The Philadelphia Eagles come to Dallas on Sunday night in the odd position of being out of the playoff mix. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are floating above mediocrity yet again, facing must-wins from here on out just to sniff a chance at the postseason.
For Dallas (5-6) to have a chance at getting back in the NFC East or wild-card race, it must win games against inferior opponents. That wasn't the case on Thanksgiving day, when Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins carved up the defense en route to a thrilling win.
Philadelphia (3-8) is still without QB Michael Vick, lost wideout DeSean Jackson to injury and might be without starting RB LeSean McCoy. Rookie Nick Foles takes over this obvious rebuilding and young player experiment mode the same week the team cut ties with former sack leader Jason Babin.
Anything can happen in the NFC East, especially with a rivalry like these two teams have renewed over and over again through the years. Here's a complete look at the spread, who to bet on, what fantasy standout you can count on and the winner of this Week 13 matchup.
When: Sunday, Dec. 2 at 8:20 p.m. ET
Where: Cowboys Stadium; Arlington, Texas
Watch: NBC Sunday Night Football; NBC.com (live stream)
Spread: Dallas -10 (according to Vegas Insider)
The Cowboys haven't done particularly well as favorites this year, as evidenced by close wins over Cleveland and Carolina and a loss to Washington.
However, there isn't a better time to be playing the Eagles. Dallas is at home, will hopefully get back DeMarco Murray while Dez Bryant and Tony Romo are clicking like never before. This game will be won or lost by the Dallas defense, but betting huge on the Cowboys to take down a team with nothing to lose is a tough road to travel.
Stay away from the 'Boys as anything other than straight-up favorites. If you've watched Dallas this year, you know anything can happen—and it usually does.
Over/Under: 43 (according to Vegas Insider)
Dallas hasn't had a 100-yard rusher since Week 1—the stunning upset of the New York Giants. Still, the passing attack has been so good that the Cowboys continue to score around 25 points per game on any given night.
The Eagles also have weapons at their disposal, including rookie RB Bryce Brown. Despite having a rookie backfield and a mess along the offensive line, the injuries to the Dallas defense are so severe that it's hard to say what kind of squad will show up back there.
Take the over this weekend, keeping in mind that both teams have a penchant for turning the ball over in scenarios that lead to opposing points.
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 11/29/12)
DeMarco Murray is making steady progress this week and the Cowboys are cautiously optimistic he could play vs Eagles.— Matt Mosley (@mattmosley) November 29, 2012
Fantasy Big Plays
Dallas WR Dez Bryant is playing at an elite level right now. From running the right route to getting yards after the catch to being the big play receiver Dallas hasn't had since about the mid 1990s, Bryant is doing it all right now.
He's a must-start, as is Tony Romo, who is playing well enough to boast several 300-plus yard games. The turnovers are still an issue, but without a true running game, QBs who throw the ball 50-plus times are going to make mistakes.
Philadelphia also has a must-start in RB Bryce Brown, especially after another Dallas injury—LB Bruce Carter—threatens to tear Rob Ryan's soul in half. The rest of Philadelphia seems to be hit-or-miss, but don't sleep on young receivers Damaris Johnson and Greg Salas to have a complimentary role behind starter Jeremy Maclin.
Key to Eagles Win: Play the Run Early
Despite a potential return of Murray from injury, Dallas simply isn't build to run the ball, and if they are, Jason Garrett abandons the run faster than any coach in the league.
Still, it's important to keep Dallas from establishing anything early. Dallas gets off to slow starts and is forced into throwing the ball up and down the field; it only ran it once in the second half against the Redskins.
Knowing that, the Eagles must use packages and formations to confuse Romo at the snap of the football. In four of the Cowboys' six losses, Romo has throw for at least 300 yards.
On two of those occasions he's hit the 425 mark. It's not about the way Romo plays for this team—it's about how fast they get going. Two or three early scores will doom this Eagle team, so stopping the run early will be a point of emphasis.
Key to Cowboys Win: Fast Start
Dallas has struggled to get out to a fast start this year in any game, with the exception of the win over the Giants that placed the Cowboys back into the NFL elite conversation (even if only for one week).
Cleveland and Washington both got out early on Dallas. The Cowboys recovered against the Browns, but couldn't overcome a crippling deficit to beat the Redskins last week.
If Jerry Jones and Garrett want to be considered serious contenders, they'll take care of business and take care of it early. This team has too many injuries and not enough cohesiveness to keep dogging in early quarters.
Dallas won't get three special teams/defensive touchdowns like it did the last time these two teams met, but it will force Foles into mistakes. The Eagles are in trouble as a franchise, yet they have an opponent that notoriously plays to the level of its compeition every week. Still, Dallas teases us yet again by pulling this one out.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 13
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Follow @DowntownEG