It has been an inauspicious start for the NFC East. Collectively, its teams have notched seven wins through six weeks of the season. (To give this figure proper context, the AFC West claims 17 victories to its credit, with the NFC West right behind at 15.) A perennial playoff contender, the Giants are winless through six games. Washington’s franchise player has been a shell of himself in return from injury, and the organization is under intense fire to change its racially-charged nickname. The Eagles have the worst-ranked defense in the league; the Cowboys haven’t fared much better, checking in at 30th. Safe to say this division has seen better days.
Nevertheless, the NFC East is not without theater. Spurred by Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, Philadelphia is averaging the third-highest yardage output in the league. While Dallas flaunts a .500 record, the team is this close from an undefeated state, as three losses have come by a combined 13 points. The winner of Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys rendezvous will sit atop the division, making this showdown our FOX NFL Game of the Week.
Can Joseph Randle be productive as Dallas’s primary back?
I hope you’re sitting down: DeMarco Murray is hurt. Shocking, I know. (Concededly, I probably shouldn’t be so snarky toward injury-prone players, given in the last year I’ve fractured my elbow, received stitches and broken my ring finger, all stemming from the hardwood. Just spitballin’, but it could have something to do with my Kevin Durant physique coupled with my Chris Kaman coordination, sprinkled with a pain tolerance of Greg Oden.)
Murray suffered a sprain versus Washington and is expected to be out several weeks. Same goes for backup Lance Dunbar, who is dealing with a hamstring injury. This bequeaths the backfield touches to Randle, a fifth-round rookie from Oklahoma State. In replacement of Murray, Randle was, frankly, unimpressive, tallying just 17 yards on 11 carries, although he did find the end zone and added two receptions for 15 yards. However, Randle has a chance to shine against a Philadelphia resistance allowing 29.8 points (29th in the NFL) and a league-high 420.2 yards per contest. What he does with this opportunity will go a ways in deciding the outcome of this ballgame.
Spotlight: Dallas defense
Almost every facet of the Cowboys comes under some degree of scrutiny, but the fire has been especially warm for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Dallas D is allowing 413.2 yards per contest, with most of this carnage coming against the secondary (308.2 passing yards conceded, second-highest in the NFC). Worse, the Cowboys will be without DeMarcus Ware for the next month, as the All-Pro end suffered a quadriceps injury last weekend, and just cut four-time Pro Bowler Jay Ratliff.
Dallas is not totally destitute on this front. Initially struggling under Kiffin’s approach, linebacker Sean Lee has been a tour de force as of late, registering 48 tackles and an interception in his last three contests. Corner Brandon Carr has made his share of big plays over the years, and veteran tackle Jason Hatcher is on pace for a career season, notching five sacks and a fumble.
If the Cowboys have aspirations of contending for the division crown, this defensive fallacy will need to be fixed in a hurry. Facing the third-ranked Philly offense will put this challenge to the test.
Matchup Watch: Tony Romo vs. Philadelphia secondary
Hope you’re over that game-deciding pick, Cowboys fans. With Murray out, Dallas’ offense, already a pass-happy attack, should see an elevated rate of aerial forays. Meaning, more than ever, the fate of your team is in the hands of Romo. It’s ok, go rest in a cool place for a few moments, we’ll be here when you get back…
If it’s any solace, Romo battles a harassed Eagles defense that, mentioned above, has been anything but stout. Philadelphia has especially labored against opposing arms, relinquishing a conference-worst 315 yards per game and has allowed double the amount of touchdowns (13) as interceptions (six). The emergence of Terrance Williams (13 catches, 249 yards, two scores in the last three weeks) bestows a fourth viable receiving option to Romo, further cementing his positive forecast.
The Eagles do have a formidable front seven, one that can apply the necessary pressure to coerce Romo into multiple ill-advised attempts. If such a circumstance transpires, it’s imperative Philadelphia cornerbacks Cary Williams, Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin close the passing windows that have seemingly been open against their unit all season.
Defending Jerry Jones
Well, at least on one front. Man caught a lot of guff for brandishing an old-school phone. As one who also rocks the flip, YOU guys are the problem, not me and Jer. Anyone who has watched Star Trek: Into Darkness will attest to the comeback of this device. If anything, we’re simply trendsetters. That, or we’re just both super hesitant on upgrading our mobile plan. One of the two.
The Cowboys win if…
Randle proves to be an adequate replacement, Romo exploits a susceptible Philly defense, LeSean McCoy eats too many cheesesteaks before the game…
I think the consistency Nick Foles brings to the offense is the winning factor in this matchup, but the Eagles defense, or lack thereof, will make this bad boy a shootout. With a handful of playmakers on the offensive side, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys are able to match Philly’s fireworks.