Eagles-Cowboys: 5 things you need to know

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Eagles-Cowboys: 5 things you need to know

Kelly discusses the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry

October 20, 2013, 7:00 am
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Eagles (3-3) vs. Cowboys (3-3)
1 p.m., FOX
Spread: Eagles by 3

It's Dallas Week.

Always one of the most anticipated games in any Eagles season, this week's meeting has even more meaning than usual — the winner will take over sole possession of first place in the NFC East (see story). An Eagles-Cowboys game hasn't had this much at stake for both teams since their 2009 postseason matchup in the wild-card round.

And even with top offensive weapons Michael Vick and DeMarco Murray both unlikely to play, it should be a shootout between two of the league's best offenses and worst defenses.

Here are five things you'll want to know before kickoff:

1. Where do they rank?

Offense: 450 yards per game (3rd), 271 passing (9th), 179 rushing (1st)
Defense: 420 yards per game (32nd), 315 passing (31st), 106 rushing (16th)
Turnovers: 10 takeaways (T-16th), 8 giveaways (T-8th), plus-2 differential (T-12th)

Offense: 350 yards per game (13th), 265 passing (11th), 85 rushing (25th)
Defense: 413 yards per game (30th), 308 passing (30th), 105 rushing (14th)
Turnovers: 12 takeaways (T-8th), 8 giveaways (T-8th), plus-4 differential (10th)

The Eagles' offense has been ranked near the top of the NFL all season long. Under Chip Kelly, the Birds became just the fourth team in history to rack up at least 400 yards of offense in each of its first six games.

The biggest gripe against the offense was its inability to find pay dirt inside the 20. But that has improved drastically since Nick Foles has been at quarterback. Foles has led the Birds to touchdowns in four of seven red-zone trips. (They were 5 for 14 with Vick.) The Eagles boast the league's fourth-best scoring offense at 27.7 points per game.

While the Cowboys rank just 13th in yardage, they're second in scoring with 30.5 points per game. A lot of that has stemmed from tremendous starting field position. Dwayne Harris leads the league in both kickoff returning (34.7 yards per return) and punt returning (23.6).

Dallas isn't giving the ball away either. Only two teams have thrown fewer picks than Tony Romo's three — the Broncos and Eagles (each with two).

2. Injury-plagued 'Boys
The game probably couldn't come at a better time for the Eagles, as two of the Cowboys' biggest playmakers — DeMarcus Ware and Murray — are unlikely to play and officially listed as doubtful.

Ware has been especially tough against the Eagles in his career. The seven-time Pro Bowler has four sacks this season and 16 sacks in 16 career games against the Birds. Without Ware, Dallas' best pass rusher is Jason Hatcher, who has five sacks this year but just 21 lifetime in 110 games; and George Selvie, who has gotten to the quarterback three times.

Through six games, Murray has racked up 428 yards, good for eighth in the league, on 4.7 yards per carry, which is fifth among backs with 50 or more attempts. But Dallas won't be missing just Murray. His backup Lance Dunbar is also out, leaving rookie fifth-round pick Joseph Randle to handle the running duties. Randle rushed for just 17 yards on 11 carries in his backfield debut last week.

3. Air it out
Foles possesses a passer rating of 127.9. Romo's rating sits at 108.6. Combine that with two of the league's worst defenses against the pass — Dallas is 30th, the Eagles are 31st — and you can guarantee these two teams are going to throw the ball. A lot.

Foles made his NFL debut against the Cowboys last season, when he threw for 219 yards, a TD and a pick in a 38-23 loss. Three weeks later, he tossed another 251 yards and a TD without throwing an interception in a 38-33 defeat. Although he's just 2-5 in his career as a starter, Foles proved last week he can successfully run Kelly's offense when he tallied 296 yards, three TDs and another score on the ground en route to earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Romo has averaged 282 yards per game and owns the biggest passing game so far this year — a 506-yard performance in a loss to the Broncos. Romo is 6-5 lifetime as a starter against the Birds, with 16 TDs and 11 picks. But this season he's been intercepted just three times — a vast improvement after tying a career high with 19 last season.

With Murray likely out, expect the Cowboys to air it out even more than usual. Star receiver Dez Bryant (34 catches, 459 yards, six TDs) and Philly-killer tight end Jason Witten (31, 340, three) should have particularly busy days.

4. No luck at the Linc
The Eagles haven't won at Lincoln Financial Field since a 19-17 nail-biter over the Giants in Week 4 of last year. The losing streak began with a 26-23 overtime loss to the Lions two games later and has since swelled to eight straight.

But a skid of 15 games in a row lost by the home team at the Linc ended Saturday with Temple's 33-14 win over Army. Could the Birds make it a winning weekend? Not since October 2010 have the Eagles and Owls both won on the same weekend at home.

5. This and that
• When the Eagles and Cowboys last met on Dec. 2 of last season, Dallas rolled to a 38-33 home victory. Bryce Brown ran for 169 yards and two TDs, but Romo threw three second-half scores and the 'Boys put up 21 points in the final quarter to extend the Eagles' losing streak to eight.

• Last week, Harris went 86 yards to the house on a punt return and set up another touchdown with a 90-yard kick return as Dallas downed Washington, 31-16.

• DeSean Jackson needs one TD catch of 25 yards or longer to tie Mike Quick for second on the Eagles' all-time list with 26. Tommy McDonald is first with 37.

• The Eagles are 22-5 when Jackson catches a TD pass. He registered his first career multi-touchdown game in last week's win.

• The Eagles are 12-3 when LeSean McCoy runs for 100 yards. He has three already this year and leads the league with 630 yards rushing.

• McCoy has two of the three biggest rushing games in the league this season (184 yards vs. WAS, 158 vs. KC). DeMarco Murray (175 vs. STL) has the other.

Injury Report: For the Eagles, RB Chris Polk (shoulder) is out, S Patrick Chung (shoulder) is doubtful, QB Michael Vick (hamstring) is officially listed as questionable and TE James Casey (groin), OT Jason Peters (shoulder, finger) and P Donnie Jones (left foot) are all probable. For the Cowboys, RB Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and DE Edgar Jones (groin) are both out, RB DeMarco Murray (knee) and DE DeMarcus Ware (thigh) are doubtful and WR Miles Austin (hamstring), WR/KR Dwayne Harris (hip), DT Jason Hatcher (neck) and DE George Selvie (shoulder) are all probable.

Recommended reading:

Scouting report: Eagles offense vs. Cowboys' D

Film Review: Breaking down Chip Kelly's 'genius'

A lot has happened since the Eagles last won at home

Despite perception, Tony Romo one of NFL's best

Vick rolls out red carpet for buddy Foles

DeSean finally playing, producing in red zone

More Team Talk

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