The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have so much in common — preseason playoff expectations, tons of media coverage, underperformance, overexposed quarterbacks, 3-5 records, embattled head coaches — and they get to face each other this week.
It's hard not to draw several parallels between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. They play in the NFC East. Their quarterbacks, Tony Romo and Michael Vick, have historically been well above-average, but their fan bases have grown weary of close-but-no-cigar performances. Their head coaches, Jason Garrett and Andy Reid, have had their decision-making constantly questioned over the past two years. Their talent is unquestioned, but their results are anything but.
This year, they're both 3-5. The dissatisfaction with both teams has nearly reached critical mass. As they look up at the New York Giants in their division, they also look around at teams like the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers and see their openings to make the playoffs closing rapidly.
A loss in this game for either team could mean starting to look toward 2013. Whether that means for the Eagles giving rookie quarterback Nick Foles a look, or for the Cowboys trying a different coach, remains to be seen. There's no question that this game is a must-win for both sides as they try to salvage their season.
Meet the Eagles
Many have attributed the Eagles' problems to Michael Vick this season, and while Vick has not been effective, the offensive line has been the primary issue. They've missed Jason Kelce since September when he tore his ACL, but that hasn't been the only issue. They've allowed Vick to be sacked 27 times, a number that's inexcusable for arguably the most mobile quarterback the NFL has ever seen. While that's not all the line's fault — Vick has been known to hold the ball too long — he frequently has had mere moments to get rid of the ball.
Vick has had trouble holding onto the ball as well, which has been the most visible reason for the team's failure. He's thrown nine interceptions and fumbled 10 times, most in the league. In addition, LeSean McCoy, who some would argue was the best running back in the NFL last year, has been far less effective, running for only a 4.3 yards-per-carry and scoring just five total touchdowns after crossing the plane 20 times last year.
The defense will need to step up, however, if the Eagles want to make a push to end the season. They've made just seven interceptions and forced just five fumbles. Those numbers will have to improve, especially with Vick's turnover issues. They're 15th in the league in yards allowed per game, which is not terrible, but the Eagles' expectations are far higher than "not terrible."
Meet the Cowboys
On the flip side, the Dallas Cowboys' defense has been spectacular at stopping their opponents; they're fifth in the league in yards allowed per game. However, they've forced just nine turnovers on the season, and considering some of the games Tony Romo has had, that's not cutting it.
Speaking of Romo, while he has at times looked like the quarterback who has been named to three Pro Bowls, he has also thrown 13 interceptions to go with his 10 touchdowns. Some of those picks have come in key situations in games the Cowboys have had chances to win. Unlike Vick, Romo doesn't have a talented rookie behind him fans are clamoring for. Instead, he's got a head coach many fans would like to see go in Jason Garrett.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, feature back DeMarco Murray is out again with a foot injury, meaning backup Felix Jones will be starting in his place. Jones has been less than effective toting the ball, but he's athletic and fast, so he could break a big run if given the opportunity.
Local Takes: Eagles
Jason B. from Bleeding Green Nation thinks the Eagles' season could be over before too long.
Let's say at a minimum, the Eagles need 6 more wins. At this juncture, other than the Carolina game, I'm not sure if you can feel really confident in the Eagles beating anyone... But other than the Giants, who always struggle with the Eagles, there isn't a team with a winning record left.
The schedule, objectively, really isn't that bad. But we can't forget that the Eagles are also just 3-5 and most of these teams are also looking at them as beatable.
So the hole the team has dug itself into is deep, maybe too deep.
Local Takes: Cowboys
Tom Ryle of Blogging The Boys is optimistic about the Cowboys' chances to make a run, bolstered by the fact, as he pointed out, that the 'Boys have the second-easiest schedule in the league the rest of the way.
There is still a real chance for the Cowboys to make a run. It may not be a very good chance. It would certainly take getting a lot of things right that have been wrong so far. And the margin for error is getting very, very thin. It will likely come down to just what this team is really made of, and how it responds over the next eight weeks.
Follow the Fun
Add these fine follows to your Twitter timeline:
Ineligible man downfield. False start. Drop Sack. Fumble. Red zone offense!— BleedingGreenNation (@BleedingGreen) November 6, 2012
Very possible, and they might do same 4 us RT @oneinsider way season is going, Dallas might make eagles look like a competent football team.— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) November 8, 2012
Philadelphia Inquirer beat reporter Jeff McLane
Marvin Gaye uncharacteristically playing in #Eagles locker room. Team needs some sexual healing.— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) November 8, 2012
Dallas Morning News beat reporter Rainer Sabin
Executive VP Stephen Jones on state of Cowboys: "We owe our fans more than this. We need to have a better football team than this."— Rainer Sabin (@RainerSabinDMN) November 8, 2012
From the Week 10 picks by Andrew Sharp (full disclosure, Sharp is a 'Boys fan. He loves your hate):
Cowboys (-2) at Eagles - This is like the Titans-Dolphins game except that you know the players involved because they play in the NFC East. But remember: Rich kids crashing their dad's BMW. Every single week. These teams will ruin your faith in humanity.
The Cowboys are two-point favorites at Odds Shark over the Eagles on the road this week despite opening as two-point underdogs. That's a four-point swing.
After taking on the Cowboys, the Eagles will travel to the nation's capital to take on Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins, coming off a bye of their own. In Week 11, the Cowboys will host the Cleveland Browns in a game many expect them to win.