ARLINGTON, Texas — Almost completely out of character for Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner has publicly expressed fear about facing Philadelphia again after what happened earlier this season.
Dallas (8-6) is the only team that doesn't need help to win the NFC East, and the outcome of the game may end up having no effect at all on who does.
Star-studded Philadelphia, anointed by many in the preseason as a team with Super Bowl expectations and sure to defend its division title, now harbors only long-shot playoff chances that could be gone before kickoff at Cowboys Stadium on the afternoon of Christmas Eve.
Since the Eagles (6-8) failed to parlay an impressive 34-7 victory over Dallas nearly two months ago into something much more significant, they would be eliminated from postseason contention if the New York Giants beat the Jets earlier in the day.
"I don't worry about it," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "If you let all that other garbage get in the way, then you don't go through the process of preparing for the Dallas Cowboys. ... And if you worry about all that other stuff, that doesn't help you. You can't control that."
Despite any possible anxiety by Jones, who later characterized his feelings as an exciting time that "carries with it all the emotion of what's at stake for us," there is another strange twist if the Giants (7-7) win.
Not only would the Eagles' playoff hopes be officially dashed, likely changing their entire demeanor, the outcome of the game for Dallas would be rendered meaningless in determining the NFC East title. The division champion would then be the winner of the regular-season finale between the Cowboys and Giants.
"We're focused on playing our best game against Philadelphia, and we won't really get emotionally involved in that (Giants-Jets) game," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.