How ESPN Ensured the Cowboys and Eagles Will Make Unprecedented NFL History in Week 18

Article Highlights:

  • The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles will make Monday Night Football history in Week 18
  • The two teams are playing one another on MNF for the second time this season, a first since the event moved to ESPN
  • The playoff-bound Cowboys and Eagles still have plenty to play for in the season finale

Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles fans have plenty to be happy about entering Week 18. Both teams officially own playoff spots — the Cowboys are currently the NFC’s No. 4 seed, and the Eagles are No. 7 — ahead of a pivotal clash in the regular-season finale.

Regardless of what happens this weekend, the Cowboys and Eagles are guaranteed to make NFL history in the process, and they have ESPN (and ABC) to thank.

The Eagles and Cowboys will make NFL history on ‘Monday Night Football’ in Week 18

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott runs against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2021.
Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys will make NFL history in Week 18 | Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

When the NFL officially introduced the 18-game season earlier this year, the league also gave ESPN three additional Monday Night Football games. Well, it’s three games under the MNF banner; only one, the Week 17 showdown between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, actually occur on a Monday night.

The other two games are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 8, and will officially kick off the regular season’s 18th and final week. The Denver Broncos (7-9) will host the Kansas City Chiefs (11-5) at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, ABC, and ESPN+. Later that night, the 9-7 Eagles welcome the 11-5 Cowboys to Lincoln Financial Field.

The Saturday night contest is especially intriguing because, according to NBC Sports, it will mark the first time both games of an intradivisional showdown will be played on Monday Night Football twice in the same season since ESPN acquired the rights in 2006.

Longtime Sunday Night Football viewers are familiar with this concept. NBC’s ability to flex games often meant that two teams, such as the Cowboys and New York Giants, played one another twice on SNF in a single season.

In the first meeting on Monday, Sept. 27, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-21 Cowboys victory. Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts totaled 361 yards (326 passing, 35 rushing) and two passing touchdowns in the loss.

Both teams have plenty to play for despite having already clinched playoff berths

In theory, Week 18 doesn’t mean much for the Cowboys and Eagles. Both teams already have a playoff spot locked up, and they can’t change their fates; Dallas won the NFC East, and Philadelphia reached the postseason as a wild-card team. 

However, each team can improve its playoff seed, and Dallas, coupled with a win and some help, could even clinch the NFC’s No. 2 seed. Unfortunately for Dallas, the No. 2 seed wouldn’t give them a first-round bye. 

As for the Eagles, Nick Sirianni’s team could clinch the No. 6 seed with a victory and the San Francisco 49ers losing or tying. If the Eagles lose or tie, they would be locked into the No. 7 seed unless the 49ers lose to the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

The odds might be against the Eagles and Cowboys squaring off in the NFC Wild Card Round

Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles faced the Dallas Cowboys in September 2021.
Will Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18? | Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

NFL Playoff Picture: How Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers Can Clinch an AFC Wild Card Berth in Week 18

If the 2021 NFL season ended today, the Eagles would play at the Rams, and the Cowboys would host Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals in the Wild Card Round. Although the Eagles didn’t play the Rams this year, Murray threw two touchdowns in a 25-22 victory over the Cowboys on Sunday, Jan. 2.

The Cowboys and Eagles can only play one another if Dallas wins and the Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (home against the Carolina Panthers) each lose. The Cardinals can either tie with or lose to the Seattle Seahawks.

That outcome, coupled with the 49ers winning on Sunday, would give Dallas the No. 2 seed and Philadelphia the No. 7 seed. The Eagles would also get the No. 7 seed with a loss and the Saints losing or tying.

Dallas hasn’t played Philadelphia in the postseason since the 2009 NFC Wild Card Round. Tony Romo threw two touchdowns, including one to Pro Bowl receiver Miles Austin, and the Cowboys won, 34-14, on Jan. 9, 2010.

Before either team can plan for the playoffs and the Cowboys have a chance to get the better of the Eagles once again, they need to take care of business on Saturday night first.

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