Today’s showdown between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field marks a battle of desperation. Two organizations who entered the season with high expectations now see their teams sitting at a disappointing 3-5, with already slim chances of contending for a playoff spot on the line this week.
Both Philadelphia and Dallas are teams more similar than we’d like to admit. Two squads filled with talent that can’t seem to put it all together on the field. Two quarterbacks in Mike Vick and Tony Romo plagued with turnover troubles whose fanbases are coming to the painful realization that they are not the ones who will lead them to the promised land of a Super Bowl ring. And growing calls for the end of the coaching tenures of Andy Reid and Jason Garrett.
In facing the Cowboys’ 5th-ranked defense, Philadelphia’s decimated offensive line catches a slight break with the injury of ILB Sean Lee. But they will have their hands full with the force that is DeMarcus Ware, who is tied with Clay Matthews for the most sacks in the NFL with 9. Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan will move Ware around but anywhere he goes, Philadelphia’s o-line will struggle.
Demetress Bell will start at left tackle, where he will hopefully be slightly less of a disaster than he was when he stepped in for the injured Todd Herremans on the right in New Orleans. King Dunlap will fill Herremans’ former roll at RT this week. Dallas Reynolds will return at center, as will Evan Mathis at LG and Dennis Kelly at RG.
The Birds saw Vick sacked a season high 7 times and only managed a meager 13 points against New Orleans, the worst defense in the league. Philadelphia must find a way to protect Vick, and the QB’s decision-making must help the line and keep him out of harm’s way as well. For the Eagles to have any success they must involve LeSean McCoy and the run game prominently in their game plan to ease the burden of pass protection off the line.
Philadelphia, who went 0-5 in the red zone against the Saints last week, must make trips down the field count and get points on the board in order to begin to right the ship and win this game.
The Eagles D faces a quarterback in Romo who has the most interceptions in the NFL and a team that can’t get its running game going in light of an injured DeMarco Murray, who isn’t expected to play. Wideout Dez Bryant has 42 catches this season and is a talented but inconsistent target. Nnamdi Asomugha, who has struggled mightily since signing with the Eagles last year, was very successful against Bryant in the last meeting between Dallas and Philadelphia, so we’ll see if that success can be replicated today.
WR Miles Austin is neck and neck with Bryant with 41 catches, but Romo’s favorite weapon is tight end Jason Witten, who has 58 catches on the season. The Eagles defense has gotten worse since changing to DC Todd Bowles. If there is any game to step up and show improvement, it’s against the Cowboys. The Eagles know that with Murray down the Cowboys have no option but to pass. Romo has 10 TDs and 13 interceptions and, while throwing with 66% accuracy, he is killing the Cowboys offense with poor third down efficiency and turnovers. Faced with a turnover machine and a decent but not fierce Dallas o-line, can the defense finally get the job done?
No predictions this time except for an ugly game between two woefully underperforming teams. If the Eagles can’t pull this off at home we are in big, big trouble.