First place in the NFC East is at stake when the Eagles and Cowboys play Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in a battle of 3-3 teams.
As if anyone in Philadelphia or Dallas needed reminding, Eagles coach Doug Pederson spelled it out with feeling during a radio interview on 94WIP radio Monday that rattled some cages.
“We’re going down to Dallas and our guys are gonna be ready to play … and we’re gonna win that football game, and when we do, we’re in first place in the NFC East,’’ Pederson said.
A day later, fearful he’d served up free bulletin-board material for the reeling Cowboys, losers of three in a row after a 3-0 start, Pederson backpedaled.
“Can I just clear something up real quick,’’ Pederson said to Philadelphia reporters. “I never used the term or the word ‘guarantee.’ To me, all I was doing was showing confidence in my football team. There comes a point, especially here in Philadelphia, you lose a game or two and everybody feels like everything is caving in on the football team.
“For me, it was about standing up and taking ownership where we are as a football team. We’re 3-3, and it hasn’t been perfect.’’
For the most part, in the aftermath of Pederson’s radio-muscles rant, the Cowboys acted as if they could not have cared less about whatever the Eagles coach said.
“We’re excited for the challenge,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett told reporters.
“I don’t really think it matters what he said and whenever he said it,” Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “What matters is what we go do on Sunday.”
Nose tackle Antwaun Woods however, sounded a little saltier about Pederson’s words, telling reporters in Dallas, “It’s easy for him to say in a little press conference, in an air-conditioned room. At the end of the day, he can’t go out there and play for his [well] team. We’ll just see how it be when it’s time to put the hand in the dirt on Sunday.”
Interestingly, on the same day Pederson did that radio interview, the Eagles cut linebacker Zach Brown, a transaction some tied to Brown calling Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins “the weakest part of their offense” before the Vikings beat the Eagles handily last Sunday.
A double standard? No one in Philadelphia will say.
What is clear though, is the Eagles and Cowboys are struggling, playing below their preseason expectations, and Sunday night’s result figures to be pivotal to both teams’ division title hopes.
Either the Cowboys (11) or Eagles (eight) have won 19 of the past 27 NFC East titles. Dallas, which swept the season series between the two teams last season, won the NFC East in 2018.
“We know they don’t like us,’’ Cowboys tight end Blake Jarwin said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “There will be a lot of energy in the stadium.’’
And Pederson’s words undoubtedly will have fueled at least some of that energy — from the fans and the Cowboys.