What Hurts’ Return Means for Cowboys


Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts | Image by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is nearing a return to the field, and it could directly impact the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff seeding.

Hurts has missed Philadelphia’s last two games — with the Eagles dropping both — but he is expected to return for the regular-season finale against the New York Giants this weekend.

His return could directly impact the Cowboys’ playoff seeding, which has yet to be finalized.

The Cowboys have clinched a playoff berth and now own the first wildcard spot in the NFC. That means they would go on the road to play the worst division winner, Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in the wild-card round.

However, Dallas can still move up depending on the results of the Philadelphia and San Francisco 49ers games this weekend.

Philadelphia holds the No.1 seed in the NFC with a 13-3 record, with San Francisco and Dallas both on its heels at 12-4. That means Dallas or San Francisco can steal the No.1 seed with a win if Philadelphia loses.

The Eagles can wrap up the NFC East and the top seed in the conference by beating the Giants.

Since the injury to Hurts, the Eagles have lost to the Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. Gardner Minshew has been playing in his place but has been inconsistent.

While the passing yardage has been sustainable, he does not present the same running threat as Hurts. He has made some poor decisions at crucial points, and the offense is not as efficient.

Late in the Week 16 meeting with Dallas, he threw an interception that led to the Cowboys taking the lead in the fourth quarter. Then, on Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, he threw a pick-six that clinched a New Orleans win.

With Hurts on the field, the Eagles are 13-1 this season, and the offense averages 28.9 points per game. While his two-game absence provides a small sample size, that production has dropped to 18.5 points per game over that stretch.

“Jalen has been playing obviously really good football the entire year, and he’s one of our better players,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s a leader of our football team. Obviously, it would be good to have him back just because of the type of person and the type of leader he is.”

Meanwhile, San Francisco has won nine games in a row — the longest winning streak in the NFL.

If the Eagles lose, the Cowboys will need the 49ers’ streak to be snapped by the Arizona Cardinals because San Francisco currently holds the tiebreaker over Dallas with a better record against NFC opponents. Otherwise, San Francisco would earn the top seed.

The Cowboys have played their way back into the divisional race with wins over the Minshew-led Eagles and the Tennessee Titans over the past two weeks. One more win could bring a divisional championship and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

However, other factors are still in play, and the return of Jalen Hurts gets Philadelphia back to full strength at a critical time.

There is also a chance that the Giants will rest their starters against the Eagles since they are locked into the No.6 seed in the playoffs whether they win or lose, which could make things easier for the Eagles.

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