Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys stomped the Eagles just seven days ago to capture the NFC East crown. They not only beat the Eagles down for this accolade, they shut down Philadelphia's high powered offense completely with a 24-0 shutout victory. They are extremely confident they can repeat the feat in the first playoff game ever in their new stadium.
Game Of The Week
What To Watch From The Eagles
The Eagles have had a hard time running the ball consistently all year, especially between the tackles. Fullback Leonard Weaver has been a pleasant surprise, and is headed to the Pro Bowl. Philadelphia is hoping aging and oft-injured running back Brian Westbrook will provide a much needed spark on the ground. All of the Eagle backs catch the ball well.
Donovan McNabb long ago cemented himself as one of the great quarterbacks in Eagles history, yet he still is lacking a championship that will make his career legendary. He has been his usual efficient self this season, and came out recently with a rare quote saying the Eagles would win Saturday. Not known as a brash talker, Eagles fans had to be both surprised and pumped up to hear their team's leader make such a proclamation.
DeSean Jackson is the team's Pro Bowl wide receiver and most electric player. He leads the team with 12 touchdowns, nine came off receptions. Eight of those touchdowns came off plays of 50 yards or longer, tying an NFL record with Devin Hester and Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. He is bookmarked by exciting rookie Jeremy Maclin.
Pro Bowl tight end Brent Celek could be a big part of the final tally. He led the team with 76 catches this year, and scored eight times. He poses a serious problem for the Cowboys average strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, and Dallas might have to ask free safety Ken Hamlin to take that assignment instead.
Trent Cole is the Eagles' Pro Bowl defensive end, and probably their best player. He leads the team with 12.5 quarterback sacks, and is third on the team in tackles. He needs to play big, because Philadelphia has an assortment of mediocre linebackers playing behind him.
Asante Samuel may be the team's Pro Bowl cornerback, but Sheldon Brown helps make the duo one of the best tandems in the league. Samuel has a league leading nine interceptions, while Brown has six. Veteran safeties Quintin Mikell and Sean Jones have provided steady play at safety all season.
What To Watch From The Cowboys
The Cowboys can run the ball down opposing teams' throats all day. Running backs Felix Jones and Tashard Choice both average well over five yards per carry, and starter Marion Barber piled up 932 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. With over 2,100 yards and 14 scores on the ground as a team, they present big problems to the Eagles' front seven.
Quarterback Tony Romo had one of the best seasons in his young career this year. He tossed just nine interceptions versus 26 touchdowns, and gained 4,483 yards in the air to a receiving corp not many thought much of heading into the 2009 season. His critics point to his not yet winning in the playoffs, so this game is a big moment for him. Another loss could have fans almost forgetting all he has done so far.
The Cowboys defense has come together at the most critical time, and has played excellent football lately. They are looking to carry this momentum into the playoffs, and perhaps lead the team to a title. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware is their star and perennial Pro Bowler. He has 11 sacks and forced five fumbles. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff is also headed to the Pro Bowl, and he tallied an impressive six sacks from his position. He will pose an immense problem for backup center Nick Cole, who is starting for the injured Jamaal Jackson.
Dallas has been a mess in their kicking game this year. Nick Folk had a meltdown, and was replaced by Shaun Suisham. Suisham was cut by the lowly Washington Redskins himself this year because of poor performance. The Eagles have Pro Bowl kicker David Akers, and that could be the difference the Eagles need to pull out a win.
Head coach Wade Phillips was purportedly on the edge of job security this season. Even with a division title in hand, he might not be out of the woods yet. Owner Jerry Jones expects titles, and Phillips may still need a deep run in the playoffs to ensure his return next year.
Quarterback : Slight Edge Eagles
Running Back : Definite Edge Cowboys
Receivers : Slight Edge Eagles
Offensive Line : Slight Edge Cowboys
Defensive Line : Slight Edge Cowboys
Linebacker : Definite Edge Cowboys
Secondary : Slight Edge Eagles
Special Teams : Definite Edge Eagles
Coaching : Edge Eagles
I picked the Eagles as my NFC Super Bowl team before the season, so no reason to back out now. The memory of late Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jim Johnson will loom large, and it will be evident the team misses him. I expect McNabb to pull the team through in the end to honor him, much like the team has done most of the season.
Eagles 34 Cowboys 31