NFC East animosities will reignite when the Dallas Cowboys storm into Philadelphia to take on the Eagles on Sunday night. This game's got a lot of everything going for it—superstar quarterbacks (Tony Romo and Michael Vick), exciting young wide receivers (Dez Bryant and DeSean Jackson), dominant pass-rushers (DeMarcus Ware and Trent Cole) and running backs with multiple capitalizations in their first names (DeMarco Murray and LeSean McCoy).
All of this should make for an exciting game and help NBC to get over the fact that they couldn't get Patriots-Steelers this time around.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
When: Sunday, October 30th, at 8:20 p.m. EDT
Listen: 94WIP, Sirius 93
Which team will win?
Betting Line: Eagles -3.5, O/U 48 (according to sportsbook.com)
What's at Stake
With the NFC East as jumbled as it is, this game will have a big impact on how the division race shakes out. Both teams are well within striking distance of the 4-2 Giants in first place. A win for the Cowboys would prop them up as New York's top challenger (for now) while knocking the Eagles out of contention entirely. Should Philly win, though, the division would once again be thrown into chaos.
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report:
OUT: Felix Jones, RB (ankle)
QUESTIONABLE: Tashard Choice, RB (shoulder/hamstring); Derrick Dockery, G (knee); Jason Hatcher, DE (calf); Kyle Kosier, G (foot)
PROBABLE: David Buehler, K (groin); Barry Church, S (shoulder); Mat McBriar, P (foot); Tony Romo, QB (ribs)
Philadelphia Eagles Injury Report:
PROBABLE: Nate Allen, SS (knee); Trent Cole, DE (calf); King Dunlap, T (back); Winston Justice, T (knee); Juqua Parker, DE (ankle); Jason Peters, T (hamstring); Darryl Tapp, DE (pectoral)
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: DeMarco Murray, RB
The Eagles allow the most fantasy points to opposing running backs of any team in the NFL. Dallas' ground game isn't great, though that certainly didn't stop DeMarco Murray from piling up yardage against the Rams last week. He'll be hard-pressed to run for 253 yards and a touchdown again, but look for him to post another solidly productive day in Philly.
Sit 'Em: DeSean Jackson, WR
Contract dispute or no, DeSean Jackson has been inconsistent on the field this season, to say the least. The Cowboys' defensive backfield has been up and down as well, though it still ranks among the 10 stingiest against opposing fantasy wide receivers. With DeMarcus Ware and the Dallas pass rush as strong as it is, Michael Vick will have plenty of trouble getting the ball in D-Jax's direction, much less into his hands.
Sleeper: Brent Celek, TE
Brent Celek hasn't gotten many looks from Vick this season, but he'll be up against a Cowboys defense that's the third friendliest of any against opposing tight ends. Celek posted his best performance of the season in the Eagles' last game, with four catches for 42 yards and a touchdown.
What They're Saying
Tony Romo gave his take on Jason Witten's run of success against the Eagles to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram:
Back in the day, they sent a lot of pressure. That usually means you’re covering from depth or in a different spot against the tight end. Obviously, Jason is a great tight end. But they’re different now. So I don’t know exactly what we’re going to see or how they’re going to attack us on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel spent the week ripping the organization and recanting after it came to light that the front office had discussed trading him before the deadline but ultimately decided against it. Head coach Andy Reid spoke of the situation to Philly.com.
I am aware of how Asante felt and we have since talked. We both left with a positive feeling going forward. As I have said previously, when we acquired Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Nnamdi Asomugha we had received numerous calls on the availability of our cornerbacks. After discussing significant trade offers with other teams, we decided to keep all three cornerbacks on our team. Asante is a valuable member of our team and we appreciate all that he brings to this organization.
Dallas Cowboys Player To Watch: Tony Romo
As Tony Romo goes, so go with the Cowboys. That is, the more often he has to throw, the less likely it is that Dallas will come away with a win. Last weekend's win over the Rams was the first time this season that Romo threw the ball fewer than 30 times and, not surprisingly, it was Dallas' most decisive victory.
Philadelphia Eagles Player To Watch: LeSean McCoy
The Eagles will need McCoy to soften up Dallas' defense, which ranks first in the NFL against the run, to allow the passing game to be successful. Rob Ryan won't be afraid to blitz Michael Vick on down after down if there's no reason to believe that Philly will go the ground game. Hence, the onus will be on McCoy to provide balance to the Eagles' attack with rushing attempts and short swing passes on some plays and protecting Vick from oncoming blitzes on others.
Key Matchup: DeMarcus Ware vs. the Eagles' offensive line
The Eagles will need to find a way to keep Vick upright against one of the NFL's most aggressive pass rushes, led by DeMarcus Ware and his eight sacks. Philly's O-line has struggled all season to provide Vick with any sort of pass protection. If the Eagles can find a way to keep Vick clean, then they'll have an excellent chance to win the game and sneak back into the NFC East race.
On the Hot Seat: Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
Once lauded as a forward-thinking football genius, Andy Reid now appears stale and stubborn amidst his team's struggles. From promoting Juan Castillo from offensive line coach to defensive coordinator to relying on the pass when his team can do so much on the ground, Reid's decisions in 2011 have been as perplexing as ever. If Reid can't find a way to get his once-and-former "Dream Team" back on track, he'll likely spend the offseason wrestling with nightmares while unemployed.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Eagles 21