Eagles-Cowboys Scouting Report

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Tony Romo drops back to pass against the Washington Redskins on December 27 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

EAGLES VS. COWBOYS

 

Recent history: The Eagles lost to the Cowboys, 20-16 on Nov. 8 at the Linc. The Cowboys lead the series, 56-44.

 

OFFENSE

 

Eagles: 366.5 yards per game (10th)

Cowboys: 394.4 yards per game (3rd)

 

Quarterback

 

Eagles: In a year when Donovan McNabb is putting up some of the best passing numbers of his career, he also has the second highest interception percentage of his career (10 in 407 attempts). But that hasn't necessarily been a bad thing. He's shown more trust in his receivers, and one of his 10 picks have come in the red zone.

Cowboys: Tony Romo's decision-making has improved this season and he has cut down dramatically on the turnovers. He's thrown just one interception in the last 5 games and has averaged an interception every 64.5 pass attempts this season, compared to one every 28.4 in his first 3 seasons.

PICK: EVEN

 

Running back

 

Eagles: The Eagles haven't had much success running the ball against 3-4 fronts this season. In 5 games vs. 3-4s, they've averaged just 3.4 yards per carry. Brian Westbrook played 23 snaps and got 11 touches in his first game back last week. He'll probably play a bigger role in the passing game this week.

Cowboys: The Cowboys are second in the league in yards per carry (4.8). Their 3-pronged running attack of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Teshard Choice is a good mix of styles. Barber is the punishing runner, Jones is the perimeter threat and Choice is a little of both.

PICK: COWBOYS

 

Receiver

 

Eagles: The Cowboys did a good job of taking away WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin in the first game. The pair combined for just 5 catches for 73 yards. Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg almost certainly will look for ways to get the ball in their hands more than 5 times Sunday.

Cowboys: WR Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten are Romo's go-to guys. In the last 7 games, 131 of Romo's 252 attempts have been directed at Austin and Witten. Austin has averaged 8 catches and 110 receiving yards per game over the last 5 games. Cowboys countered a lot of the Eagles' blitzes in the first game with WR screens.

PICK: EAGLES

 

Offensive line

 

Eagles: Just when this unit seemed to be hitting its stride, C Jamaal Jackson went down with a season-ending knee injury last week. With Nick Cole sliding into the middle from RG, Jackson's injury basically weakens the Eagles at 2 positions – center, where Cole rarely has played since college, and Cole's old RG spot, where Max Jean-Gilles will start ahead of Stacy Andrews.

Cowboys: Since giving up 5 sacks in a Week 10 loss to the Packers, the offensive line has allowed just 10 sacks in the last 5 games. They have a solid interior, anchored by Pro Bowlers Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis. But, LT Flozell Adams has struggled against Eagles RDE Trent Cole and RT Doug Free is playing in place of injured Marc Polombo.

PICK: COWBOYS

 

DEFENSE

 

Eagles: 310.9 yards per game (7th)

Cowboys: 322.4 yards per game (12th)

Defensive line

Eagles: The Eagles are 7th in the league in yards allowed per carry (3.9). Much of the credit goes to unsung DTs Brodrick Bunkley and Mike Patterson, who have been able to get penetration and force runners east-west. Front 4 must do a better job of keeping Tony Romo in the pocket than they did the Broncos' Kyle Orton last week.

Cowboys: Jay Ratliff has developed into one of the league's top nose tackles. The 6-4, 305-pound former DE is a strong run-defender who also can rush the passer. He has 6 sacks, including 2 in the first Eagles game. Both came at the expense of RG Stacy Andrews. Cowboys like to run stunts with Ratliff.

PICK: EAGLES

 

Linebacker

 

Eagles: Eagles primarily played their two-linebacker nickel 2 weeks ago vs. the 49ers so they could put a corner (Joselio Hanson) on tight end Vernon Davis. They probably won't do that this week against Cowboys TE Jason Witten. Jeremiah Trotter and Akeem Jordan will rotate in the middle again.

Cowboys: The emergence of OLB Anthony Spencer, along with DeMarcus Ware, gives the Cowboys a lethal double-barreled pass rush. Spencer, who the Cowboys selected in the first round of the '07 draft with the pick they got from the Eagles, has 4 sacks and 10 hurries in the last 5 games.

PICK: COWBOYS

 

Secondary

 

Eagles: Eagles have 24 interceptions, including 14 by CBs Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown. Cowboys WRs Miles Austin and Roy Williams both are 6-3 and are tough size matchups for the Eagles' smaller corners. Corners need better help over the top than they've been getting from Sean McDermott's free safety du jour.

Cowboys: Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman are physical corners, who have combined for 8 interceptions. The Cowboys have given up just 5 completions of 40-plus yards this season, the fifth fewest in the league. In the first Eagles game, they held DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to a combined 5 catches for 73 yards.

PICK: EAGLES

 

Special teams

 

Eagles: PK David Akers has made 24 of his last 25 field goal attempts. PR DeSean Jackson leads the league with a 16.0-yard average and has taken 2 back for scores. If Quintin Demps still is out this week, Jeremy Maclin probably will handle some of the kickoff return chores after Macho Harris fumbled twice last week.

Cowboys: The Cowboys released PK Nick Folk last week and replaced him with ex-Redskin Shaun Suisham. Suisham is a career 66.7 percent field goal kicker from 40-plus yards. PR Patrick Crayton has returned 2 punts for TDs and is averaging 12.9 yards per attempt, which is second in the league to the Eagles' DeSean Jackson.

PICK: EAGLES

 

KEY MATCHUPS

 

Eagles C Nick Cole and RG Max Jean-Gilles vs. Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff. Ratliff is an athletic NT with 6 sacks. Cole is making his first start at center and Jean-Gilles doesn't really have the feet to deal with a nose man with Ratliff's agility. Advantage: Cowboys

Eagles RDE Trent Cole vs. Cowboys LT Flozell Adams. Cole has 12 1/2 sacks, including 3 in the last 2 games. The 6-7 Adams has had a lot of problems with the high-motor Cole, who plays low and can't get under the bigger man's pads. Advantage: Eagles

Eagles WRs DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin vs. Cowboys CBs Terence Newman and Jeremy Maclin. Newman and Maclin held them to a combined 5 catches for 73 yards in first meeting. Since then, they've combined for nearly 1,000 yards and averaged a collective 15.9 yards per catch. Advantage: Eagles

 

HOT AND NOT

 

Hot

Eagles: TE Brent Celek. Had three 30-plus yard receptions vs. Broncos and is averaging 19.1 yards per catch in the last 3 games.

Cowboys: OLB Anthony Spencer. Has 4 sacks and 10 hurries in the last 5 games.

Not

Eagles: S Macho Harris. Fumbled 2 kickoff returns, including one that set up a Denver touchdown, and had an unnecessary roughness penalty that negated a big return on Asante Samuel's interception.

Cowboys: WR Roy Williams. Has just 2 receptions for 18 yards in the last 2 games.

 

Domowitch's prediction

 

Cowboys 21, Eagles 20