The NFL schedule makers must have a sense of theater when they piece together the slate each year in an effort to create fantastic television.
The Cowboys, just 17 days since their first meeting with the Philadelphia, now have a chance to make amends for their worst showing of the year.
The Eagles have long been the worthiest of adversaries, and now the teams meet with the possibility of the winner gaining a top seed and a bye week in the playoffs, while the loser could miss the playoffs altogether despite a double-digit win total.
Chip Kelly’s side had an advantage in nearly every possible category on Thanksgiving, and now they try to complete the sweep against their most hated rivals. Here are some of the Eagles who jump off the screen when you watch them closely:
LB Mychal Kendricks
Before the 2013 season, as the Cowboys were changing schemes from the 3-4 defense to the 4-3, the Eagles were switching in just the opposite direction. The transition of players such as Kendricks has made it work, as his high activity rate, ability to be effective against the run and the inside blitz, and general aggressive play all demonstrate his quality.
Kendricks was selected in the second round of the 2012 draft with the 46th overall pick. The Cowboys had sent the 14th and 45th picks to St. Louis so they could pick Morris Claiborne at No. 6.
The No. 45 pick turned out to be wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Kendricks was chosen next, then Seattle took linebacker Bobby Wagner. That demonstrated the folly of trading away multiple top 50 picks.
Kendricks has had to take on more responsibility after the devastating Achilles injury to DeMeco Ryans six weeks ago.
DE Fletcher Cox
Speaking of the 2012 draft, there is no question that the Cowboys were targeting Cox to solidify their defensive front before they became taken with Claiborne and traded all the way up to get the corner from LSU.
The Eagles planned on trading past Dallas to get Cox, determined to land the versatile lineman from Mississippi State. Cox is young — he turned 24 Saturday — and is already a difficult force to handle.
Cox generally destroys zone stretch plays by staying square to the line and pushing his man back, before dispensing with his strength and quickness in either direction and often making the play on the ball carrier himself. His motor is incredible, and he is only getting better.
Cox was a major reason that the Eagles handled the Cowboys’ rushing attack in Week 13 without stacking the box. Ron Leary’s performance against Cox will determine plenty this evening.
WR Jeremy Maclin
It was once assumed with relative certainty that Maclin was the beneficiary of the exit of DeSean Jackson from Philadelphia, and that Maclin would then be locked down contractually for several years to come.
However, efforts from the club to sign him to a five-year deal have been refused, and Maclin appears ready to test free agency this spring. Maclin has responded after missing 2013 with a knee injury with a campaign that is statistically superior in nearly every category to Dez Bryant.
He runs the full route tree, but his quarterback situation has made horizontal screen passes much more frequent than verticals.
Maclin’s quickness causes more missed tackles than anyone else in the Eagles’ receiving group, and his huge catch for 58 yards paved the way for the rout in Arlington.