Maybe I’m totally missing something here, but I’m having a hard time finding the juice for Sunday night’s NFC East showdown between the Eagles and Cowboys.
It feels like everybody around here is just going through the “Dallas sucks” motions. There’s the usual trash talk, the Carson Wentz vs. Dak Prescott debates, and predictions of an Eagles blowout win on social media and sports talk radio. But I don’t sense the same edge, sparked by our intense civic hatred of the Cowboys, to which I’ve grown accustom. Even the players, outside of Lane Johnson’s playful (I hope) threats towards his grandmother, have been pretty quiet:
— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) November 15, 2017
Usually, Dallas week begins with some light shit-talking, while we take stock of the matchup and get a feel for what we expect to see unfold in the game. By mid-week, the quarter chub of hate begins to grow, along with our confidence, and, as we hit the stretch run of Thursday into Friday, we achieve the full “Fuck Dallas” erection. This week feels different to me. I should be all worked up and ready to go by now, but I find myself a little flaccid, if you will.
“I, I just, I promise it’s always worked in the past. This, like, NEVER happens. I just…it’s ‘off’ this week.”
So what gives? Maybe it’s that Dallas actually, truly, does suck. This isn’t, from a mathematical standpoint, a high stakes game. The New York Times playoff predictor gives the Eagles a 98% percent chance to win the NFC East with a victory, whereas those odds drop to 91% with a loss. The Cowboys enter with a 5-4 record, three full games behind the Eagles. Surely, you know by now they’ll be without their most dynamic offensive weapon in Ezekiel Elliott, who has accounted for 993 total yards and nine touchdowns in eight games. Am I glad he’s out? Hell yes. Do I hate his fucking Lego-looking face? Also, hell yes. The thought of Elliott watching from afar as his team’s season slips away is somewhat gratifying, but probably not as much as it would be if the NFL’s top run defense pummeled him into submission. They are also missing linebacker Sean Lee, a brutal loss given Dallas is winless without him this season and gives up twice as many rush yards per game without him on the field. And they may also be without left tackle Tyron Smith, whose absence a week ago resulted in a historic six-sack day for Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn.
Here’s the thing; Dallas needs this game a lot more than the Eagles do, but, somehow, it feels like the Eagles have more at stake. To piss away this game to a team that is prime for slaughter would create, at best, several critical questions, and, at worst, widespread panic. Theoretically, in terms of matchups and talent, the Eagles should fucking annihilate this team on Sunday night, which begs the question—are the Eagles going to fucking annihilate this team on Sunday night?
I’m fully confident in their abilities. They are the real deal and it’s smart money to buy into this squad as the most complete package in the NFC right now, but this game gives me some pause. I’m not so much concerned that the Eagles are 1-6 in games refereed by Bill Vinovich as I am the short Vegas spread. The Eagles are favored anywhere between three to four points on Sunday night. I know it’s a division road game and the Cowboys aren’t exactly a hapless team, but that’s it? Three-and-a-half points? The Eagles haven’t lost a football game in SIXTY DAYS, are coming off the bye, and Dallas could very well be without arguably its three best players. I’m encouraged the line has shifted in the Eagles’ favor as the week has progressed, but I’d feel a bit better if it crept to five.
Once the game kicks off Sunday night, it’ll be the normal mix of insanity, aggressiveness, and hatred in full effect, but right now, I’m a bit apprehensive. I need some venom. I need Dallas to Dallas – Jerry Jones says something inflammatory, a current or former player talks some condescending shit, an Eagles team employee spits on the star at midfield – you know, someone hopefully flicks the, uh, bird a little bit and wakes up so we can achieve the full “Fuck Dallas” mode.