The Dallas Cowboys know exactly what’s at stake Sunday. To that end, they are pushing their chips to the middle of the table.
The postseason, as far as the Cowboys are concerned, begins in Philadelphia.
“I just feel that it’s like a playoff game,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Wednesday as league meetings wrapped up at the Four Seasons Resort. “It’s almost one of those that you have to win. I know you can do some math, and it isn’t necessarily that, but I certainly feel like every player, every coach has to do our very best out there.”
The Cowboys lost a win-or-go-home, Week 17 game against the Eagles last season, falling 24-22 without their starting quarterback. Jones insists they are a better team now than they were last Dec. 29 when Tony Romo sat out with a herniated disk that required surgery.
“I think we’re better [in the] offensive line,” Jones said. “I think we have more continuity, better prepared over on defense. I think Tony is in better shape to meet the challenge of these last three ballgames than he has been, and I’m talking physically. So when you add all of those things up, again, we’re playing a better Philadelphia Eagle team than we did last year, but I think we’ve got a chance and will benefit in this game from the game we had against them on Thanksgiving.”
According to FiveThiryEightSports, the Cowboys’ playoff chances rise to 84 percent with a victory but fall to 36 percent with a loss. The Eagles are given a 96 percent probability to win the division with a victory over the Cowboys, which would give Philadelphia a sweep of the season series after its 33-10 win at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving.
“This is as big as it gets,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “Certainly, I know it will be for the Eagles and for us as well, a playoff-type of game. There’s a lot at stake. Both teams right now control their own destiny.
“… They’re a really, really good football team as we well know. They got a hold of us there real good on Thanksgiving. But I’m convinced our team can play better and know we will, and hopefully we get the results we want.”
Victories in the final three games guarantee the Cowboys the division title and their first postseason berth since 2009. But a loss in any of their remaining games leaves the Cowboys needing help.
Dallas conceivably could reach 11 victories and still see its season end without a playoff game. That has happened only twice in the NFL, including only once under the current 12-team playoff format that began in 1990. The 2008 New England Patriots went 11-5 and missed the postseason.
Jerry Jones said the Cowboys have the mindset that they have to win out.
“Every down, every possession, every first down has Super Bowl meaning to it, as though you were in the Super Bowl game itself,” Jones said when asked about DeMarco Murray’s workload in the stretch run.
“We’re not saving anything for anything.”
Staff writer Clarence Hill contributed to this report.