The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys are set to square off for the second time this year in Week 12, but the circumstances are vastly different than the last time these two teams met in early November.
Dallas is now 5-6, but the Eagles are 3-8 and most of their starting unit is gone due to injury. The team has lost Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy in recent weeks, and now finds itself in true rebuilding mode for the rest of the season.
By comparison, Dallas also has had major injury concerns, the most recent being linebacker Bruce Carter going on injured reserve. Hanging onto its playoff hopes by a thread, Dallas must continue to keep pace with Washington and New York to have any shot at the NFC East or a wild-card spot.
A loss ends all hope.
Here's the complete preview for the game in Week 12, where you can watch, a small fantasy primer and some guys to keep an eye on as we prepare for another great week of NFL action.
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Watch: NBC's Sunday Night Football
Listen: Eagles affiliates; Cowboys affiliates
Betting Line: Dallas -9 (according to Vegas Insider)
What's at Stake?
The Cowboys are essentially playing for their postseason lives this weekend after dropping their Thanksgiving Day game to the Washington Redskins.
At 5-6, Dallas must essentially win out to secure a postseason berth. Philadelphia is in complete rebuilding mode after going 1-8 since its 2-0 start. Questions of Andy Reid's safety as head coach are looming.
Both teams would love to get this win, and Dallas has no shot at the playoffs with another loss. Philadelphia can play a heck of a spoiler, but would shock the world by playing good, consistent football for four quarters.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of Nov. 27)
|DT||Cullen Jenkins||Foot, Ankle ||Probable|
Source -- Miles Austin of Dallas Cowboys to be ready for Sunday; DeMarco Murray (foot) may practice es.pn/SrCYNW— ESPNDallas (@ESPNDallas) November 27, 2012
Fantasy Start, Sit, Sleeper
It looks like WR Miles Austin is going to be ready for Sunday, but even if he is, he isn't worth a start if you have a better option on the outside. Austin has officially been supplanted by Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten even has more value than the former stud.
Conversely, running back Bryce Brown is in for LeSean McCoy. He serves as an almost immediate start with a rookie QB and Dallas' defense more depleted by injury than any other team in football. Don't sleep on Nick Foles, either, the rookie QB that threw for 219 yards in limited action last time these two teams met, or Tony Romo, who quietly continues to put up huge numbers from week to week.
What They're Saying
With both Bruce Carter and Sean Lee now out for the season with injury, Anthony Spencer is being tasked with keeping up with the defensive play-calling.
As ESPN's Todd Archer notes, Spencer has never done this at any level, leaving in doubt the ability of a complex scheme to be right on every play. We've seen the effects of this because of the lockout, but now it looks like we'll see the effects via injury.
The Eagles shocked the NFL by releasing DE Jason Babin on Tuesday. Babin was the team's leader in sacks and one of the best players on defense. Most of his salary was already taken, so now it's a waiting process between a team claiming him or that period expiring and Babin becoming a free agent.
The move marks what could be wholesale changes by the organization to save money and get younger. Will Reid survive this next wave of layoffs?
Dallas radio personality Armen Williams has an interesting stat about the Cowboys on Sunday night, one that will likely give pause to all the talk shows and predictions that take Dallas this weekend.
Philadelphia Player to Watch: RB Bryce Brown
Brown burst on the scene with McCoy's injury and now has the chance to feast on Dallas' linebacker corp that includes Dan Connor and Ernie Sims in place of Carter and Lee.
The undrafted rookie bounced around after being the University of Tennessee's best recruit early in his career (h/t kwch.com), but now has a chance to capitalize big time after 178 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.
He's the Eagle with the most to gain from this weekend. He and fellow rookie QB Nick Foles should be an interesting duo to keep an eye on with the Eagles now staunchly looking towards their future.
Dallas Player to Watch: WR Dez Bryant
Dallas fans are waiting for Bryant to have one game where he puts it all together. He's been a force in the return game, moving the chains and making the big play down the field, but he also makes mistakes each game that cost his team yardage and/or turnovers.
Put a good one together for a full 60 minutes, Dez.
Facing a contract extension year this offseason, will owner Jerry Jones want to pay Bryant like an elite receiver? We've seen that he's perfectly capable of being that guy, but it's games like this against weaker opponents when Bryant needs to prove he's matured enough to handle the title of No. 1 receiver.
Key Matchup: Dallas Defense on 3rd Down vs. Philly QB Nick Foles
There's been so much turnover due to injury in all phases of the game for Dallas that it's getting hard to keep up with who is playing and who isn't.
For Philadelphia to stick around and make things interesting on the road, it needs to take advantage of a defense that won't be fully familiar with what defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wants to do in certain situations. Play-calling might not seem like a big thing, but it's huge for a defense like Dallas'.
On third down, can this defense get to the line and make the necessary call before Foles is ready to attack? It will be a big point of emphasis for both teams.
Dallas survives for one more week before imploding on itself for good. In a sloppy, drawn out game, the Cowboys and Eagles both remind us why neither are contenders any time soon.
Dallas 27, Philadelphia 17
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.