Tuesday, December 29, 2009 Updated: December 30, 2:31 PM ET
Cowboys can win for losing to Eagles
By Matt Mosley ESPN.com
I've spent the past 24 hours analyzing every potential playoff scenario for the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Conventional wisdom suggests that it would be helpful for the Cowboys to beat the Eagles on Sunday, thus securing a home game in the wild-card round of the playoffs.
The only problem with that scenario is that the Cowboys probably would host the Eagles again the very next weekend. As we discovered in 2007, it's not easy to beat a division opponent three teams in one season -- especially a talented team such as the Eagles.
With the Minnesota Vikings' loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday, the Eagles have even more incentive to beat the Cowboys. A win over Dallas would secure the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye for Philly. The Cowboys also have a chance at the No. 2 seed, but they need too many things to happen for us to worry about that scenario.
So here's where I'm headed with this. I think the Cowboys might be better off losing to the Eagles on Sunday and taking their chances in Glendale, Ariz., or Minneapolis in the first round of the playoffs. I think the Cowboys might be a better all-around team than the Eagles because of their superior defense, but beating the Eagles two straight weeks seems like a stretch to me.
It's not as if teams that win their final regular-season games have some type of huge advantage in the playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals limped down the stretch in 2008, then caught fire on their way to the Super Bowl. The New York Giants used a regular-season loss to the New England Patriots in '07 to jump-start their Super Bowl run.
An NFC East division title is nice, but you'd trade it in a heartbeat for just one win in the playoffs, wouldn't you? I'm not suggesting the Cowboys should go belly-up like they did at the Linc in Week 17 last season, but let's not pretend this is some type of do-or-die situation.
For selfish reasons -- I like sleeping in my own bed -- I'm rooting for the back-to-back scenario with the Eagles. And I know Jerry Jones and Cowboys fans would love to have another home game. But something tells me that playing the Eagles on consecutive weekends is a recipe for disaster for this team.
For starters, Philly has had plenty of success in the playoffs in the past decade. This Dallas franchise has gone 13 years without a playoff win. The Eagles won road playoff games in Minneapolis and East Rutherford, N.J., last season, so they're not going to feel a lot of pressure.
That's why I think it might not be an awful thing for Dallas to play well and lose Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. This team plays well on the road (see Philly and New Orleans), so there would be no fear in playing the Cardinals or the Vikings. Of course, the better scenario would have the Cowboys hosting the Green Bay Packers at Cowboys Stadium. Even when they had Brett Favre, the Packers couldn't beat the Cowboys at Texas Stadium. And I think Dallas would have the payback factor going for it based on a 17-7 loss to Green Bay this season.
My point is that you shouldn't be devastated if the Cowboys lose Sunday. It could be the best thing that could happen to them.
In other news
For those of you who've never been sequestered in an electrical closet/press room during a Lubbock winter, it's not a particularly pleasant experience. From the minute I heard that the player involved in the dispute with Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach was Adam James, I felt like Leach's days in Lubbock were numbered.
It would be somewhat surprising if Mike Leach stayed on at Texas Tech.
We've celebrated Leach for his quirky behavior over the years, but his suspension for allegedly ordering James to be held in an elaborate electrical closet takes things to a different level. Leach's attorney is implying that his client acted in James' best interest in placing him in a cool, dark area while he recovered from a mild concussion.
But to me, it sounds as if Leach was mocking the player for not being willing to practice. That sort of old-school mentality might have worked with Bear Bryant and the Junction Boys, but it doesn't fly at a time when we know how serious brain injuries can be. Leach went through a contentious contract negotiation with the university this past offseason. And he should know there are people in high places at Tech who don't need much of a reason to send him packing. (Update: Guess not, they did.)
Leach could not have picked a worse player on the team to do this to, either. He knows that James' father, Craig, is a former NFL running back and current ESPN college football analyst. Knowing that, he shouldn't be surprised that a complaint filed by James resulted in his suspension. I'm afraid Leach will need more than a good attorney in this situation. He has turned Tech into a nationally recognized program, but he has ruffled some feathers along the way. At this point, I'll be somewhat surprised if Leach keeps his job. (Update: He didn't.)
Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.