Sunday, April 19, 2015

Wild-card game: What We're Watching

Each week, we give you insight into what we will be keeping our eyes on during the upcoming Eagles game:

Wild-card game: What We're Watching

The Eagles´ offense only averaged eight points per game against the Cowboys this season. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
The Eagles' offense only averaged eight points per game against the Cowboys this season. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)

Each week, we give you insight into what we will be keeping our eyes on during the upcoming Eagles game:

1. The Cowboys’ ground game. Held to 3.3 yards per carry in their four-point win over the Eagles in Week 9, the Cowboys ran all over the Eagles last week, piling up 179 yards, the most allowed by the Birds this season. As Quintin Mikell correctly pointed out, ``that pretty much opened everything (else) up.’’ If they can’t control Marion Barber and Felix Jones Saturday, Eagles have no shot – zero -- to win.

2. DeSean’s production.
The Cowboys have done a very good job on the Eagles’ big-play wide receiver this season, holding him to five catches for 76 yards and no TDs in the two games. Jackson aggravated a groin injury in the second half Sunday and clearly wasn’t the same player afterward. How much effect it will have on his play this week is uncertain at this point. Jackson has not been listed on the injury report this week and has practiced every day.

3. The third-down story. The Eagles have struggled on third down both offensively and defensively in their two losses to the Cowboys. The offense converted just 7 of 24 third-down tries, including 3 of 12 last week. In the their last two games vs. Eagles, the Cowboys' offense has converted 12 of 28 (42.8) third-down opportunities, including 4 of 6 in the first half.

4. New and improved Romo.
Not so long ago, if you could get pressure on Tony Romo, you usually could count on him self-destructing. But no more. In the Cowboys’ last six games, he’s thrown 11 TD passes and just two interceptions in 220 attempts. In two games vs. the Eagles, he’s got a .661 completion percentage and has averaged 9.09 yards per attempt.

5. As the first half turns. The Eagles have had the lead at halftime in 11 games this season and have won them all. They’ve trailed in five at the half and have lost all 5, including both Cowboys games. They’ve been outscored 27-6 in the first half by Cowboys. In their other 14 games, they’ve outscored their opponents 267-132 in the first two quarters. Bottom line: Eagles need to start fast and make the Cowboys play catch-up in the second half.

NUMBERS TO PONDER

* Nine teams have played each other in the final game of the regular-season and the first round of the playoffs. Just four times did the winner of the first game also win the rematch.

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* Five of the Eagles’ 12 third-down situations Sunday were 10 yards or more. They failed to convert any of the five. In their last two games, they are 1-for-11 on third-and-10 or more. For the season, they are 12-for-56 (21.4 percent).

* The Eagles scored a franchise-record 429 points this season on just 975 offensive plays. That’s the fewest number of offensive plays by an Eagles team since 2004.

* The Eagles ran the ball just 384 times this season. That’s the fewest since ‘05, when they had 365 rushing attempts. They ran the ball 39.4 percent of the time. That’s the lowest percentage since ’05, when they ran it just 35.5 percent.

* DeSean Jackson had the highest percentage of first-down receptions on the Eagles this season. Forty-one of his 63 catches (65.1 percent) went for first downs. Jason Avant was second. Twenty-six of his 41 catches (63.4) went for first downs.

* --The Eagles had five receivers catch 40 or more passes this season – Celek (76), Jackson, Maclin (55), Avant and running back LeSean McCoy (40). It’s the third time in the Reid era they’ve had five players with 40 or more catches in a season. It also happened in ’05 and ’02.

* Donovan McNabb has completed 60-plus percent of his passes in just 1 of his last 13 games against the Cowboys. His completion percentage in those 13 games: .556.
 

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To read the contents of the Daily News' 32-page special preview section from today's newspaper, click here.

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