Eagles vs. Cowboys: Keys to Dallas Win in NFC East Rivalry

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 18:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys throws against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium on November 18, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Unlike their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys have the playoffs to consider in Sunday night's game versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

At 5-6, the Cowboys are tied for second in the division with the Washington Redskins. Both teams are trailing the New York Giants, but wild-card berths will be up for grabs as well.

Beating the Eagles hasn't been difficult, but rivalries can make things feel different. If the Cowboys want to hand Philadelphia its eighth straight loss, here are a few key factors.


1. Stop the Run

The Cowboys have allowed 359 rushing yards in their last three games. LeSean McCoy may be out of Sunday night's game, but that doesn't make this factor any less crucial.

Even though Philadelphia lost its seventh straight game to the Carolina Panthers on Monday night, Bryce Brown was excellent out of the backfield. He rushed for 178 yards and two touchdowns, making him a dangerous threat despite losing two fumbles.

Dallas is excellent versus the pass, but its recent struggles versus the run could be troublesome. Philadelpha doesn't have the weapons to test the secondary, and it knows that Brown is the team's most viable threat to score.

He's going to get it early and often. If the Cowboys can't stand up to his north-south style, this could be a longer game than it needs to be.


2. Avoid Turnovers

Turnovers are a key overall. Dallas should be able to force them, but it also musts avoid them. It's the main factor that could level the playing field.

Just because the Eagles have more giveaways than the Cowboys this season doesn't mean that Tony Romo is any more consistent. The mere sight of him dropping back to pass is enough to make devoted Cowboys fans cringe, praying that he won't commit a crucial error.

Philadelphia is, more than likely, going to get in its own way. Dallas can't do the same if it wants to earn a huge win.

Romo's ability to take care of the ball and avoid silly mistakes  will determine Dallas' success. Efficient football is not the Eagles' strong suit, which leaves them vulnerable against teams that treat the football like a precious jewel.


3. Capture Early Momentum

Every team should approach the Eagles like the mess that they are. They've lost seven in a row. Playoff hopes have been shattered, and the offseason could bring wholesale changes at all levels.

Dallas must kick the Eagles while they're down. Scoring early or coming up with a few key stops will halt the Eagles before they even get started, rendering them harmless in the process.

On the other hand, if Dallas allows the Eagles to come out and play well, it could be in trouble. The Eagles may be out of contention for the playoffs, but beating their NFC East rival would at least be a small victory.

The Cowboys won't be able to rely on their run game to take the early momentum, so they will have to rely on their defense and passing attack. A few big plays early by the Cowboys will put the Eagles down for good.

For the Cowboys, coming with a focused attitude could make all the difference.