By Kevin McGuire
After a bye week the Philadelphia Eagles get set to make a second half run to the top of the NFC East. That quest starts Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys as the Eagles look to score some NFC East revenge on their division rival.
When we last saw the Dallas Cowboys, they were celebrating a 20-10 victory at Lincoln Financial Field back in Week 2. That put the Cowboys in first place in the NFC East, but since then it has quickly gone down hill. Dallas has lost five straight games since beating the Eagles, as key injuries have taken quite a toll. The Cowboys will be coming off a bitter 13-12 loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys are just 1-3 at home in Jerry World this season, with the lone win coming in the season opener against the New York Giants, which itself was a bit of a gift from the G-Men.
The Eagles are riding a two-game winning streak in Dallas, having won the last two games played against the Cowboys on the road in 2013 and 2014. The Eagles are 4-1 in their last five trips to Dallas.
Cowboys on Offense
Since losing Tony Romo to a broken collarbone in that Week 2 win in Philadelphia, the Cowboys passing game has been a complete mess. Entering the week, Dallas ranks 24th in the league in passing as Brandon Weeden took over for the injured Romo and later lost the job to Matt Cassel. Neither backup option has had a positive effect for the Cowboys, which is why it will be important to keep a close eye on the status of Romo this week. The Cowboys are planning on working him into the practice mix this week, although it remains a longshot he will be able to return to play against the Eagles. The Cowboys will move forward with Cassel as the starter this weekend.
The strength of the Cowboys remains on the ground, even without DeMarco Murray. The NFL’s sixth-best rushing offense continues to be fueled by Darren McFadden and Joseph Randle, who have rushed for 345 yards and 315 yards, respectively. The two have combined for six rushing touchdowns as well behind what remains a decent offensive line. Points have come at a premium though. Dallas is averaging just 19.0 points per game. They scored 20 against the Eagles in Week 2.
Cowboys on Defense
While things have not gone well for the Dallas offense, the defense more often than not has done enough to keep the Cowboys within striking distance of a win. The Cowboys bring the NFL’s eight-ranked defense in the game Sunday night, but the turnover manufacturing has not been abundant. Dallas has picked off three passes this season, and two of those came against Sam Bradford. The Cowboys tied down the Eagles offense for just 226 yards in Week 2, and just seven of those yards came on the ground. The Cowboys forced three turnovers against the Eagles, so Philadelphia will have to avoid making any costly errors.
Dallas’ Players to Watch
WR Dez Bryant: Bryant was unavailable to play against the Eagles earlier in the season, but he’s back now. The Eagles secondary will have to prevent him from having a big game, but the lack of reliable a quarterback should make that less of a concern.
LB Sean Lee: Entering the week, Dallas linebacker Sean Lee leads the team with 61 tackles. He will always be around the football, so getting around him will be difficult.
The way the NFC East is playing this season it is not exactly a must-win situation the Eagles are walking into this week, but it should be. The eagles cannot afford to lose a third game in NFC East play and remain behind the New York Giants. Coming off a bye week, look to see if Chip Kelly has made any adjustments, but the Eagles defense should be up to the task of defending against Matt Cassell. Taking away the passing game should be relatively easy for the Eagles, which means Dallas will have to hope the running game is working well enough. The Eagles offense still needs to find a way to get off to a solid start, but if they come home with a loss against this fading Cowboys team then any hope of winning the NFC East should probably be tossed to the side.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.