Here are some numbers to roll around in your head while you wait for the Eagles and Cowboys to kick off:
Points allowed per game by the Cowboys, 31st in the NFL. That is music to Andy Reid's ears. First, it's a perfect setup for the high-flying Eagles offense, which ranks second in the league with an average of 28.7 points per game. Plus, it gives the Eagles defense, which is ranked 20th in points allowed, some breathing room if Dallas quarterback John Kitna gets hot again.
Eagles with six or more touchdowns, the most players of any team in the NFL. That's called spreading the ball around, and it will not only make it hard for the Cowboys to zero in on any one Eagle but likely keep the Birds a happy bunch. A team that shares the touchdown glory often gets more glory to share. Running back LeSean McCoy leads the Birds with nine touchdowns. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin has eight, and quarterback Michael Vick and wideout DeSean Jackson both have six.
Combined sacks and interceptions by Eagles rookies. It's tempting to rely on veterans to make the big plays, but the Birds are 8-4 and knocking on the playoff door in large part due to the contributions of their newbies. Safety Nate Allen has been the top gun, picking off three passes and getting two sacks. End Brandon Graham has three sacks, and cornerback Trevard Lindley and safety Kurt Coleman each has one interception. The Birds' Class of 2010 is also the only NFL group to have as many as five interceptions and five sacks.
Minimum average yards per carry for the Birds in each of their first 12 games. Believe it or not, that's an NFL record, and you can thank Vick and McCoy for it. Vick averages 6.3 yards per carry, and McCoy gets 4.9 yards per tote. Of course, the Eagles are still a pass-first team. But with Vick scrambling all over the place and McCoy a threat to bust one up the middle on every play, defenses can't ignore the ground game like they used to. Now if Reid would just use it more often.
Success percentage on third down for the Eagles this season. The Birds have converted on 69 of 165 third-down plays and have held their opponents to a success rate of just 38.2 percent. That may not seem like a big spread, but every uptick of that rate means more chances to score points, and the Eagles usually need every point they can get. The Eagles made good on six of 12 third-down chances against the Texans last week, and they needed every one of them. In their loss to the Bears the week before, they converted on just four of 13. "Moving the chains" did not become a cliche because it wasn't important. Third down is the big down.
- Gary Miles