When the schedule was released last Spring, every Cowboys fan circled their week 16 game on the calendar.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles. Late December. Playoff births on the line. Right?
Heading into the season, these two teams were expected to carry the NFC East mantle. They were seen as the class of the division, and potentially two of the top contenders for the entire NFC. Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz would have another chance to add a chapter to their rivalry, and the Cowboys would look for revenge for last year's week 16 defacto division title game in Philadelphia.
Things have not gone as planned for either of these football teams in 2020. The Cowboys, of course, have fallen victim to some of the worst injury luck in recent memory. Prescott, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, and Zack Martin headline an IR which tallies close to $60 million in contract value. They sit at 5-9, though they have won three of their last five games with quarterback Andy Dalton back at the helm.
The Eagles have suffered some big time injuries as well, but their problems stem from serious regression at the quarterback position. Benched is Carson Wentz, and the second round rookie standout Jalen Hurts gets his first crack at this storied rivalry.
Despite all of the problems, struggles, and injuries these teams have faced (and despite their putrid records) this week 16 game still has playoff implications. The loser of this game is eliminated from the NFC East race, while the winner needs help from the Carolina Panthers to stay alive.
If Dallas were to win and Washington were to lose, it would tie them atop the NFC East heading into the final week of the season. Of course, Washington swept the Cowboys this year, meaning they'll need further help from the rival Eagles in week 17 to sneak into the postseason.
It's a longshot. A real longshot. But 2020 has been the strangest of years, and the Cowboys first need to take care of business in this strange rivalry game.
This isn't how we envisioned it at all back in August, but Sunday's game between the Cowboys and Eagles remains important.