When the Eagles take the field Sunday afternoon, they will likely be sporting a different starting roster than in the previous 16 weeks. With the third seed in the playoffs guaranteed, Sunday's game amounts to nothing more than an opportunity to sweep the Dallas Cowboys – something the Eagles very much want to do. But allowing those who need it an opportunity to rest is ultimately more valuable.
For those that will see the field Sunday, they will be facing a second unproven quarterback in as many weeks. The second-year player out of Texas A&M, Stephen McGee saw his first extended NFL action for the Cowboys last Saturday against the Arizona Cardinals, throwing for 111 yards and a touchdown in the second half.
With Jon Kitna still nursing an oblique injury, McGee is in line to start his first NFL game against the Eagles Sunday afternoon – something Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett is anxious to watch.
"Stephen is very committed to being a good football player," Garrett said. "He works very hard at it. He hadn't had a lot of experience as a drop back passer, and he's really developed that way over the past couple of years. He goes about it the right way, it's very important to him, and it was nice to see him get some of his first action the other night."
The Eagles and Cowboys have faced each other on the final week of the season for the past two years. In 2008, a convincing 44-6 victory at Lincoln Financial field sent the Eagles to the playoffs and abruptly ended the Cowboys season. In 2009, the roles were reversed. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 24-0 in Arlington, only to knock Philadelphia out of the playoffs six days later in the same building.
This season, the game holds far less meaning, as the Eagles have clinched the NFC East and the Cowboys have long since been eliminated from playoff contention. But it's the cyclical nature of this rivalry that makes each game so compelling, and proves that each season holds little bearing on the next.
"I think it shows the battles within this division," tight end Jason Witten said. "Throw in New York along with that. More than anything, it's a matter of making plays. Being able to regroup and come back next year and make the few plays that come up and that change a game, and change a season. That's the National Football League and what makes it so great."
Regardless of what's at stake, the Eagles and Cowboys never fail to put on a show.
-- Posted by Josh Goldman, 3:00 p.m., January 1