Here is our weekly look at the Daily News staff predictions for the Eagles game against the Cowboys, plus the key matchups:
Everybody knows about Andy Reid and the 12-0 record the week after the bye. Across the league, teams coming out of the bye haven't fared very well this year, maybe because the new CBA put limits on the amount of work teams can do during the week off. But Reid never has his team do anything during the bye week, so I don't see any effect there.
I do, however, try to keep in mind one basic fact about streaks: the longer they go on, the closer they are to being over. Nothing lasts forever. There was a time when Reid was absolutely unbeaten with an extra week to prepare, in any situation. Then came Super Bowl XXXIX.
I think the Eagles have to win this game to remain viable for the playoffs. Not technically, of course, but at a feel-it-in-your-gut level. Lose this, you're 2-5, and you need to go 7-2 the rest of the way just to get to 9-7, 8-1 to get to 10-6. That probably doesn't add up.
The Cowboys have improved their defense a bunch. The way some pundits talk, though, you'd think they suddenly became this dominant team by beating up on the Rams last week. I don't get that. They're 3-3. Their foldup against the Lions was worse than any of the Eagles' second-half pratfalls this season.
I'm taking the Eagles here, by the skin of their teeth. I think Andy will have some new wrinkles for Jason Garrett, given the extra week to work. That might make the difference in a closely matched contest.
Prediction: Eagles 17, Cowboys 16
Here's what Rob Ryan, brother of Rex and defensive coordinator down in the Big D offered up when asked about the Birds: "I don't know if we win the all-hype team," Ryan said in August. "I think that might have gone to somebody else, but we're going to beat their ass when we play them." There's your motivation.
Now, here's your history, Part 1: The Eagles have a magnificent 12-0 record coming off the bye week during the Andy Reid reign.
History, Part 2: Tony Romo has had seven regular-season starts against the Birds and has thrown 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
And it looks as if the Eagles' walking wounded are starting to heal with DE Trent Cole and OT Jason Peters listed as probable. Great news for the Eagles as they look to climb back into contention in the muddled NFC East.
Prediction: Eagles: 28-21
Paul Domowitch: Eagles, 31-27
Ed Barkowitz: Cowboys, 24-17
Bill Conlin: Eagles, 17-16
Marcus Hayes: Eagles, 21-20
John Smallwood: Eagles, 27-24
DOMO'S KEY MATCHUPS
1. Eagles LT Jason Peters vs. Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware: Both are perennial Pro Bowlers. Peters is coming off a hamstring injury. Ware will line up in different spots, but Peters will be matched up vs. him the most. Advantage: Even
2. Eagles WRs Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson and Jason Avant vs. Cowboys CBs Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick: Maclin and Jackson both are on 1,200-yard receiving paces. Scandrick shut down Wes Welker 2 weeks ago. Advantage: Eagles
3. Eagles LB Moise Fokou and CB Nnamdi Asomugha vs. Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Witten's unique combination of size, strength and athleticism makes him tough to stop. He has been targeted 20 times in last three games and has caught 17 of those passes. Advantage: Cowboys
JERRY JONES ON THE BIRDS
Some interesting comments from Jerry Jones as reported in today's Forth Worth Star-Telegram about tonight's matchup with the Eagles and how big it is:
"As I watched them add to their roster [in the off-season], knowing what they had at the skill positions, I circled this game as arguably the toughest road game we might have. This is the kind of game you can start a foundation, with a win that you can build significantly off of. We've had that happen in some of the great seasons that we've had.
"This is, again, that kind of game, even though their record doesn't reflect it. They're that kind of challenge. They're that kind of threat. And certainly playing them at home was one that you knew was going to be hard to win. I still feel that way."
To read our earlier reports, click here.