Game Scout: Cowboys-Eagles

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Dallas Cowboys (3-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-3)
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. ET, at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia - TV: FOX
*TV announcers: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver
*Keys to the game: Dallas hits the road without two key players -- DE DeMarcus Ware and RB DeMarco Murray -- who typically dictate the opponent's game plan. The Cowboys are decidedly pass-centric offensively, and QB Tony Romo's first-down decision making is critical. The Eagles won't bother to bring up a safety to stop Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner, the backups filling in for Murray. It leaves Romo to decipher where the extra defenders will align -- in coverage or as blitzers. Romo's reliance on TE Jason Witten short and WR Dez Bryant on downfield routes won't change, but the Cowboys could force Eagles SS Nate Allen and FS Patrick Chung to cover by using more multiple-receiver sets. The Eagles are pushing RB LeSean McCoy toward a career year. He leads the NFL with 630 rushing yards and his 5.1-yard rushing average speaks to how difficult the shifty 208-pounder can be to bring down. As the lead weapon, McCoy takes pressure off QB Nick Foles, who hasn't turned the ball over this season. Foles traced his progressions better than Michael Vick, and got Riley Cooper (four receptions, 120 yards last week) more involved.
*Matchup to watch - Cowboys CB Brandon Carr vs. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson: Not always mentioned as one of the NFL's elite cornerbacks, Carr's play the past two weeks assigned to shadow Demaryius Thomas (Broncos) and Pierre Garcon (Redskins) is worth reviewing. Jackson's speed will test Dallas. Poor tackling and communication from both safeties have led to big plays.
*Player spotlight - Cowboys LB Sean Lee: McCoy averages 16.1 yards per reception because tracking him down in the open field is extremely difficult. Lee, unquestionably the MVP of the defense this season, might need a 20-tackle day to ensure McCoy isn't dancing in the end zone.
*Fast facts: In three meetings between Chip Kelly's Oregon offense and Monte Kiffin's Southern Cal defense, the Ducks averaged 601 yards and 50 points. Kiffin is Dallas' defensive coordinator ... A victory makes Dallas 3-0 in the division for the first time since 2007. ... Both teams have three losses -- to the Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers.
If the Cowboys can disrupt Nick Foles and corral LeSean McCoy, they could spare their secondary in a track meet short-handed Dallas isn't equipped to win. Their recent defensive track record and Chip Kelly's dominance of Monte Kiffin's scheme signals a rise to first place in the East for the Eagles.
*Our pick: Eagles 31-21

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