Week Six was both good and bad to the Cowboys. On the bright side, another hated division rival came and saw AT&T Stadium but failed to conquer as Dallas dispatched of the Washington Redskins fairly easily. Unfortunately, the game also saw injuries to two main pieces of any championship puzzle as DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware both left the game with issues that may sideline them for multiple weeks. Still, the Cowboys remain undefeated in the division and conference heading into this week’s matchup against another divisional foe.
This week provides the unique challenge of seeing the new-look Philadelphia Eagles for the first time in 2013. The Eagles offense has definitely been revitalized under new head coach Chip Kelly, averaging over 10 points per game more than last year. Besides the injuries and the opponent, the Cowboys have yet another challenge ahead of them as they are currently winless on the road this season. Can Dallas overcome all of these obstacles on their way to an outright division lead or will they fall once again below the .500 mark and have to scrap their way back up to the top? Here are the Four Quarters for Week 7 that will break down the keys to a Dallas victory on Sunday.
The Full Monte…
If you read the stories being written this week or catch any of the analysis about the game, you have undoubtedly seen or heard that many are trying to make this game about Chip Kelly versus Monte Kiffin. In a way, that’s a very valid point but that’s not the way it’s being described or delivered. You’re seeing and hearing about how Kelly’s University of Oregon offense destroyed Kiffin’s USC Trojan defenses whenever the two met during their respective times in college. While it is true that Oregon had video game like numbers against USC, averaging over 600 yards per game, 315 of which were rushing yards, there is some perspective being lost here. First of all, Kiffin’s first year at USC coincided with heavy NCAA sanctions that limited recruiting greatly. Second, in those three games the USC offense turned the ball over NINE times. That’s a good way to get your defense gassed. Lastly, because of those recruitment restrictions, the three years Kiffin was the defensive coordinator saw only five defenders drafted into the NFL. Only one of which has started more than 9 games in his NFL career. There is no doubt that this game will largely be predicated on the Cowboys stopping the Eagles when they have the ball. The familiarity between the two coaches however will have nothing to do with the actual outcome of this goal.
Know when to Foles ‘em…
The biggest mistake Dallas can make in this game is to think that the Eagles offense will be any less potent because Michael Vick isn’t back there at quarterback adding the threat of the run. While that is a danger that isn’t as prevalent, Nick Foles is no slouch at QB. Foles has seen the Cowboys twice and is 44 for 66 for 470 yards with 2 TD’s and 1 INT against Dallas. Last week against Tampa Bay, in his first full start of the season, Foles completed over 70% of his passes and left the game with a passer rating above 133 leading the Eagles to 31 points and 425 total yards. Dude can play. Couple that with the possibility of a minimized pass rush minus Ware and you can see that Dallas will have their work cut out for them. In order for Dallas to prevail, the defense does not necessarily need to hold Philadelphia to a low scoring day, but guys like Jason Hatcher, George Selvie, Kyle Wilber and Sean Lee need to find a way to disrupt Foles and get him uncomfortable. The Bucs were only able to sack Foles once and only touched him six times all game. Dallas must do better to have the success they are looking for.
If Foles has been good, Tony Romo has been spectacular and if Dallas is to win this game, he will need to continue his hot start. Philadelphia is atrocious defensively. Last in total yards allowed, second to last in passing yards allowed and 29th in points allowed, the Eagles are not stopping anybody. Last week, Romo was unable to get going against an equally porous Redskins defense. I believe this was related to the exotic blitzing schemes Washington employed to attempt to get pressure and just an off day. For the Cowboys to get their first road win and third divisional win, Romo needs to be his normal self and cannot have another day off. With the injuries to the running backs and defense, Romo will need to try to emulate his dual with Peyton Manning in order for Dallas to have a chance Sunday.
The Real McCoy…
Make no mistake about it, the straw that stirs the Eagles offense is LeSean McCoy. There isn’t a whole lot left to say about McCoy. Aside from Adrian Peterson, he may be the best running back in all of football. Not only does he devastate you running the ball, he’s also a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. Currently, McCoy is second in rush attempts (123), first in yards (630) and yards per game (105.1), third in yards per carry (5.1) and tied for fifth in rushing touchdowns (3). If that wasn’t enough, you can add the 15 catches for 241 yards and nine first downs he’s amassed in receiving. Since his entry into the league in 2009, how McCoy goes against Dallas is an excellent barometer of the team’s success. Philadelphia is 3-4 all time in games McCoy has played in versus the Cowboys. Here is how those numbers split:
59 att, 369 yards, 2 TDs rushing, 6 catches, 29 yards, 0 TDs receiving
35 att, 164 yards, 0 TDs rushing, 12 catches, 95 yards, 0 TDs receiving
As you can see, when Dallas controls McCoy, it’s evident the rest of the Eagles offense is far less a problem. If Dallas can contain McCoy and hold him under 100 yards rushing and under 50 yards receiving, it is very likely the Cowboys walk out winners.
The Prediction: Cowboys 41 Eagles 27
On to the picks or as I should start to call it, the self-exposing, self-deprecating portion of the show. What a horrible last two weeks I have put out. At the peak, I believe I was nine games over .500 but that seems like many a moon ago. Last week was particularly excruciating as three games went down to the final possession for a cover and all three came out against me. As a prognosticator though, you must have extremely thick skin and a very forgetful memory. We’ll keep trucking along this week in an effort to get back up the mountain. As for trends, favorites are starting to pull away as home favorites are 33-28 and road favorites are 18-15 on the year. As always the home team is in caps.
LAST WEEK: 5-10 (.333)
SEASON RECORD: 47-48 (.494)
THIS WEEK: 0-1 (.000)
-3.5 New England over N.Y. JETS
+7 JACKSONVILLE over San Diego
-6.5 KANSAS CITY over Houston
-3 DETROIT over Cincinnati
-7.5 MIAMI over Buffalo
+1 Chicago over WASHINGTON
+3 Dallas over PHILADELPHIA
+7 St. Louis over CAROLINA
+7 Tampa Bay over ATLANTA
-4 San Francisco over TENNESSEE
+10 Cleveland over GREEN BAY
-2.5 PITTSBURGH over Baltimore
-6.5 Denver over INDIANAPOLIS
-3 N.Y. GIANTS over Minnesota