Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys: Wild Card Weekend
The Eagles have to return to the place where they were routed just six days before and this time they're mad.
Quarterback Donovan McNabb said last week's game was a "humbling experience." He'll be trying to make this weekend a fantastic experience, but his receivers can't fail him this time around.
Brenk Celek was the only reliable (and open) receiver for McNabb last week with seven catches for 96 yards. Jeremy Maclin didn't look like himself and was hearing footsteps all game long. Jason Avant had just one catch, but isn't counted on to do much in the Eagles offense anyway.
DeSean Jackson had one nice catch for 32 yards, but the Eagles turned the ball over on the next play when McNabb overthrew Jackson when he was wide open with nothing but the end zone near him. I expected the Eagles to make Jackson a big part of their offense, but they used him on just one end around and threw to him just eight times
The Eagles' running game was abandoned in the second half since they were down so much. The running game wasn't working much in the first half, though, as the Cowboys' bigger and faster defense took control of the Eagles' running, giving up just 37 yards on ten carries.
This time the Eagles need to get the ball moving with the run. If they make themselves one-dimensional again, the Cowboys front seven will tee off on McNabb and the Eagles wakened offensive line.
Michael Vick may be a factor in the run game this week. He was dressed last week but didn't play. This week expect to see him in a wildcat play or two. He might even end up throwing to Jackson. Also expect Leonard Weaver to get more carries.
Defensively, I expect a completely different approach from the Eagles. In the first matchup they blitzed almost 60 percent of the time. Last week they barely blitzed in the first half and didn't get to Romo in the second half. This week they'll blitz relentlessly, hoping to throw Romo off.
However, the most important thing the Eagles' defense must do is stop the run. The Eagles' linebackers couldn't catch up to Felix Jones and couldn't bring down Marion Barber. Will Witherspoon, Jeremiah Trotter, and Moise Fokou need to get the Cowboys' backs before they hit the secondary.
Asante Samuel killed the Eagles trying to jump routes all game, but don't expect him to change his style. Instead, expect him to try to do it more, especially if the Eagles blitz more. He wants to avenge last week's game.
The Cowboys host the Eagles once again and they want a repeat performance.
The Cowboys need to sustain long drives again this week in order to be successful. They also have to convert third downs. They were just 5-13 on third down conversions. They have to do better than that this week.
Tony Romo had a great game last week picking the Eagles apart when they blitzed or played in a zone. He has kept his turnovers down throughout the season and made plays when the Cowboys needed them.
Romo might be throwing to Roy Williams in the rematch. Last week, the Eagles decided to cover Roy Williams and leave Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton open. This week, they'll force Romo to throw to Williams, who's humbled himself in recent weeks and says he ready to make the big plays.
Williams hasn't caught a pass in seven straight quarters so it's anyone guess how he'll react when he's able to make a catch. Austin, Crayton, and tight end Jason Witten will still receive the majority of throws, especially if the Eagles blitz and don't get to Romo.
Felix Jones and Marion Barber will get a lot of carries. Last week they had 29 carries for 182 yards. If the Eagles give up that much again they're going to lose. Expect to see Barber early and Jones in the second half a lot on misdirections and pitches.
Marc Colombo could be a big factor. He's bigger than backup Doug Free who's played great since Colombo broke his fibula against Green Bay. Colombo is expected to start this week, but if the Cowboys have trouble running early, coach Wade Phillips could go back to Free, who sprung Jones for a TD last week.
The Cowboys defense hasn't give up more than 20 points since their loss to the Giants in week 13 and the Giants are the only team to score more than 21 points in a game on Dallas.
The key to this game is the defense keeping the Eagles from sustaining long drives. They held McNabb and his offense to just three third down conversions last week. That type of performance needs to be repeated.
Expect the front four to give McNabb problems again. They'll bring pressure on third downs, but on first and second they'll drop the linebackers back. Jay Ratliff had a great game last week with a fumble recovery but didn't get to McNabb; I expect him to have at least one sack this week. DeMarcus Ware will also want in on the sack party this week.
Keith Brooking and Bradie James did a great job of containing the run and making solid tackles. Bobby Carpenter is having a good season but needs to stay with Brent Celek this week; last week he was burned twice by Celek for big gains.
The secondary's job is to keep DeSean Jackson in front of them. Jackson got behind Terence Newman once, who covered him most of the game, but McNabb overthrew him. Newman can't let that happen again.
Mike Jenkins did a fine job last week and almost had an interception on an under-thrown deep ball. Orlando Scandrick also did a good job but needs to stop missing tackles across the middle. He also got hit with a penalty last week.
This game will be a lot closer than the last game. The Eagles don't want to get embarrassed again on the road and will be ready to play. The Cowboys are riding their momentum into this game and know they have to do something special this season.
The Eagles will try to throw curve balls to the Cowboys on both sides of the ball, but their overall philosophies will stay the same, look for the big play on offense and bring pressure on defense. The Cowboys will take a while to get adjusted, but once they do, they won't have a problem getting down the field.
The Eagles will come out to play but in the second half the Cowboys will take the game over with their running attack and McNabb will be constantly pressured trying to get the Eagles back in the game late.
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