After getting blanked in Dallas last week in a battle for the NFC East crown, the Philadelphia Eagles will get a mulligan on Saturday night in a rematch with the Cowboys. In playoff meetings, Dallas holds a 2-1 series edge over Philadelphia. The Cowboys defeated Philadelphia in the last postseason matchup between the squads in 1995.
The Eagles pass-oriented offense has been limited to a total of just 16 points against Dallas in a pair of regular season setbacks to the Cowboys. The NFL’s 10th-ranked passing offense will look to bounce back on Saturday. Veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb has had another solid year after firing 22 TD strikes for the Eagles. Second-year wideout DeSean Jackson (1,167 yards, 9 touchdowns) emerged in 2009 to garner an invite to the Pro Bowl. Tight end Brent Celek also stepped up this season to lead the squad in receptions with 76.
On the ground, veteran running back Brian Westbrook is rounding back into form after missing most of the season due to injuries. Rookie LeSean McCoy leads the Eagles in rushing with 637 yards. Fullback Leonard Weaver and tackle Jason Peters were both named to the Pro Bowl in their first campaigns with Philadelphia.
The defense is a solid 12th in the NFL in total defense. DE Trent Cole (12.5 sacks) and DB Asante Samuel are the Pro Bowl performers on the squad. During the regular season, Samuel tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with nine. On special teams, Jackson is also an All-Pro return specialist with a pair of punt return touchdowns. Veteran kicker David Akers was also named to the Pro Bowl for Philadelphia. Head coach Andy Reid is 108-67-1 in 11 seasons with the Eagles. He is a perfect 7-0 in opening playoff games and has an overall postseason mark of 10-7.
While Dallas finished the regular season with three straight wins to pull out a division title, there will be some extreme pressure on the Cowboys to gain the first playoff win for the franchise since 1996 on Saturday. The Cowboys have used a balanced attack to rank 2nd in the league in total offense. Quarterback Tony Romo has delivered a career-high 97.6 QB rating in 2009. He was intercepted only nine times during the regular season. Wiedout Miles Austin came out of nowhere to lead the NFL in receiving yards with 1,320 yards. Austin and tight end Jason Witten (94 receptions) were both named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster.
In the backfield, the combination of power runner Marion Barber and speedster Felix Jones produced over 1,600 rushing yards this season. Up front, offensive linemen Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis are both heading to the Pro Bowl. After a pair of shutouts to conclude the regular season, Dallas finished as the top scoring defense in the NFC. All-Pro linebacker DeMarcus Ware (11 sacks) leads a talented group of defenders. Saturday’s contest could be a make or break one for Dallas head coach Wade Phillips. While he has posted a 33-15 regular season record with the Cowboys, another playoff failure could cost Phillips his job. In four playoff games with three different teams, Phillips has never won a postseason game.