Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cowboys can win for losing to Eagles

By Matt Mosley

Hear me out: Defeat in season finale to Philly could be a catalyst for playoff success

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.