By now, you probably know the background here.
The Eagles, who are 8-6 and lead the second-place Dallas Cowboys by one game in the NFC East standings, play the Chicago Bears on NBC's Sunday Night Football at 8:30. The Cowboys, who hold head-to-head and intradivisional tiebreakers over the Eagles, play the lowly Washington Redskins at 1.
Then, on Dec. 29, the Eagles and Cowboys finish their regular seasons against each other in Arlington, Texas. So thanks to that interesting bit of scheduling and circumstance, the Eagles have a game Sunday that may mean a lot to them or that may end up not meaning very much at all.
We pride ourselves on keeping our readers informed on all the potential ramifications of even the smallest development in the world of Philadelphia sports. Based on the results of these two games, there are four possible scenarios Sunday. To that end, here's a handy guide on what to expect, depending on which of the four plays out:
Scenario 1: The Cowboys beat the Redskins, and the Eagles lose to the Bears.
A Dallas victory over the Redskins makes the Bears game meaningless to the Eagles with respect to their winning the NFC East; they'd still have to beat the Cowboys. A loss to the Bears (8-6), then, would be disappointing, but neither season-changing nor all that surprising.
Chicago leads the NFC in points scored, and quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, and the Bears' wide receivers pose the greatest challenge to the Eagles' defense since Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos tore the unit apart in Week 4. On a scale measuring the Delaware Valley's collective terror over the total destruction of the Eagles' playoff hopes, Scenario 1 is DEFCON 5.
Scenario 2: The Cowboys lose to the Redskins, and the Eagles lose to the Bears.
Welcome to DEFCON 1. The Cowboys choke again, lose to a backup quarterback for the second straight week (Matt Flynn then, Kirk Cousins now), fail to take care of business against the disarray-riddled Redskins, hand the Eagles an opportunity to clinch a division title and a postseason berth . . . and the Eagles squander it? Mercy.
Sports radio would demand Chip Kelly be fired. Ed Rendell would call Nick Foles a wuss. In other words, panic. Complete panic.
Scenario 3: The Cowboys beat the Redskins, and the Eagles beat the Bears.
This wouldn't be the ideal outcome for the Eagles and their fans, but it would be acceptable. The Eagles would rinse away the aftertaste of that loss to Minnesota last Sunday, and they could still win the division and eliminate the Cowboys from postseason contention the following week - a double helping of satisfaction.
Also, as in Scenario 1, if the Cowboys do beat the Redskins, a question that media and fans have batted around all week is sure to come up: Should Kelly remove any injury risk from his most important players and sit the Eagles' starters against the Bears? The answer, of course, is no - but not because the Eagles need to maintain momentum or because they aren't good enough to rest their starters one week and beat the Cowboys the next or because the Bears have the NFL's worst rushing defense and LeSean McCoy is on your fantasy team and WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHADY'S NOT PLAYING CHIP KELLY YOU CAN'T DO THIS TO ME?
No, Kelly should play his starters because if he doesn't, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus will make sure Jeffrey Lurie gets a lousy table at Victoria and Albert's in Orlando during next year's owners meetings, and at halftime Bob Costas will deliver a six-minute monologue on how we could restore integrity to sports if we just cracked down on performance-enhancing drugs and did away with the designated hitter and passed more gun-control laws, and no one wants that.
Scenario 4: The Cowboys lose to the Redskins, and the Eagles beat the Bears.
What would happen in this scenario? Exactly what you think would happen. Sports radio would demand Kelly be elected mayor, and Rendell would call Dick Butkus a wuss. The Christmas lights at Macy's would shine brighter. The eggnog would taste sweeter. And two weeks later, Drew Brees would throw half a dozen touchdown passes at Lincoln Financial Field, and college basketball season would officially begin.