Sunday, October 20, 2013
Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field
By Todd Archer
PHILADELPHIA -- Welcome to Lincoln Financial Field where the Dallas Cowboys take on the Philadelphia Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the NFC East had a team that was only one game over .500 hold sole possession of first place this late in the season was in 2001 when the Eagles were 4-3. They went on to win the division that year with an 11-5 record.
Slow-down the Eagles: Monte Kiffin’s struggles against Chip Kelly while the two were in the college game have been well-documented.
What’s more relevant is how Kiffin’s Dallas defense is struggling against any offense right now. In the last three games, the Cowboys have given up 1,456 yards. The San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos shredded the Cowboys through the air, and the Washington Redskins did it on the ground.
The third-down defense has been particularly bad, allowing 22 first downs on 41 tries in the last three games.
The key will be red-zone defense. The Cowboys can give up the yards and even field goals, but they need to make stops deep in their own territory. It’s what they did last week against Washington, stopping them on three red-zone trips.
And they will have to do it without DeMarcus Ware, who has a quadriceps strain.
New-look run game: Rookie Joseph Randle will take over as the lead running back with DeMarco Murray out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“I think whenever you lose a valuable player, like Murray, that obviously affects the team,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “At the same time, I think Randle will step in and do a good job. (Phillip) Tanner has shown us what he can do, so he’ll do a good job as well. We’re excited to see those guys.”
But how much?
The Eagles are allowing the most yards per game (420.2) and 29.8 points per game, which is 29th in the NFL.
In the last two games the Cowboys have been effective with their empty package, spreading the field. The Eagles have allowed 13 touchdown passes, but they have picked off six passes and sacked opposing quarterbacks 13 times.
Knowing Dez: The division games have not been kind to Dez Bryant so far. In wins against the New York Giants and Redskins, he has nine catches for 58 yards.
In the four non-division games, Bryant has averaged 6.3 catches for 100 yards and has all six of his touchdowns.
The Eagles have a new defensive staff with new cornerbacks. Perhaps that makes this closer to a non-division game.