Sunday, January 3, 2010
Cowboys-Eagles key matchups
By Tim MacMahon
ARLINGTON, Texas -- We'll take a look at one key matchup from both sides of the ball in the NFC East championship game.
Dallas Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff vs. Philadelphia Eagles C Nick Cole: Eagles center Jamaal Jackson tore a knee ligament last week, so Cole had to slide over from right guard. He'll have his hands full with Ratliff, a Pro Bowler for the second consecutive season.
Ratliff is simply too quick for Cole (6-0, 350) to handle without help. Even with the guards doubling Ratliff, he ought to be able to shoot the gaps and wreak havoc in the Eagles' backfield.
In the nickel and dime packages, Wade Phillips will try to get Ratliff matched up with backup right guard Max Jean-Gilles (6-3, 358), who will also be overmatched by Ratliff's explosiveness.
Of course, Ratliff gave the Eagles problems with their offensive line was healthy. He had eight tackles, two sacks and two quarterback pressures during the Cowboys' Nov. 8 win in Philadelphia. Expect a similar performance in the regular-season finale.
Cowboys TE Jason Witten vs. Eagles SS Quintin Mikell: Witten has feasted against one-on-one coverage the last five games, taking advantage of the attention defenses are forced to pay WR Miles Austin.
Witten has three 100-yard outings in the last five games after not having any in the 10 weeks. He can consistently get open against man coverage in the middle of the field and has been able to make plays in the seam, something that didn't happen for him as he was the focal point for opposing defenses the first two-thirds of the season.
But Mikell is better than the strong safeties for the Raiders, Giants and Redskins, the teams Witten torched for 100 yards. Opponents have completed only 50 percent of their passes against Mikell, according to Stats, Inc.
Witten has to have more success than that to force Philadelphia to reconsider rolling coverage toward Austin.