Win and you’re in. Lose, and you’re offseason begins on Monday. That’s the motto. That’s the mindset. That is the reality of the situation for both the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
Philadelphia has been red hot despite a week 15 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The Eagles offense leads the league in plays of 20+ yards with 75. That potent offense is facing a Cowboys defense who has allowed 66 plays of 20 or more yards, also a league leader (hat tip to Jeff Kempski/philly.com).
On the defensive side of the ball, despite a rocky start, Philadelphia is coming together and have held opponents to under 21 points in 10 of their last 11 outings. But most important, Chip Kelly has restored a lost locker room chemistry all while putting the Eagles in prime position to reach the playoffs in his first NFL campaign.
Through the air and on the ground.
The key, offensively, is for quarterback Nick Foles to continue doing the very thing he has done since stepping in for Michael Vick, spread the ball around. However, Foles is just one part of the equation. The offensive line, including Pro Bowl nominee (LT) Jason Peters, must keep Foles on his feet and provide him with ample time to go through his progression to find the open target.
Dallas’ defense is giving up, on average, 290.7 YPG ranking 31st in the league. They are nearly as bad against the run allowing 127.9 and ranking 27th.
Foles will be looking to rebound from the teams’ first matchup in week 7, a 17-3 loss and a game where Foles was forced out due to a concussion. Since that loss the second-year QB has polished his resume with an impressive 6-2 record. He holds the highest QB rating (118.7), has a 25 to 2 touchdown/INT ratio, and if needed, he can indeed use his legs to gain the necessary yards to move the chains.
This is not, even remotely close to being, the same Nick Foles Dallas faced over two months ago.
Look for receiver DeSean Jackson to do everything in his power to record just his third 100-yard game against Dallas in his career. Jackson posted 110 yards on six receptions in his rookie debut and then torched Dallas in week 14 (2010) to the tune of 210 yards on just four receptions, an astounding 52.5 YPC. Include Jackson’s counter-part, Riley Cooper, and the receiving threats that tights ends Brent Celek and rookie Zach Ertz pose, the possibilities are endless against a swiss cheese defense.
But once you combine all of the above with the league’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia’s offense will simply be to overwhelming, to fast-paced, to keep up with.
These statistics are going to be skewed due to the fact that Tony Romo is out after receiving an operation earlier this week on a herniated disc. And these statistics also don’t account for the momentum a team can carry from one week to the next.
Last, while the Eagles secondary have allowed 285.2 passing yards per game, these numbers don’t account for the fact that Philadelphia’s defense has given up 21 or fewer points in 10 of their last 11 games, including the week 7 loss.
The Eagles are coming off a dominating victory over the Chicago Bears. In all three phases of the game Philadelphia handled business. But a key in that game was the defense was facing a team ranked No. 2 in offensive points — and the Eagles held them to just 11 points.
If Philadelphia’s secondary can contain Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey to a single TD then they should be able to contain Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and co.
But by no means, absolutely zero, do I mean that the Eagles defense should rest easy and walk into this game thinking it’s won before the coin flip happens.
We want to see heart, intensity, defensive backs diving to force an incompletion and the line forcing their way to QB Kyle Orton — and getting their hands up if they can’t reach him. We want to see a Philly defense coming into a game like their season is on the line — because it is.