Sunday, December 22, 2013
Showdown set: Eagles-Cowboys for title
By Phil Sheridan
PHILADELPHIA -- All along, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he wouldn't look up from the task at hand until Dec. 29.
Now he and his team know for sure: The NFC East title will be decided next Sunday when the Eagles meet the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Thanks to the Cowboys' desperate, last-minute win at Washington, it doesn't matter what happens when the Eagles host the Chicago Bears Sunday night.
Kelly said last week he would approach the Bears game the same regardless of the circumstances. That was the right message for him to send, and it resounded with his players.
“As far as I'm concerned, destiny starts this week,” cornerback Cary Williams said. “Secure the win and then we'll go about destiny later on. I've been in the playoffs my whole career in the National Football League. If we take care of what we have to take care of, destiny will be right there.”
But now that the circumstances are known, it will be fascinating to see what Kelly actually does. He could hold a few key players out, including quarterback Nick Foles, running back LeSean McCoy and perhaps left tackle Jason Peters. He could start everyone and take some players out after halftime.
Or he could simply do what he said he would and go all-out to win the game against Chicago. In the wake of their ugly 48-30 loss in Minnesota last week, Kelly's team could use a bounce-back performance.
The game isn't entirely meaningless to the Eagles. It could affect whether the NFC East winner is the No. 3 or No. 4 seed, which would determine the first-round opponent.
The game is of paramount importance to the Bears, who are locked in a three-way race with Green Bay and Detroit in the NFC North.
But Kelly must weigh those possible benefits against the risk of losing a key player for what amounts to a playoff game against the Cowboys next Sunday.