It's gameday, ladies and gentlemen.
Who's feeling confident?
Before we get to our weekly look at who's picking the Eagles, a link I thought might be of interest to this group.
The Elias Sports Bureau tried to take a statistical look at the best and worst coaches in the NFL, in terms of saving their timeouts for the latter stages of close games.
They define a close game as a one-possession game with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. They counted how many times each of the league's current head coaches retained at least two timeouts in those situations.
Andy Reid finished 25th out of 32 coaches. According to the numbers, he has been in close-game situations 80 times throughout his career and saved at least two timeouts 65 times, for a percentage of 81.25.
To be fair, there are several coaches on the list who haven't been in the situation much. The top four guys were first-year head coaches in 2009.
Wade Phillips, the guy Reid faces today in the wild-card round, is surprisingly fifth-best on the list, having saved at least two timeouts on 62 of 66 occasions for a percentage of 93.9.
If you're wondering if there's a direct correlation between 2009 win-loss record and use of timeouts, there's not. Jim Caldwell of the AFC's top-seeded Colts is first, having preserved two or more timeouts in all eight close-game situations.
But Sean Payton of the NFC's top-seeded Saints is 30th overall.
It is interesting to note that guys who came from the Reid coaching tree rank low on this list. The Vikings' Brad Childress is 23rd. The Ravens' John Harbaugh is 31st. And the Rams' Steve Spagnuolo is 32nd, although that's based on just six close-game situations.
And now our look at who's picking the Eagles.
The folks over at Eagletarian have predictions from the Daily News and the Dallas Morning News. Five of six DN writers and all eight DMN writers are going with the Cowboys.
Six of nine SI.com experts go with the Cowboys. The most optimistic outlook from the group has the Eagles losing in the NFC championship.
SI.com's Don Banks has the Eagles seventh in his playoff power rankings:
I'm not convinced the Eagles doomed their playoff chances with that egg they laid at Dallas last week, because Andy Reid's teams usually respond to a severe low with a much improved effort the next time around. But I'm not pumping up Philly chances to turn the tables on the Cowboys because of the theory that it's difficult to beat any team three times in one season. I seem to recall that was the mantra in last year's AFC playoffs, but it didn't really keep Pittsburgh from knocking off Baltimore in the AFC title game. If the Eagles can get their share of explosive plays at Dallas, the Cowboys can definitely be had.
SI.com's Peter King predicts a 27-20 Cowboys victory:
Everyone keeps asking, "What does Wade Phillips have to do to keep his job?'' Easy answer: Win this game. The two men in the NFL under the most pressure a month ago, Tony Romo and Phillips, seem almost bulletproof today because Romo has looked so polished in the Cowboys' three-game winning streak and because Phillips has Dallas on a two-game shutout streak. But they're smart. They know the good feelings will vanish and Jerry Jones will get get a wandering eye (for a coach) with a loss here. If I trusted Donovan McNabb to come up huge against a hot team after his tepid performance last week, I might pick the Eagles. But I don't.
Matt Mosley of ESPN.com predicts a 24-21 Cowboys win:
I think the Eagles will finally make a couple of big plays against Dallas' defense. Surely the Cowboys can't hold DeSean Jackson down for three consecutive games, can they? I think the Eagles will do a much better job against the run in this game. Defensive tackles Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson are excellent run defenders and they were embarrassed by what happened last Sunday. But it will be the Eagles' inability to slow down tight end Jason Witten that leads to their first-round exit. He's a matchup nightmare for the Eagles and Tony Romo will lean on him when things get tight.
Meanwhile, seven of eight ESPN experts go with the Cowboys. The only one picking the Eagles is Jaws.
Four of six CBSSports.com experts pick Dallas.
Pete Prisco has the Cowboys, 27-20:
This is a situation where last week's game does matter. The Eagles were dominated in every facet of the game, and they needed to win it for a bye. That's concerning if you're an Eagles fan. Philadelphia's defense had trouble against the Dallas offense. They didn't blitz much. They will this time. But it won't be easy containing that Dallas offense. It is getting it going at the right time. The Dallas defense had back-to-back shutouts to end the season, including blanking the Eagles last week. Philadelphia ran it only 10 times in that game. That can't happen again. They get some big plays in the passing game here, but I just don't think they keep up with the Cowboys. Tony Romo has a good day and Felix Jones rips off two long runs, one for a score. This is closer than last week, but the Cowboys still find a way to win it.
FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager lists reasons why each playoff team can't win it all. For the Eagles, his reasoning is Nick Cole replacing Jamaal Jackson at center.
Sidenote: Am I the only one who watched last week's game and saw Cole play extremely well against Jay Ratliff? I'm not saying it will happen again, but Cole did a good job last week and without question exceeded expectations.
Schrager's got the Cowboys winning, 38-27:
Two weeks ago, everyone was going gaga over the high-flying Eagles. Fourteen days later, the same folks are nuts about the Cowboys. Though both defenses have had strong seasons and Dallas has posted two shutouts in a row, I'm expecting a shootout similar to the Week 2 Monday night showdown from last year in this one. In the end, I think Tony Romo's shoulders get a lot lighter and Jerry Jones' smile gets a lot wider. Gimme the red hot Cowboys in a wild one.
Pro Football Talk has the Eagles advancing, 28-20:
If the Eagles can keep it close, they can shake the confidence of the Cowboys, and potentially shatter it. It will require a commitment to the running game from Philly, timely big plays from their young wideouts, and an unpredictable game plan from defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. Bottom line? The Eagles as currently constituted have plenty of experience winning playoff games. The Cowboys simply don’t.
Accuscore gives the Cowboys a 27.5 to 21.6 edge.