Week 17: Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

Derek MajorCorrespondent IJanuary 1, 2010

PHILADELPHIA - NOVEMBER 08:  Miles Austin #19 of the Dallas Cowboys scores on a 49-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter against Quintin Mikell #27 of the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 8, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys host the Philadelphia Eagles in the final game of the regular season with the NFC East title on the line.

The Eagles are riding a six-game winning streak into big D, and with a win, they clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.

Donovan McNabb will be looking to have a better game against the Cowboys than the last time he matched up against them. In Week Nine, McNabb was 16 for 30 for 226 yards, one TD, and one INT. The Cowboys' defense took away the big plays for McNabb and forced him into small gains when he scrambled.

DeSean Jackson also wants to show the Cowboys he can play. Coming off his Pro Bowl invite, Jackson had just two catches for 29 yards in his last game against the Cowboys and was targeted just five times. McNabb will target him more in this game, even if it's not deep. Expect him to run a reverse or a play in the wildcat formation.

Brent Celek will also be a factor in the passing game. McNabb loves to find Celek on third downs, and Celek doesn't disappoint, ranking second on the team in catches (69), yards (875), and TDs (eight). Celek is also playing with a chip on his shoulder after being snubbed by voters for the Pro Bowl.

The Eagles' running game is back to full strength with Brian Westbrook coming back from post-concussion syndrome, which will help the Eagles run their screen game. The emergence of LeSean McCoy has also helped the Eagles.

This season, McCoy has 154 carries for 633 yards and four TDs. The Eagles won't run anymore than 25 times, but expect them to run their screen game to combat the Cowboys' aggressive front seven.

The Eagles defense is very aggressive in the front seven and secondary. Trent Cole and Jaqua Parker have had great seasons as the Eagles' defensive ends, combining for 86 tackles and 19.5 sacks.

The key for the Eagles defense is their secondary. The last time around, the Eagles let Roy Williams go off (for him anyway) for five catches and 75 yards and gave up the game winning score on a 49-yard TD catch by Miles Austin. Sheldon Brown and Pro Bowler Asante Samuel have to stay at home because the Cowboys will use a lot of double moves in this game to free up their receivers.

The Eagles' front seven will generate pressure, which could force Tony Romo into some bad throws, and Samuel, as well as Brown, could get opportunities to force turnovers.

The Cowboys were blown out 44-6 against the Eagles last year, but this year they're the home team and they want to return the favor to the Eagles.

Romo had a great December, and he wants to turn that into a solid January. He's kept his interceptions down and kept the Cowboys in games. Sunday will be no different, so expect Romo to keep Dallas in this game with short passes to Jason Witten and Austin.

Roy Williams had a big game in the first matchup between these two, catching five passes for 75 yards, and after coming out and saying it's his fault that Romo has lost trust in him, expect him to be focused on having another big game against the Eagles. 

Marion Barber and Felix Jones combined for over 100 yards last week, but were stopped on short yardage situations three times. The Cowboys have to run the ball successfully in order to have a chance at winning. Expect Smash and Dash to share the carries 50-50.

Tashard Choice will come in on wildcat situations, and after last week's busted double reverse, expect the Cowboys to be conservative in the wildcat.

Defensively, the Cowboys have not given up more than 20 points in the last three games. Bradie James (108) and Keith Brooking (106) are first and second on the team in tackles. Jay Ratliff will be counted on to stop LeSean McCoy and Leonard Weaver, whose role has increased in recent weeks.

DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer will look to rush McNabb and put him on the ground several times. Look for the Cowboys to run stunts inside to neutralize McNabb and stop him from stepping up in the pocket and scrambling.

The biggest key for the Cowboys defense is their secondary. They need to keep the Eagles from making big plays in the pass game. Mike Jenkins will be seeing a lot of Jackson, and he did a good job against him in the first matchup. Orlando Scandrick will have help in the slot, but needs to start jumping some balls; he's too conservative.

Ken Hamlin will be the quarterback in the secondary, and he has to make sure everyone is lined up or else somebody will get beat deep.

This will be a close, low-scoring game. The Eagles' big plays will be limited, and because of that, they'll find it hard to score. The Cowboys will try to run a lot in the first half, but they won't be successful and that'll leave them in a lot of 3rd-and-long situations.

Dallas will win this game. They'll be at home and don't want to be embarrassed like they were last year. Romo will have another solid game and the Cowboys will ride a third quarter lead into the fourth, where they'll hang on until the end on defense. Cowboys, 24-20.


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