(Dallas): RB DeMarco Murray - Starter Felix Jones was out with an injury last week and the Cowboys replaced him with the rookie. The young man did not disappoint and rushed for a franchise best of 253 yards and 1 touchdown against the St. Louis Rams. He faces an Eagles defensive unit that has allowed 124 rushing yards per game with an average of 4.8 yards per carry. The Eagles had a bye last week and had time to make adjustments. Murray and the Cowboys offensive line need to test the Eagles defense early and see if they made the correct adjustments against the run.
(Philadelphia): WR DeSean Jackson - It is hard to find that one special player who can in one play make the difference in your team winning or losing. Jackson possesses that gift of every time he touches the ball he is a threat to score. He has blazing speed and wiggle. He can get behind your defense quickly and make the big catch or he can take a short slant or dump off pass and take it to the house. He adds an extra dimension to his game as a punt returner. Do you kick it to him and take the chance of him going the distance or do you give the Eagles great field position by punting the ball out of bounds? The Cowboys defensive secondary and kick coverage unit on special teams will have their hands full with Jackson.
Philadelphia Offense vs. Dallas Defense: The Eagles offense is built around speed and QB Michael Vick's abilities of running and throwing from the pocket. The Eagles have speed at all of the key positions on the field starting with RB LeSean McCoy. McCoy has rushed for 569 yards and 6 tds on 5.4 yards per carry. McCoy also is dangerous in the pass game on screens and check downs with 2 more tds. WR Jeremy Macklin and WR DeSean Jackson give the Eagles offense probably the 2 fastest starting wide outs on the same team. They can hurt you deep by getting behind your defense or on the short catches making you miss a tackle then getting huge yards after the catch. Jackson averages 19.0 yards per catch. Dallas hired defensive coordinator Rob Ryan in the off season to turn around a defensive unit who struggled last year. Ryan has this unit ranked 1st against the run allowing a little under 70 yards per game. The secondary, who many said was the Achilles heel of the team last year, has benefited from Ryan's aggressive pressure scheme allowing them to be in position to make plays on the ball. OLB DeMarcus Ware leads Dallas with 8 sacks and his constant pressure allows CB Terrance Newman and CB Mike Jenkins to play aggressive man to man coverage which is better suited for their skill sets.
Philadelphia Defense vs. Dallas Offense: Philadelphia's defense has been plagued with the inability to stop the run all season. They are allowing 124 yards per game rushing. Injuries have played a part with DE Trent Cole and DE Brandon Graham missing time. The main issue is probably the inexperience of the linebacking crew. This unit should be known as the "Who's Who of starting linebackers". MLB Jamar Chaney, OLB Moise Fokou, and rookie OLB Casey Matthews have a combined 5 years of playing experience and not to forget the new defensive coordinator use to be the offensive line coach. The Eagles defense seems to be built like the Colts defense, meaning they want their offense to put you in a hole early and make you one dimensional in passing the ball only so the defense can get after you bringing consistent pressure with DE Trent Cole, DE Jason Babin, and DT Cullen Jenkins then allowing their star studded secondary of Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to make plays on the ball. Dallas has plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball and can score from any position on the field. QB Tony Romo is the one who drives the bus. He is one of the most productive QBs in the regular season in NFL history. The only problem is he has not had much success in the post season. Romo's favorite target is tight end Jason Witten who attacks the seams in the middle of the field and runs precise routes. He then looks for WR Miles Austin and WR Dez Bryant on the outside both are playmakers and can score from anywhere on the field. RB Felix Jones is out with an injury. He possesses the speed to take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The Cowboys offensive line struggled early with so many new faces including 2011 1st round draft choice tackle Tyron Smith. The unit has played better with each game time experience allowing rookie RB DeMarco Murray to rush for 253 yards last week against the St. Louis Rams. They will need to protect QB Tony Romo this week from the pressure he will get from the Eagles.
Dallas (NFL Rank & Yards) Philadelphia (NFL Rank & Yards)
Rush Off. 12th - 119.7ypg 1st - 170.0ypg
Pass Off. 4th - 295.8ypg 8th - 271.7ypg
Rush Def. 1st - 69.7ypg 23rd - 123.8ypg
Pass Def. 14th - 230.8ypg 10th - 217.3ypg
Total Offense: 6th 3rd
Total Defense: 7th 13th
Points Per Game: 24.8ppg (10th) 24.2ppg (13th)
LT Jason Peters (versus) DE/OLB DeMarcus Ware: If the Eagles offense wants to have any success at passing the ball they will need to keep the Cowboys star pass rusher DeMarcus Ware off of QB Michael Vick. The assignment will fall on the shoulders of pro bowler left tackle Jason Peters. Peters has missed the last couple of games with a hamstring injury and returns just in time to an Eagles offensive line that has been struggling of late to protect Vick. Ware has that rare combination of speed and power and uses it well to pressure the opposing teams QB. Ware leads Dallas with 8 sacks on the season.
WR Miles Austin & WR Dez Bryant (versus) CB Nnamdi Asomugha & CB Asante Samuel: Austin and Bryant have not been in the starting lineup together much because of various injuries to one or the other. Dallas has two potential playmakers when these guys are in the lineup with Austin averaging 14.0 yards per catch and Bryant averaging 17.8. They both can make the tough catches over the middle, run precise routes, and stretch the defense vertically. Austin and Bryant have 4 receiving tds each so far. The Eagles will counter with 2 pro bowl caliber cover corners of their own to match up with these studs. Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel can both play tough man to man defense. Samuel really excels at off man coverage also. They have the size, speed, agility, and veteran craftiness to make it a long day for the Cowboys starting receivers. This matchup should be fun to watch and should produce big plays from either side.
Final Word: Philadelphia spent a lot of money in free agency during the off season bringing in some big names to help the team reach the Super Bowl. This game was hyped during the off season when the Cowboys new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan made the remarks that the Eagles were the all-hype team and when the two teams met the Cowboys would kick their butts. Well, game one of two is Sunday night and it should be plenty of fireworks before and during the game. The Eagles need the win to stay in contention for the NFC east division title. After starting out 0-4 they have won their last two games. Dallas is 3-3 and trying to stay in striking distance of division leader the New York Giants who are 4-2. Philadelphia will need to focus on stopping the Cowboys running game first and foremost, then on 3rd down situations cover TE Jason Witten who consistently move the chains for Dallas. QB Michael Vick and company will need to protect the ball and not give Dallas short fields to operate with. The Eagles can score in bunches but their losing games has come from turnovers at the inappropriate times. Dallas should want to establish the run against the Eagles defense and take their shots downfield on play action passing. OLB/DE DeMarcus Ware could be a thorn in the Eagles offense's side all game if they can't protect Vick.