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A Season Finale That Has Meaning

Posted Dec 30, 2016

It wasn't supposed to end this way, with the Eagles playing their season finale and Dallas resting its regulars on the way to the postseason. This is life in the NFL. Nothing is predictable ...

It wasn't supposed to end this way, with the Eagles playing their season finale and Dallas resting its regulars on the way to the postseason. This is life in the NFL. Nothing is predictable.

But here the Eagles are, with a game to play. And, whether the standings reflect it or not, the Eagles want this game on Sunday. They want to beat Dallas. They want to pack up their lockers on Monday feeling that taste of victory, even if it doesn't mean a thing to the rest of the world.

"It's Dallas and you always want to beat Dallas," defensive end Brandon Graham said. "We always want to win in the division."

The Eagles' performance within the NFC East is what ultimately changed the team's playoff chances. Losing the first four games in the division made the difference. That's part of what makes Sunday important within the locker room. The Eagles want to win in the NFC East. They beat New York last week. A win on Sunday, against no matter who Dallas has on the field, is the goal for the Eagles.

"It would mean a great deal to us, and I know that a lot of teams around the league are in a similar situation as we are, playing our final game of the season," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "We want to win this game. It's against the Cowboys and in our division and a win means we end the season with two straight wins. I don't know how much that carries over into a new year, but I know that we have something special here. We have pieces in place. I'm excited to see it grow and improve in the future. So every time you go out on the field and you win, you are putting building blocks in place."

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How the Eagles handle things in the offseason, and the pieces they move, all of that will be discussed in the future. The focus for the locker room is win on the way out and then, individually, attack the offseason.

It's Beat Dallas week, even if the chorus has less ooomph right now.

"We've had a lot of close games this year that didn't go our way," guard Brandon Brooks said. "It doesn't help to look back because you can't change what has already happened, but I think we're going to grow from those close games and learn from them and win those games in the future. Let's go out and win a game on Sunday. I know it doesn't mean we're going to the playoffs, but winning feels good. That's what we're here to do."

For a player like middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, Sunday represents something special. Hicks will start his 16th game of the regular season against Dallas, completing a start-to-finish season that he didn't have in his rookie campaign. Hicks tore a pectoral muscle in Game 8 against Dallas in 2015, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the year. After an injury-plagued collegiate career at Texas, the torn pectoral muscle was more than a season-ending blow. It was a career-threatening question.

And now Hicks is on the verge of playing all the way through 2016. He wasn't able to get into the weight room after the pectoral injury until April. Barring any setback on Sunday, Hicks will rest and jump right into the gym and come back bigger, better and ready for more in 2017.

"It's important to me to finish the season," Hicks said. "I pride myself on being out there for the team. When you're injured, you can't help your teammates win. That's what hurt the most last year. To be able to get to this point, preparing for the 16th game, yeah, that means something to me."

This is not about draft positioning or 2017 schedule ramifications or any of that stuff that is normally associated with "last-game-of-the-season" conversation. This is about going out and winning with rookie quarterback Carson Wentz playing for rookie head coach Doug Pederson. This is about having some fun on the football field for the final time as a group and letting it fly and winning a game.

This is about starting off 2017 the right way, no matter what people outside of the NovaCare Complex think about the importance of the game.

"It's a football game and I'm always going to go out there and give it my all and do what I can to win the game," tight end Brent Celek said. "I'm here to win every single time I step on the field. That's what I'm going to do." 

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