Friday, December 19, 2014

Eagles-Cowboys: What We'll Be Watching For

Red Zone, As In Dead Zone. Both the Eagles and the Cowboys have been inept in the red zone. The Eagles are 30th in red zone offense, converting just 10 of 27 opportunities into touchdowns. The Cowboys are 26th, converting 11 of 25. The Eagles were a pitiful 0-for-5 inside the 20 last week as Michael Vick completed just 2 of 11 red-zone passes.

Eagles-Cowboys: What We'll Be Watching For

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy rushed for over 100 yards Monday against the Saints. (Matt Slocum/AP)
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy rushed for over 100 yards Monday against the Saints. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Red Zone, As In Dead Zone. Both the Eagles and the Cowboys have been inept in the red zone. The Eagles are 30th in red zone offense, converting just 10 of 27 opportunities into touchdowns. The Cowboys are 26th, converting 11 of 25. The Eagles were a pitiful 0-for-5 inside the 20 last week as Michael Vick completed just 2 of 11 red-zone passes.

Battle of (Bad) Turnover Differentials. The Cowboys are 31st in the league in turnover differential with a minus-11. The Eagles are 29th with a minus-9. Something’s got to give Sunday. The Cowboys’ eight takeaways are the second fewest in the league. The Eagles only have 10 and have forced only two interceptions in their last six games.

Vick’s Protection. With last week’s season-ending injury to right tackle Todd Herremans, the Eagles now are without their top three blockers. Patchwork doesn’t begin to describe this unit. Vick was sacked seven times in Monday night’s loss to the Saints and now is facing a defense that put up three sacks, four hits and 14 hurries on the Falcons’ Matt Ryan.

Defending Witten. For the most part, the Eagles have done a decent job neutralizing opposing tight ends this year. But they gave up eight catches and a touchdown to the Saints’ Jimmy Graham last week, and now face one of the most productive pass-catching TEs in history in Jason Witten. Getting safety Nate Allen back this week should help, but Witten’s a handful.

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Shady Side of the Street. Forget empty backfields. Forget throwing the ball 35-plus times. The Eagles need to run the ball early and often Sunday to keep the Cowboys guessing and take some of the steam out of their pass rush. LeSean McCoy and rookie Bryce Brown combined for 168 rushing yards in last week’s loss to the Saints. The Cowboys are OK against the run, but gave up 84 second-half yards to the Falcons’ Michael Turner last week.

Paul Domowitch Daily News NFL Columnist
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