Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys: Preview and Prediction

Ron PasceriCorrespondent IIDecember 24, 2011

Jackson's blazing speed should soften the entire Cowboys defense.
Jackson's blazing speed should soften the entire Cowboys defense.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Six days of waiting are just about over, and the time is almost here for the Eagles to face off against the Dallas Cowboys. The game could lose some of its meaning if the Giants beat the Jets, but the game has to be judged based on both teams playing with their season on the line.

The Eagles come in as a 6-8 team, but have looked more like a 10- or 11-win team in recent weeks. The Cowboys lead the division at 8-6, but they could easily be 10-4.

Both teams have talented, unconventional and improvisational quarterbacks at the controls of their offense. Both teams have had trouble protecting their quarterback. Both teams deploy devastating pass-rushers. Both teams have won by large margins and both teams have blown big leads in crucial games.

One thing the Cowboys haven’t done this season is beat the Eagles. In Philadelphia, the Eagles put a 34-7 lashing on Dallas, who will want to return the favor by winning the NFC East.

Dallas has had a very explosive offense led by Tony Romo. He is having possibly his best season, and definitely his most mistake-free one. The thing is, the offense really started clicking with the emergence of DeMarco Murray and the running game. Unfortunately for Dallas, Murray is out.

Enter Felix Jones, author of 100-yard rushing games the past two weeks. He is nursing a hamstring injury and is questionable for the game. A lot hinges on his ability to get onto the field and be effective.

Babin and Cole need to make life miserable for Tony Romo.
Babin and Cole need to make life miserable for Tony Romo.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Jones has killed the Eagles in the past with big plays, and if he can’t go it’s all on Romo. The Eagles will be able to send their relentless pass rush without regard for anything else.

Philadelphia leads the league in sacks, but more important than sacks today will be sustained pressure. They need to make things as uncomfortable as possible for Romo. He can overcome three or four sacks if he has time to let his receivers get open down the field for the rest of the afternoon. Especially with Asante Samuel out.

A constant wave of pressure is imperative for an Eagles win.

On the other side of the ball, the Eagles' offensive line needs to allow Vick to avoid big hits. Everyone has seen how this offense performs with an injured Vick. It isn’t pretty. It's almost as ugly as when Vince Young was at the helm.

Aiding the offensive line and Vick is the 30-carry, 185-yard, two-touchdown performance by LeSean McCoy in their first meeting with Dallas.

With the focus on McCoy in the running game and DeSean Jackson deep, expect the middle of the field to be open for tight ends Brent Celek and Clay Harbor. A healthy Jeremy Maclin makes the Eagles offense almost impossible to defend.

One way to stop them is to force turnovers. The Eagles have been all too eager to give the ball back to their opponents, so this week will have to be different. Luckily the offensive line seems to be coming together and Vick is rounding back into form.

The Eagles hope to see McCoy's touchdown dance a few more times in Dallas.
The Eagles hope to see McCoy's touchdown dance a few more times in Dallas.Rich Schultz/Getty Images

So really this game comes down to who can protect their quarterback better, and who can aid their signal caller with the running game. The Eagles hold the advantage in both areas.

Dallas can pose problems on both sides of the ball, but with the weight of the football world on their shoulders, Tony Romo usually collapses. If he is more equipped to carry that weight, the Eagles' defensive line should be enough to push it down on him.

Offensively, LeSean McCoy has just been too good too often. The Cowboys defense has no answer for him. Felix Jones at his best is still no match for “Shady.” As for the offensive line, left tackle Jason Peters should be able to handle DeMarcus Ware.

In the end, if both teams play to their capabilities, the Eagles should prevail. They may trail at the half or even in the fourth quarter, but in the end, Vick, McCoy, Celek and Jackson will be too much for Rob Ryan's defense to overcome. The prediction? 

Eagles 31, Cowboys 23