When the Eagles lost to the Vikings on Tuesday night the season finale between Dallas and Philadelphia essentially became a meaningless game. Philadelphia is locked into the #3 seed in the NFC no matter the outcome of their game with the Cowboys on Sunday. Think back to the season finale a year ago and you can see just how far the Cowboys have fallen in 12 months. So what is left to watch for on Sunday?
First and most importantly in my mind is how the Cowboys approach the game. I'm talking about attitude and focus. The focus should have already started now if Jason Garrett is doing his job. But you can always tell how a team has prepared throughout the week by how they perform on the field. If the Cowboys come out fired up and scratch and claw for four quarters like they have for the last seven games then you know that Jason Garrett found a way to motivate his team for a glorified pre-season game.
Although I still believe that Jerry Jones has already decided to keep Jason Garrett permanently Garrett needs to keep the team playing hard and focused to win over his critics. And there are still a lot of them. It would be hard to argue with a 5-3 finish down the stretch with a team with nothing to play for facing what was probably the most difficult schedule in the NFL.
Stephen McGee will get his shot to prove that the Cardinal game was no fluke. The Cowboys really need to know if McGee can be a long term answer at backup quarterback. I'm sure he will still be given a scaled back game plan but he still needs to play within himself and execute the plays he is given.
Jason Witten has a shot at 100 receptions on the year. I know the old saying is statistics are for losers. Well, the Cowboys are losers this year. So I am worried about statistics. 100 receptions for a tight end is a rare feat. With 10 catches on Sunday Witten will reach that mile stone. I would love to see him add that item to his ever-growing hall of fame resume.
You might be watching several players for the last time in a Cowboys uniform. I mean guys like Marion Barber, Leonard Davis, Roy Williams, Alan Ball, Gerald Sensabaugh, David Beuhler, and several others. I'm not saying that none of these players will be back next year. Many of them will be here in 2011. But you can be sure that at least a few of them won't be on the roster next season.
I would like to say I want to see improvement from the defense but is there really a reason for that at this point in the season? We all know there will be new players and probably a new 3-4 philosophy next season so it is hard to get excited for the defense. But you still have to hope for a solid performance by the defense because the Cowboys have no chance if Vick plays the whole game and the defense lays down.
I really hope DeSean Jackson doesn't sit out the game. I would love to see someone on the defense or the punt coverage team light him up. Jackson's antics have crossed the line on multiple occasions in his short career. Maybe someone can finally put him in his place.
There is a good chance the Eagles will be sitting a lot of their key players or at least limiting the playing time of their starters. I don't expect the Cowboys to follow suit. If the Eagles roll out a team of backups then a loss would be an embarrassment for the Cowboys. But I just can't see the Cowboys laying down now that Jason Garrett is in command.
When all is said and done I expect the Cowboys to win. Not because I believe they are the better team. I think they'll win because the Eagles are going to be shutting it down at some point in the game. The playing time for most of the Eagles key starters will be limited at best. And many of the Cowboys are playing for their spot on the team next season. I predict a 24-14 victory for the Cowboys.