The injuries don't matter. The fact that Dallas comes to town with a rookie quarterback, Ben DiNucci, making his first NFL start, isn't a reason to think it's going to be easy for the Eagles. That Dallas has staggered defensively all season stopping the run and keeping opponents out of the end zone is a non-factor.
Tonight, it's about the Eagles.
Can they handle a moment of prosperity, a night when the stars are aligned in the Eagles' favor? They're returning a bunch of players – tight end Dallas Goedert, offensive tackle Jason Peters, defensive tackle Malik Jackson, offensive tackle Lane Johnson (UPDATE: Johnson was downgraded to "questionable" late on Sunday morning with his ankle injury), wide receiver Jalen Reagor among them – to the lineup after scratching and clawing without them for various chunks of time in recent weeks. The Cowboys come limping in at 2-5 with DiNucci the third quarterback to start a game this season, with a locker room in upheaval.
It isn't about Dallas tonight, though.
It is about the Eagles and the idea that a team that is 2-4-1 and somehow in first place in the NFC East can put together 60 minutes of great football. We haven't seen that through seven games. The Eagles won in San Francisco by starting fast, and then erasing a deficit, and then hanging on for dear life at the end, knocking down a last-play pass into the end zone to preserve the victory. They won 10 nights ago against the woeful New York Giants on the strength of two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that erased a double-digit deficit, overcoming an alarming number of mistakes in the red zone offensively.
Two wins, neither of which resembled how good this team can be – at least, how good we think this team can be – have put the Eagles in this position to capitalize on a second consecutive home game against a division rival heading into the bye week. And if you think tonight is going to be a cakewalk, a rout, a blowout, well, you haven't followed this rivalry and you are allowing your heart to think for your brain.
This won't be easy.
Dallas has played poorly all season. The Cowboys are, objectively, a mess through seven games. They're 2-5. They're on their third quarterback, DiNucci, who has thrown all of three passes in his NFL career. The offensive line gets right guard Zack Martin back on the field, but the offensive tackles are backups and they've struggled. The defense is worst in the league against the run and in points allowed.
And yet Dallas is a wounded animal, and that makes the Cowboys very, very dangerous.
The Cowboys will challenge the Eagles' defense with its arsenal of terrific receiving weapons – Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, Ezekiel Elliott out of the backfield. Elliott, the dual-purpose threat, has averaged nearly 150 yards from scrimmage in the six games he has played against the Eagles, compiling a 5-1 record in the process. Defensively, Dallas brings a strong pass-rushing duo of DeMarcus Lawrence and Aldon Smith off the edges and if Johnson can't play, that means Jordan Mailata would start at right tackle and that's not a favorable matchup for the Eagles. Also, depth at offensive tackle would be limited. The linebacker crew, bolstered by the season debut tonight of Sean Lee, is maybe the best in the league.
Dallas knows that tonight is a must-win game. The Eagles must take the same approach because, well, it has that feel. That means playing with an aggressive mentality. That means limiting mental mistakes. It means making the necessary coaching adjustments. It means playing great football for 60 minutes, something we are waiting to see from this football team.
If there was ever a time to do it, tonight is right. A national television audience will tune in to see just how far the NFC East has fallen. Wouldn't it be a statement to everybody – the league, the team itself – for the Eagles to rise up and show their arch-rivals who rules this division.
Now is the moment. It's about the Eagles tonight, not the visiting Cowboys. The Eagles must win this game – not wait for Dallas to find a way to lose. What we need to see tonight is not another win-by-the-skin-of-their-teeth performance; instead, the Eagles have the task of putting it all together for 60 minutes and then earning a well-deserved week off heading into the second half of the season. We have waited all season to see the best of the Eagles. Tonight is the right moment to put the best of the Eagles on display for the league to see.