By EaglesGab Columnist Troy Ballard
The Philadelphia Eagles head down to Dallas to play NFC East rival, the Cowboys in a crucial week 14 throw down.This Sunday Night Football match up is going to be a huge game for both teams, as the Eagles sit at (8-4) and are tied for first place in the NFC East with the New York Giants. The Cowboys throughout their turbulent season have managed to really turn it around under Jason Garrett, currently sitting at a (4-8) record.
The Eagles need this win to keep pace with the Giants in the playoff race, and just one division loss could mean the Eagles are out of the playoffs. The Cowboys are a serious threat, and the Eagles are looking to pick up their first win against them following three straight losses last season. This could be the win that gets the Eagles into the playoffs.
The Cowboys, are essentially just playing for honor at this point in the season. It’s a hard to think that the Cowboys are not a playoff contender this season, but with Garrett as the head coach it looks as if the team has taken a new role as playoff killer. With this being an NFC East game, the Cowboys are going to come out with guns blazing just trying to push their winning streak against the Eagles to four games, and potentially ruining their playoff hopes.
Here are five keys to the Eagles winning the game in Dallas:
5. Don’t Underestimate the Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys (4-8) record does not actually reflect the talent that this team has, and I think that everyone can agree that they should have a much better record. Dallas is a team that is deadly on offense, and on defense.
There is few places on this Cowboys team I would consider weaknesses, and I am would put them in the discussion for the most talented team in the NFL. It seems like every Cowboys game I watched, I am impressed with something new and they always manage to make me say, “Wow.”
This season is a fluke.
I don’t care what you say about the Cowboys, but they are one of the best teams in the NFL and they are deadly. There is nothing worse than when you are a playoff team, and your division opponent is going all out in an attempt to knock you out of the playoffs.
Not to mention- The game is in Big D.
Even though I am an Eagles fan, I have nothing but respect for this team.
4. Don’t Let the Cowboys Get On a Roll
Jon Kitna has performed admirably in Tony Romo’s absence, and he is able to move this Cowboys offense. But in all fairness, who couldn’t with as much talent as the Cowboys have on their offense?
(There’s the true Eagles fan coming through)
But really, Kitna has done a great job of getting drives moving and then finishing them out with touchdowns, or at the very least field goals. It seems that the Cowboys offense has been able to score most effectively when they get on a several drive roll.
I watched it happen against the Saints, and the Cowboys nearly beat the defending champs.
The only issue, is the Cowboys ability to close out games. Like the Saints game, Roy Williams was just owned and he fumbled the ball. That was painful to watch. The Cowboys had that game and Williams seriously just fumbled the ball away.
The Eagles just can’t let the Cowboys get into a groove. Kitna and the rest of the offense has proved that they can move the ball against some of the toughest defenses in the NFL, and they can take over games.
Plus- Kitna has shown some legs on third and longs. Maybe Vick and him should have a quick race before the game?
I’d love to see that.
3. Screen Passes to McCoy All Game
The Eagles offense has had enormous success this season with the screen pass to LeSean McCoy and the offensive line. I know the Eagles have always used the screen pass frequently, but it seems like McCoy is the perfect fit for the offense and the screen play.
I have not seen a single defense in the NFL that can stop the explosive cutbacks and jukes of McCoy on the screen pass. Vick runs the play to perfection and surprisingly, so does the offensive line with getting blocks down the field.
There is no reason that Reid should not run these types of plays more, and I doubt that the Cowboys defense will be able to stop it. I remember the Brian Westbrook days when the Eagles would play the Cowboys and he would rip off of huge gains.
I think that McCoy be doing an even better job than Westbrook.
McCoy is ready to have his first throw down as a starter against the Cowboys, and he is going to aim to make a huge impact.
Hey Dallas- Are those lights bright enough to see ‘Shady McCoy?’
2. Lock Down on the Cowboys Receivers
When I saw Dez Bryant go down on the punt return, I had two reactions:
1. That sucks for the Cowboys!
2. That’s awesome for the Eagles!
The Eagles did a mediocre job covering an awesome Texans passing attack, but that won’t fly against the Cowboys. There were several plays where the Eagles secondary just left receivers wide open about 20 to 50 yards down the field.
If the Eagles allow Miles Austin to get open in the middle of the field, that is a touchdown.
If the Eagles allow Roy Williams to get open down the sideline, that is a touchdown.
Both of these Cowboys starters have excellent speed and even better elusiveness. The Eagles secondary is going to have some trouble keeping both of them contained, but if they leave them open it could be a rough game.
The Eagles secondary is better than what happened last week, and it will not result in a win against Dallas.
Maybe if Williams catches the ball he will just fumble it away? Yeah, Who am I kidding?
1. Let Michael Vick Do His Thing
Michael Vick leads the NFL in Pro-Bowl voting.
Vick is on fire this season, making a case for MVP.
Vick is winning tough games like it’s no big deal.
I understand that Vick has not been as explosive and as impressive as he was against the Redskins, but he is still doing much more than it appears. Vick is single handedly winning games, and making defenses stumble all over themselves.
When you think of a QB tearing up a defense, the first person that comes to mind is Vick. This entire season he has made defenses look non-exsistent and show that he is an elite QB in the NFL, once again. Only improving as the season goes on, burning the Boys’ defense is just what he aims to do.
This will be Vick’s first game as an Eagle against the Cowboys and you know he understands the weight of the game. Not only is it an intense rivalry game, but also the entire postseason maybe relying on this game in Dallas.
This is going to be Vick’s big game. This is his chance to show the Eagles fan base that he can win games when it matters the most. If Vick wins this game, he will be accepted and welcomed as the Eagles future QB.
This game is huge. Someone needs to stop this Cowboys winning streak against the Eagles- Michael Vick is the man to do it.
This game is going to be a real test of the entire Eagles team-
1. How well can the Eagles bounce back from three straight losses to the Cowboys?
2. Are the Eagles legitimate playoff contenders?
3. How good is Vick?
The answers to all of these questions will be answered in this next game, and it is going to be a tough throw down in Big D. It may end up being a much closer game than most Eagles fans are expecting, and an even better game than Cowboys fans are anticipating.
I respect the Cowboys, not because of their team but because of their players. They have enough talent to sink a ship, and the Eagles can’t take them lightly. This is a Dallas team that is playing for nothing but pride and to ruin the Eagles playoff hopes. It’s going to be all cards on the table.
The Eagles are coming into the game trying to prove that they are the best team in the NFC East, and that they aren’t going to be bullied by the lower teams in their division. The Eagles have a lot to prove in this game, and a lot of this is going to be riding on Vick’s performance.
Like I said, the Eagles are just the better team. But it will still be a close one.
My Prediction: Eagles- 34 Cowboys- 28