If only the Dallas Cowboys could get a one-year exception to play on the road this Thanksgiving. This team is 5-0 on the road in 2014, which no one else has duplicated.
The Cowboys have only two games left at AT&T Stadium, and Thursday’s divisional game is the most important. The biggest advantage the Cowboys have is at quarterback. Tony Romo is having one of the best seasons of his career in terms of passer rating (96.5, second in the NFL) and wins.
The Eagles are trying to keep pace with Mark Sanchez under center. History suggests this is a losing proposition, although Sanchez has experienced more playoff success than Romo. Sanchez is averaging nearly 300 yards passing per game, but he’s thrown six interceptions in limited duty. Romo has started 10 of 11 games and has only six interceptions to go along with 22 touchdown passes.
Some folks have touted Romo as an MVP candidate, but that’s a reach. Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady have put up bigger numbers. And for that matter, so has DeMarco Murray.
What Romo has over Sanchez is the mental edge. He’s used to these quick turnarounds at Thanksgiving. I would imagine he was studying the Eagles well before the Cowboys traveled to the Meadowlands.
"I mean the mental challenge is there, but I’ve played in enough Thanksgiving games to understand what is going to give you some advantages to the short week, to give you a leg up," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "You’ve got to really grind it out. And you’ll be a little bit exhausted on the mental side of it, but that’s a good thing in this sort of week."
This is a huge test for someone who suffered two fractures in his back less than a month ago. Romo rarely was hit against the Giants on Sunday, but the Eagles will try to force the issue.
The Eagles would be wise to follow the bullprint employed by the Cardinals and Redskins against the Cowboys in recent weeks. You likely will see quite a few blitzes called by the Eagles.
The intriguing thing is Dallas and Philadelphia mirror each other in a lot of ways. Both have explosive running games and shaky secondaries. The Eagles haven’t missed star wideout DeSean Jackson that much because Jeremy Maclin and rookie Jordan Matthews have excelled downfield. The Eagles also have a pair of talented running backs.
The Cowboys need to find a way to corral running back Darren Sproles. Linebacker Bruce Carter or Rolando McClain will be assigned to him. He’s so talented that he may require a spy for much of the game.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly will only add to his legend if he makes noise in the playoffs with Sanchez. The more likely scenario is that Sanchez shows his true colors Thursday.
You can only mask so many flaws. The odds are that Sanchez will throw the Cowboys the ball at some point.
The great thing is this rivalry is back in full gear. The Eagles were going to NFC title games (and one Super Bowl) while the Cowboys were idling. The winner of Thursday’s game will have the upper hand in the race for the NFC East crown. And the runner-up could end up playing a road game against a sub-.500 team from the pitiful NFC South.
Then again, maybe a road trip would suit the Cowboys just fine.