Matchups to watch: Eagles at Cowboys

December, 27, 2013
12/27/13
11:38
AM ET
With Tony Romo out when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town for a Week 17 divisional showdown, all eyes will be on the Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton.

But despite the quarterbacks garnering many of the headlines, the key to success for the Cowboys will be establishing DeMarco Murray on the ground.

DeMarco Murray vs. Eagles rush defense
LeSean McCoy may be the better-known running back, but Murray has actually averaged more yards per carry this season (5.4 for Murray to 5.1 for McCoy). In fact, only rookie Andre Ellington (5.7) has averaged more yards per carry than Murray among qualified running backs.

However, Murray faces an Eagles front seven that has flown under the radar this season. Over the last five weeks, the Eagles have held opponents to 2.9 yards per carry, the fewest in the league during that span.

In their previous meeting, which Murray missed due to injury, the Cowboys were held to 2.9 yards per carry, their fewest against the Eagles in their last 10 games.

While the Eagles rush defense has improved during the course of the season, the Cowboys front seven has moved in the opposite direction.

LeSean McCoy vs. Cowboys Linebackers
While Romo’s absence is certainly noteworthy, the Cowboys defense will again be missing their star linebacker, Sean Lee. The Cowboys have allowed 5.2 yards per carry this season without Lee on the field. Only the Bears, who McCoy gashed for 7.4 yards per carry last week, have allowed more yards per carry this season.

But one of the biggest defensive struggles for the Cowboys has been defending receivers out of the backfield. Dallas has allowed eight receiving touchdowns to running backs, the most in the league.

McCoy has averaged 11.8 yards after the catch on his receptions this season, the highest mark in the NFL.

The Cowboys may struggle to defend running backs, but the Eagles find trouble against wide outs.

Dez Bryant vs. Eagles secondary
Even without Romo under center, Dez Bryant could not have asked for a better matchup to close out the season. The Eagles pass defense ranks last in all three major categories against opposing wide receivers.

In their previous game this season, Bryant tied his career-high with 17 targets, hauling in eight passes for 110 yards.


While Bryant had one of his best games against the Eagles, the Philadelphia tight ends disappeared against the Cowboys.

Eagles Tight Ends vs. Cowboys secondary
Nick Foles has some recognizable options in McCoy and DeSean Jackson, but his favorite targets may be his tight ends. Foles has averaged 9.1 yards per attempt when targeting his tight ends.

Only Colin Kaepernick has a higher average when targeting tight ends this season. Foles has also yet to throw an interception when throwing to a tight end this season.

The Cowboys have struggled against tight ends as well, allowing the third-most receptions (85) and fifth-most yards (933) this season. In their last meeting, Foles only completed 50 percent (4-of-8) of his passes when throwing to his tight ends, his lowest mark in a game this season.

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