Eagles offense vs. Cowboys defense
Quarterback Donovan McNabb was sacked and fumbled on the opening play of the first meeting between the teams, and that was a sign of things to come for the Eagles in what ended up as a 38-17 Dallas rout, the Cowboys' most lopsided win in Philadelphia since the 1998 season. After running 19 plays for 113 yards and a touchdown during the next two series, the Eagles' offense ran 27 plays for 92 yards and a field goal on their next five series and fell behind, 35-10, after three quarters. Outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis are the Cowboys' big-play defenders and have combined for 211/2 sacks, including 21/2 in the first game against the Eagles. The Cowboys are ranked eighth overall on defense, but are just 20th against the pass. Ken Hamlin and Anthony Henry each have five interceptions, and one of Henry's set up a touchdown just before halftime in the first meeting with the Eagles. Running the football against the Cowboys is not easy. They rank fourth in the NFL against the run and held Brian Westbrook to 65 yards on 16 carries in the first game.
Eagles defense vs. Cowboys offense
The Cowboys' offense isn't quite as good as the Patriots' offense, but it is quite good. Quarterback Tony Romo, in fact, has been better than Tom Brady over the last six games, a streak that started when he completed a career-best 80 percent of his passes during the Cowboys' rout of the Eagles in the first meeting. Since that game, Romo has completed 137 of 187 passes (73.3 percent) for 1,670 yards and 19 touchdowns. His passer rating in that six-game span is 123.7. It helps that Romo has plenty of weapons - the Eagles didn't stop any of them in the first meeting. Terrell Owens taunted the Eagles with 10 catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Jason Witten (three catches for 77 yards and a touchdown) and Marion Barber (106 total yards and a touchdown) also contributed. Romo, who has been sacked 19 times this season, was not dropped once in the first meeting with the Eagles. If defensive coordinator Jim Johnson can't devise a scheme to pressure Romo today, the score will likely be similar to the first game. Lito Sheppard intercepted Romo in the first meeting, and the Eagles are going to need some turnovers if they're going to have any chance today.
Eagles coach Andy Reid said his special-teams units have improved every week, but if that's the case, the improvement has been microscopic, at best, after an abysmal start in Green Bay. The Cowboys, on the other hand, have improved on special teams. Second-year receiver Miles Austin is developing into a dangerous kick returner, averaging 26.9 yards per return, including a 60-yarder last week against Detroit. Patrick Crayton has averaged 12.2 yards on his 13 punt returns. Mat McBriar is one of the league's best punters, averaging 46.9 yards per punt. Rookie kicker Nick Folk has hit 20 of 24 field goals, including a game-winning 53-yarder at Buffalo earlier this season. He did miss a 50-yarder indoors last week against Detroit.
The Cowboys already have wrapped up the NFC East title, their first since 1998, and now are trying to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time since 1995. The Eagles, despite what the math says, are playing for pride.