Philadelphia Eagles-Dallas Cowboys: Predictions for 2009
Most fans are marking their calenders for November 8, and January 3. This truly is rivalry football at its best. Dating back to the days of the NFC Capitol division.
But since then both teams have developed heavily and thoroughly, and both are Super Bowl candidates for the 2009 season.
But who will win when they meet in yet another grudge match this year? Who has the better team?
The Offensive Line—Eagles.
The Cowboys' Robert Brewster, Travis Bright, and Andrew Gurode are all solid players playing for a solid offensive line, but the Eagles' offensive line was retooled this offseason.
Shawn and Stacey Andrews give the Eagles the lead here. Shawn Andrews is a P.P.B. (Perennial Pro Bowler) and acquiring Stacey Andrews in the offseason only helps the Eagles.
The Eagles have an asset in Donovan McNabb; he is a leader. People will be quick to remind any Eagles fan that he was benched, he played below average in a Super Bowl (throwing three interceptions), and he doesn't have the legs he used to.
But despite this, he has the experience and confidence that Tony Romo lacks. Although without Terrell Owens in his ear all game, Romo may surpass expectations.
I wrote an article stating my predictions for the Eagles' receiving core this year, you can read it here, but that hasn't been proven as of yet.
The Cowboys' receiving has taken a shot to the heart with the loss of an "elite receiver" Terrell Owens, but they should be able to rebound from the "loss" with Roy Williams stepping up to becoming Romo's No. 1 receiver.
The Eagles have Westbrook, and yes he is old, and yes he has ankle problems, but he also has amazing hands and speed. These days you need a back that can go out on the flat for a dump pass, or even slant across the middle for a quick pass. Then there's LeSean McCoy.
The rookie, and eventual heir to Westbrook's throne, has more of a West Coast offense swag about him. He is reported to have good hands and great speed.
Don't forget that the Eagles don't use their running backs to run the ball as much as the Cowboys do.
On to the Cowboys. Marion Barber is a good, strong runner, and Felix Jones is a quick, elusive back. If the Cowboys run their Razorback, Felix Jones could be getting a huge amount of carries and breaking big runs left and right.
That is, if the offensive line can hold their blocks (not too much of a doubt), and the receivers can threaten deep.
Witten, Witten, Witten. Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is arguably the best in the league. He is good and another P.P.B., he can burn linebackers at the drop of a hat, and he can deliver punishing blocks when it matters, he has talent.
Brent Celek on the other hand, was tossed into the starting position when L.J. Smith departed. He is a solid TE, but to be brutally honest, he isn't a Jason Witten.
So it's two-all as we cruise on over to the defensive analysis:
This might come as a surprise to some because of the loss of Brian Dawkins during the offseason, but from what I've seen, Quintin Mikell can, and will, step into B-Dawk's humongous shoes. And they will fit.
He has shown small examples of how incredible he can be, like the fourth down stop for a loss, and eventual win against Dallas in '06. Or the interception over Jeremy Shockey in the end zone to secure yet another win.
But that was then, and this is now. Mikell has stepped up before when he needed to, and he should be able to step up now. What the defense needs is a leader.
The Cowboys shouldn't be overlooked though. They have Ken Hamlin, who looks fantastic this year. He is a hard hitter and has the awarenessto adjust the defense to adapt to opponents' offensive plays. This could shut down the Eagles using screen plays that take full advantage of the speed they have at WR.
Trent Cole is a superb defensive end. One of the best in the league, only surpassed by Osi Umenyiora and a few others. Last year he made 98 tackles, 59 unassisted and nine for a loss.
He led the Eagles in hurries with 22, he was second on his team in sacks with nine, and third in Philadelphia for forced fumbles. His stats speak for themselves; containing him may be the difference between a sack and an "L", or grabbing the "W".
On the blue and white side of the ball, there are a few guys that can put pressure on the QB from the outside (excluding DeMarcus Ware), but Cole's raw ability keeps the Eagles ahead in this match up.
For the Cowboys, Jay Ratliff is a versatile athlete, playing at TE, DE, and as of last year, nose tackle. He does have a talent of collapsing the pocket almost single-handedly. He is quick and strong and can often stuff runners in the backfield.
The Eagles, however, have a hidden beast in Mike Patterson. He didn't really have an explosive year last season and besides his one interception he has been relatively quiet. However, he hasn't shown his true colors yet and I wouldn't put it past him to be feared in the eyes of quarterback by the end of '09.
This is easy. After losing Lito Sheppard, and potentially losing Sheldon Brown, the Eagles could have been grounded when it comes to cornerbacks. But remember, the team still has Asante Samuel, an interception machine and an almost unbeatable corner.
Arguably the best in the league, Samuel will play a huge role in determining the team's success.
Likewise, Terence Newman will play a huge role for the Cowboys. Another P.P.B., he's just too fast and he's also an almost unbeatable corner, but this season I don't see him performing to his greatest potential.
Omar Gaither is a fantastic, fast, all-around player who can really put pressure on quarterbacks, or, if needed, step back for a pick. But he is no DeMarcus Ware.
Ware was the sack leader last year, and there is little doubt that he will do it again. He is a big threat and the Eagles offensive line needs to keep him away from McNabb if they want any chance in winning this match up.
Longtime Eagle David Akers is still great. The kick returners are fast and unpredictable. Punter Sav Rocca can pin a team deep.
The Cowboys' kicker Nick Folk is great. The kick returners have speed, and the blocking on kick returns is probably one of the best in the league, not to mention punter Mat McBriar's foot of pure skill.
Speed is the great equalizer for the special team units. Both are fast, but not one faster than another, and both have a complete unit.
The last time these two teams met, the Eagles doused the last ember the Cowboys had at a shot for the Super Bowl with a 44-6 victory.
That won't happen again—that shouldn't happen again.
This time its going to be close—very close.
The Cowboys lead the series 54-43, but that doesn't mean anything on game day.
I see the Eagles taking both wins in the upcoming season, but it will be entertaining.
Like a quickly-forgotten ex-Cowboy and ex-Eagle once said:
"Get your popcorn ready."
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