Dissecting Most Crucial Matchups in Philly's Week 7 Contest with Dallas
The Philadelphia Eagles have won two straight, but they will be facing their toughest opponent other than the Denver Broncos. With both teams at 3-3, the Eagles' showdown with the Dallas Cowboys will be a huge game. The winner will be in the driver's seat in a weak NFC East.
The Cowboys will certainly be a challenge.
Dallas, while not a dominant team, has shown a good combination of offense and defense. Tony Romo is having one of his best statistical seasons so far. He currently has a 108.6 passer rating and already has thrown for 14 touchdowns.
It will be a difficult game. The Eagles have the best offense in the NFL behind only the Peyton Manning-led Broncos. But the Cowboys have no shortage of offensive weapons in Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten. They all will likely have a field day against a pitiful Eagles pass defense.
How this game turns out will likely come down to a few critical matchups.
LT Tyron Smith vs. OLB Trent Cole
Trent Cole is a veteran player and still a smart player, but Cole is no longer the player he once was. The former Pro Bowler is a shadow of his former self and has yet to post a single sack this season. He also only had three sacks in the entire 2012 season.
Which Cowboys player worries you most?
He will be going up against Tyron Smith, one of the better left tackles in the NFL.
Smith may not be dominant, but he is certainly a good player. He gave up only three sacks in 2012, which is a borderline elite number.
Of course, a look at the game tape reveals that Smith is not an elite player. He gives up far more pressure than his numbers would reflect and is bailed out often by quarterback play. This could very well be the matchup that finally gets Cole on the sack board this season.
Most likely, defensive coordinator Billy Davis will have to send Cole some help in the form of blitzes. How Cole fares in this matchup could have a huge impact on Romo's effectiveness, but at this point in their careers, Smith seems to be the favorite to win the matchup.
WR Dez Bryant vs. CB Bradley Fletcher
Bradley Fletcher has emerged as the Eagles' best cornerback. This has been evident by how Billy Davis has been matching him up against the opposing best wideout, rather than using the Swiss cheese coverage of Cary Williams.
Against a player like Dez Bryant, Fletcher will be even more crucial. Fletcher is more of a physical player, and the Eagles need someone who can muscle it out with the big-bodied Bryant.
Fletcher may not have done well against Vincent Jackson, who caught nine passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles, but he's still the best option the Eagles have against Bryant. It's unrealistic to expect Fletcher to stop him, but if he can limit him to any degree, it would greatly help the entire Eagles defense.
At the very least, Fletcher seems to be a solid tackler. He should be able to at least prevent huge plays by Bryant, unlike the epic failures of Nnamdi Asomugha a season ago.
WR Riley Cooper vs. CB Morris Claiborne
After being largely invisible for the entire 2013 season, Riley Cooper suddenly broke out against the Bucs for a career game, hauling in four passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. He had an impressive rapport with Nick Foles and will be in luck against the Cowboys, as Vick seems unlikely to play this week.
Cooper is still only an average player at best, not possessing elite speed, elite strength, elite hands, or really elite anything. He is painfully average. Still, he will get a chance to prove the doubters wrong with DeSean Jackson surely being the focus of the Cowboys' defensive game plan.
Most likely, Cooper will be matched up against Morris Claiborne all game. Claiborne, coming into the NFL with high expectations, still has yet to show the ball skills that made him a star at LSU. And since he's 5'11", Cooper has the size advantage at 6'3".
Cooper stepped up big last week. This week, he will have an opportunity to show everyone that he is capable of being the No. 2 receiver the Eagles have lacked since Jeremy Maclin's injury.
Follow Yueh Ho on Twitter @YuehHo
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