pay him $128 million for flashes.
On the subject of quarterbacks, I've been tremendously impressed with rookies Joe Burrow of Cincinnati and Justin Herbert of the Los Angeles Chargers. I'd take both of them over Wentz right now.
Sunday's game represents a prime opportunity for Wentz and the Eagles to gain some momentum and confidence.
The Cowboys (2-5) are terrible in every facet. The defense can't stop anyone and the offense is impotent since quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a gruesome leg injury a couple weeks ago. Backup quarterback Andy Dalton is questionable for the Eagles game with a concussion after suffering an ugly cheap shot by Washington defensive lineman Jon Bostic.
The Eagles, who are 6.5-point favorites, should roll, but don't get too cocky.
There's is always a chance for an upset like the one that happened on Dec. 28, 2010. The Eagles, who were 10-4 at the time, were favored by a whopping 16.5 points over a 5-9 Vikings team that was playing rookie quarterback Joe Webb in place of injured Brett Favre. Webb threw two TD passes in a 24-14 Eagles loss.
If Dalton cannot play, the Eagles will face rookie Ben DiNuci. DiNuci was the Pennsylvania High School Player of the Year in 2015 while playing for Pine-Richland outside Pittsburgh. There's also been some talk that the Cowboys might try to sign Josh McCown off the Eagles' practice squad.
McCown, who was Wentz's backup last season, has been living and coaching in Texas this season while on the Eagles' practice squad.
The last time McCown played in a NFL game was when he took over for a concussed Wentz in last season's 17-9 playoff loss to Seattle.
Playing against the Eagles on Sunday night would be downright bizarre, but when it comes to Eagles-Cowboys games, nothing is out of bounds.