The Dallas Cowboys don't have to win today to become the 2019 NFC East Champions. But given the current health issues for several key players, especially Quarterback Dak Prescott, it would behoove Dallas to beat the Eagles and clinch the division today. It would allow them to use the finale against the Redskins as a much-needed week of rest and recovery.
We can debate plenty on the value of rest versus maintaining momentum and rhythm. Some top-seeded teams would rather not have that bye week for that very reason.
But right now the Cowboys are dealing with an injury to Prescott's throwing shoulder, injuries to three of their four best linebackers, wear-and-tear on Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, and plenty of other guys who would benefit from some reduced usage before the playoffs.
If the Cowboys were to fall in Philadelphia today, they could still win the NFC East next week by beating Washington and seeing the Eagles lose to the Giants. Dallas would then get the division title thanks to a superior record in NFC East games.
Obviously we don't want to be reliant on that scenario, particularly the Giants having to beat the Eagles. A win this week secures our first-round playoff home game and allows an extra week to prepare for whichever eventual wild card may come our way.
Getting to rest some players in Week 17 would be a small bonus comparatively, but one the Cowboys shouldn't take for granted.
Sure, Dak's shoulder might be feeling fine by the time the Redskins show up in Dallas next week. But we all know that one bad hit could reaggravate the injury or perhaps do even greater damage.
To put it another way, would you rather have Cooper Rush starting in Week 17 or in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs?
No, this isn't the biggest reason that the Cowboys should win today. Aside from just winning the division and earning a playoff spot, the morale boost of two-straight victories in “must win” situations is greatly needed throughout this organization.
But if Dallas is going to make a miracle run to the NFC Championship Game or beyond in 2019, they will need healthy star players to get it done. Winning today gives the Cowboys the power to use Week 17 in whatever way is in the best interests of the postseason; added incentive to go get the job done in Philadelphia.