Arguably the best player on the Philadelphia Eagles' roster, Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox, has been missing from practices this week with a neck injury. His potential absence could be a huge factor in this Sunday's Week 16 matchup between Philly and the Dallas Cowboys.
Cox has been a DNP for the last two Eagles' practices with “neck/rest” as the official reason. The veteran, who was just recently named to his sixth-straight Pro Bowl, has not yet been given an official status for this week's game.
For the Cowboys, who are down to just one original starter on their offensive line, not having to go against Cox could be a major boon to their goal of sneaking back into the NFC East lead.
DNP: Fletcher Cox (neck), Richard Rodgers (ankle), Kevon Seymour (knee), Josh Sweat (wrist)
LIMITED: Cameron Johnston (concussion), Jalen Reagor (ankle), Duke Riley (bicep)
FULL: Grayland Arnold (hamstring), Jason Huntley (illness), CB Darius Slay (concussion)
— Zach Berman (@ZBerm) December 24, 2020
In the past Dallas has always had Zack Martin at guard to help keep Fletcher Cox at bay, but their own perennial Pro Bowler is currently on injured reserve from a calf issue. He has served the mandatory three-game minimum on IR but has not been reactivated yet.
The Cowboys are still capable of making the playoffs by catchup with Washington in the NFC East. They will need to win their final two games and have the Football Team lose out to overtake them.
This lingering playoff potential gives Dallas reason to keep fighting but is also reality for the Eagles. They can also overtake Washington by winning out, which would include a victory next week over the Football Team in their regular-season finale. They, like Dallas, would also need Washington to lose this Sunday against Carolina.
Even with the postseason to play for the Eagles may not be willing to risk Fletcher Cox's long-term health. He's the centerpiece of their defense and there's still a lot of dead money left on his contract.
That would be welcome news for all of the Cowboys' offensive linemen and especially backup guard Connor McGovern, who has had very little playing time and would likely have more than he could handle from Cox.
Of course, veterans like Fletcher don't need practice time to have a positive impact on the field. He could miss every practice this week and still play on Sunday. But with the issue involving his neck, Cox may not be as cavalier about playing as he might with a different injury.
No matter who's on the field this Sunday the rivalry between the Cowboys and Eagles and the remaining playoff hopes for both teams should make for a compelling game. We'll see if Fletcher Cox is able to play and what impact his presence, or lack thereof, has on the Cowboys offense.
[EDITOR NOTE: This article previously included an erroneous statement that the Eagles had already been eliminated from the playoffs. It has been revised.]