More than just first place in the NFC East is at stake when the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles tonight on NBC. The Eagles (9-4) currently hold the tiebreaker over the Cowboys (9-4) for the division lead, thanks to their 33-10 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. What’s more, the loser of this game could be on the outside looking in at a Wild Card spot, depending on the outcome of Seattle and Detroit’s (both also 9-4 entering today) games.
It was just a little more than two weeks ago when Philadelphia manhandled Dallas 33-10 at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving. The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in all facets of that game, but came down to earth last week, losing 24-14 at home to the Seahawks. Dallas, on the other hand, bounced back from its Turkey Day thrashing with a dominating 41-28 road win in Chicago.
Last December, Philadelphia beat Dallas 24-22 at Lincoln Financial Field in the regular-season finale. The Eagles had already clinched the NFC East title prior to that game, while the loss put Dallas at 8-8 for a third straight season.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Kickoff: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC
Spread: Philadelphia -3.5
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Dallas’ Key to Victory: Forget Thanksgiving
Nothing went right for the Cowboys in the 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Not only were they outgained 464 to 267 on offense, the 10 points scored were a season-worst while the 33 allowed were the most Dallas’ defense had given up. Two Tony Romo interceptions and a Cole Beasley fumble in Cowboys territory certainly didn’t help, but one of the surprising outcomes of that game was how the Eagles won the battle up front. Philadelphia’s defense not only held NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray to a season-low 73 yards, the unit also sacked Tony Romo four times. Fortunately, Dallas’ young, but extremely talented, offensive line bounced back strong last Thursday against the Bears, as Murray rushed for 179 yards and Romo was sacked just once in the 41-28 road win. The key tonight will be for all of the Cowboys, but especially the offensive line, to forget about what went wrong two weeks ago against these Eagles and focus instead on what they did right last week.
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Philadelphia’s Key to Victory: Remember Thanksgiving
The Eagles had gained more yards and scored more points in a game prior to their 33-10 demolition of the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but this was their best, all-around performance against a team with a winning record. Philadelphia outrushed Dallas 356 to 93, limiting DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s No. 1 rusher to a season-low 73 yards. The defense also produced three takeaways and held the Cowboys to just 267 yards of total offense. Unfortunately, the Eagles followed that up with a dud, losing to Seattle 24-14 at home last week. The Seahawks dominated time of possession (41:56) and the defense did the rest, limiting Philadelphia’s offense to nine first downs and 139 total yards on 45 plays. The yardage and first down totals were the fewest in Chip Kelly’s tenure as the Eagles’ head coach. Fortunately for Philadelphia, Dallas’ defense isn’t near as fearsome as Seattle’s “Legion of Boom,” and the Eagles are a little more than two weeks removed from dominating the Cowboys on both sides of the ball. Facing a familiar foe may be just what the Eagles need to start soaring again.
Dallas and Philadelphia have the same record, but the Eagles have a win over the Cowboys already in their back pocket and are a perfect 3-0 against NFC East foes. The Cowboys need this win more, but whichever team loses could face a challenging path to one of the two Wild Card spots. Philadelphia is coming off of a tough loss, but Seattle has a much tougher defense than what Dallas will bring to Lincoln Financial Field. Even if the Eagles aren’t able to bottle up DeMarco Murray like they did on Thanksgiving, they should be able to muster enough offense to earn the critical season sweep of the Cowboys and put them one win away from securing a second straight division crown.