PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott prefer playing over resting.
Staying healthy — not winning — is the top priority for the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys (13-2) when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles (6-9) on Sunday because they already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.
Don’t tell their two dynamic rookies this game doesn’t matter.
“No game is meaningless,” Prescott said. “There’s quality reps against a quality team that’s in our division that we’ll play for years to come. Any reps I can get against a good team to make myself better and get some momentum going into the playoffs, I’ll take it.”
Elliott needs 178 yards to break Eric Dickerson’s rookie record. There’s no chance coach Jason Garrett gives him enough carries, if any, to reach that mark.
“Everything is meaningful, even though it may not matter if we win or lose,” Elliott said. “We’re trying to stay sharp, trying to have a sharp edge every week so we can go into this playoffs like a high-octane machine. We’re not taking weeks off.”
After watching Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota suffer season-ending injuries broken legs last week, every coach has to be wary of playing his starters in a game with no playoff implications. But Garrett didn’t give any indication he planned to sit his best players.
Dallas had nothing at stake Monday night, but Prescott played the entire game and led Dallas to a 42-21 win over the Lions.
Tony Romo could make his season debut for the Cowboys whenever Prescott finishes his tuneup, though owner Jerry Jones said the veteran doesn’t need any reps to be ready for the playoffs. No. 3 quarterback Mark Sanchez should see action against his former team.
The Eagles nearly beat Dallas with more at stake on Oct. 30. They wasted a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and Prescott tossed a touchdown pass to Jason Witten in overtime.
Here are some things to watch for when the NFC East rivals meet in the regular-season finale:
THE OTHER ROOKIE QB: Carson Wentz, the No. 2 overall pick, is second behind Prescott in yards passing and TD passes by rookies. Wentz is two completions away from breaking Sam Bradford’s rookie record. He will become the first QB to start 16 games for the Eagles since Donovan McNabb in 2008.
“I’m very fortunate,” Wentz said. “I think, first of all, it goes to the guys up front doing a great job protecting me. But ultimately, I’m very fortunate. This is a fluky game. Things happen. I’ve just got to thank the Lord for that, for sure.”
DEPLETED D-LINE: The Cowboys are likely to be without three starters on their defensive line: ends DeMarcus Lawrence (back) and Tyrone Crawford (hamstring/shoulder) and tackle Terrell McClain (ankle). All three figure to be ready for the playoffs. But to get through this game, Dallas signed end Richard Ash off Jacksonville’s practice squad after putting Ryan Davis (knee) on injured reserve. Linebacker Kyle Wilber, who has played defensive end in the past, will likely be there after seeing some time in that spot against Detroit.
LAST BACKS STANDING: The Eagles have placed three running backs on injured reserve this month, including leading rusher Ryan Mathews. Rookie Byron Marshall should get much of the workload in his second career game, along with veteran Darren Sproles. Marshall, undrafted out of Oregon, spent most of the season on the practice squad.
“You don’t want to just practice and then go home on the weekend and watch like a fan,” he said.
DEZ AT QB?: Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones joked on his radio show that Dez Bryant wanted to be in quarterback meetings and was lobbying offensive coordinator for Scott Linehan for more passing plays. Bryant threw his first career touchdown to Jason Witten on a trick play against the Lions. Of course, Prescott had to answer a question about whether the 2014 All-Pro receiver was in the QB room: “No, not at all,” Prescott said in his typical no-nonsense style.
FINISHING STRONG: The Eagles snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating the Giants 24-19 last Thursday. That allowed the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East and the No. 1 seed. Despite a disappointing season after starting 3-0, Philadelphia looks to end on a high note with a two-game winning streak.
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