The Opponent: The Philadelphia Eagles, aka the Iggles, aka Progenitors Of The World’s Most Leisurely Two Minute Offense
Record: 5-2, tied for 1st in the division with Dallas.
The Line: Eagles by 3. This is the first time all year that the Cowboys will be playing a game in which they are not favored.
Last Game: A thorough 40-17 dismantling of the Giants at home that saw Donovan McNabb throw three touchdown passes. The Eagles also got long touchdown runs out of Leanoard Weaver and LeSean McCoy. As a team, they rushed for 180 yards, all without Brian Westbrook. Westbrook returns to practice this week, but his game status is unknown. Of course it is. It’s Brian Westbrook.
The Coach: Andy Reid. Andy Reid belongs to that special subset of coaches (Call it the Schottenheimer division) that excels at building team, creating a stable and winning atmosphere, and winning lots of regular season games, even a playoff game or two, before inexplicably morphing into a terrible coach at the exact wrong time. There are times when the Eagles look like they could destroy every team in their path. And then there are weeks, like earlier this season in Oakland, where the Eagles play like a soccer team forced to play a football game at the last minute. For the past decade, they have been the NFL’s most baffling outfit. They win consistently, yet still manage, at times, to look like the world’s worst team.
The Offense: This is the best offense Donovan McNabb has ever had. Rookie wideout Jeremy Maclin has contributed immediately. Wideout DeSean McCoy already has six touchdowns of 50 yards or more on the year. Tight end Brent Celek has emerged this year as the best tight end McNabb has ever had (Bonus for Celek: Philly fans never have to watch LJ Smith drop a touchdown pass and get injured on the same play anymore). And the Eagles proved last week that they can run the ball effectively with or without Westbrook. The line is excellent.
Of course, all these neat little features of the Philly offense are moot if Donovan McNabb decides to play terribly on any given Sunday. McNabb is a terrible short range passer who consistently underthrows receivers. It’s like he’s playing bocce. It’s bizarre. You see McNabb throw a perfect deep ball, and then he’ll turn around and throw a button hook that practically looks like a spike. He’s done it for years and it’ll never change. The Cowboys have to defend the long ball, force McNabb into throwing underneath stuff, and gamble that he won’t be accurate enough to drive the ball downfield. And he won’t be. Also, the Michael Vick experiment is pointless and he should never see the field ever.
The Defense: Ranked tenth overall, the Eagles thrive on turnovers, third in the league in total picks. Somewhere above, the late Jim Johnson smiles upon them.
Key Matchup: Flozell Adams vs. Trent Cole. Cole is one of the best pass rushers in football, and it’s incumbent upon Adams to take him out of the game without getting flagged for holding every seven seconds. Adams has reduced those mistakes of late, and he’ll have to keep it going for the Cowboys to get into rhythm. Both these teams can and will run the ball. If the Cowboys can protect Romo and get to McNabb on the other side, the division lead is their for the taking.