Two years ago, neither the Dallas Cowboys nor Philadelphia Eagles were in the playoffs.
In Dallas, the Cowboys were scrambling to recover from a 4-12 year in which they lost their franchise quarterback twice in the same season. They were slated to pick fourth overall, and whispers around the league about their interest in drafting a quarterback were growing louder.
In Philadelphia, they were headed for a total regime change. After a disappointing 2015 season which ended in them firing head coach Chip Kelly, the Eagles were also in the market for a quarterback. They decided to trade up in the draft and jump ahead of the Cowboys to select second overall.
With that pick they drafted North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, while the Cowboys hung tight at fourth overall and took running back Ezekiel Elliott. Philly had found their franchise quarterback, and with a solid defense already in place they looked to take a jump in the standings quickly.
Where this gets really interesting, however, is in the fourth round, where Dallas found their franchise quarterback and answer to Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott.
In their rookie seasons, Prescott won round one. Winning both the Rookie of the Year and defeating Wentz in the only meaningful Cowboys/Eagles game of 2016, Prescott and the Cowboys ran away with the NFC East and a first round bye.
Fast forward to this week. Wentz and the Eagles 8-1, Prescott and the Cowboys a somewhat disappointing 5-4. Though the division really isn’t in play for the Cowboys this season, a playoff birth is not anywhere out of the question.
Where a year ago Philadelphia fans could point to Prescott’s supporting cast as a reason for his better play, this season is the opposite. The Eagles are clearly the better football team at this point, but Prescott has been on par with, if not better than, Wentz throughout the season.
This Sunday night is the second episode of what looks like will be a yearly saga. Dak vs. Wentz. Cowboys vs. Eagles. The teams which figure to be the best teams in the NFC East for years to come, and the teams which should be competing for conference supremacy as well.
The Eagles are here to say, but so are the Cowboys. Though Dallas is injury-ridden and missing their most dangerous offensive weapon, this is still the biggest game of the weekend.
And as long as Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz are at the helm of these two franchises, the hated rivalry will be the most important in the entire NFL.