Schedule, predictions, key matchups

Kevin Kolb will lead the Eagles against the Cowboys today at the Linc. (David Maialetti/Staff Photographer)

The playoff schedule for next weekend's wild-card games will be announced tonight, the NFL said.

The league also could announce the schedule for the Divisional Playoff weekend tonight, although there is a possibility that won't come until Monday.

On paper, we'd say the Eagles game will be Saturday in prime time on NBC. An Eagles-Packers or Eagles-Giants matchup would do huge ratings; NBC has shown plenty of love for Michael Vick; and the alternative would be a second consecutive weekend with either St. Louis or Seattle in prime time.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King, however, is guessing the Eagles will play the late Sunday game. His view is that Fox only has one slot for the weekend and sticking them with the Seahawks or Rams would be unfair, in an effort to make things equal for each of the league's broadcast partners. NBC could have the Seahawks/Rams and still have a good AFC matchup on Saturday.

A quick note about the playoffs: For the 15th consecutive year, at least five of the 12 playoff teams will be teams that were not in the postseason the previous season -- Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas city and Pittsburgh were not in the playoffs last year. Of the five teams still in contention for the two remaining spots -- St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Giants -- four were not in the postseason in 2009.


Dunno how many starters will play. Very much doubt we'll see Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson or Asante Samuel, since all have injuries that could use healing time. But I think a pretty good number of starters will play at least some, for the simple reason this is not the preseason - only 45 players will be active, so it would be hard to avoid playing some starters. For whoever plays, the emphasis must be on sharpening up, showing some crispness and not making what Andy Reid referred to as "beginning of the year" mistakes.

The Cowboys have been playing for nothing (except maybe Jason Garrett) for a while now, and they've done a decent job. This certainly could be an Eagles loss. But I really do think that would damage a young team heading into the playoffs, which is why I have this maybe naïve idea that Kevin Kolb and Riley Cooper and the rest will find a way to win.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 23.

This is the third straight Week 17 meeting between the teams. The last 2 years, the game had playoff implications. This year, the 10-5 Eagles are locked in as the NFC's No. 3 seed regardless of how things go down Sunday.

Their plan is to play as few players who matter as possible and get out without any more injuries. Think Game 4 of the preseason, only with a hoodie and parka on. The Cowboys' top priority is to get the game over quickly and go home.

Picking a winner in this one is like trying to pick a winner in a preseason game. Only difference, one team will play all of its starters and the other won't.

While the Eagles have a significant edge at quarterback with Kevin Kolb, they had a significant edge there Tuesday night, and that didn't matter much.

Interim coach Jason Garrett still has hopes of being the head coach in 2011, so he will approach this game as if it means something, even if most of his players don't. That means he will play to win.

Cowboys 24, Eagles 20 


Barkowitz: Eagles, 24-20

Bill Conlin: Cowboys, 27-24

Marcus Hayes: Cowboys, 30-21

John Smallwood: Eagles, 27-17

Vegas Vic: Eagles, 28-26


Predictions from members of the Dallas Morning News sports staff:

Tim Cowlishaw: Cowboys, 26-21
The Kolb-McGee match that made more sense in August arrives in January. Team McGee wins.

Gerry Fraley: Eagles, 27-17
Eagles' No. 2 quarterback is better than Cowboys' No. 3 quarterback.

Rick Gosselin: Eagles, 24-20
This season can't end soon enough for the Cowboys.

David Moore: Eagles, 21-17
The season ends today? I thought it ended in Green Bay back in early November.

Bill Nichols: Cowboys, 28-24
No way the Cowboys get caught looking past the Eagles.


Rainer Sabin: Eagles, 21-20
Everything has gone wrong for the Cowboys this season. Why would the season finale be any different? No surprise endings here.

Kevin Sherrington: Cowboys, 17-14
And so comes to an end the most disappointing season in Cowboys history. Good riddance.

Jean-Jacques Taylor: Eagles, 28-17
Stephen McGee does a solid job, but it's the same old story on defense and special teams.



Eagles RDT Antonio Dixon vs. Cowboys LG Kyle Kosier. Dixon has been a major reason for the Eagles' improved play against the run this season. He's hard to budge and gets penetration. Advantage: Eagles

Eagles MLB Jamar Chaney vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Witten leads all NFL TEs with 90 receptions. Chaney, a rookie, still is feeling his way with pro pass-coverage responsibilities. Advantage: Cowboys

Eagles QB Kevin Kolb vs. Cowboys S's Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh. Neither Ball nor Sensabaugh is very good in coverage. If Kolb gets time to throw, he should be able to attack them. Advantage: Eagles


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