This is the next part in our series of previews of the Eagles 2009 opponents. Joining us for this feature is Dave Schwab, who writes about the Eagles at his site Eagles Lincs.
For the second year in a row the Eagles face the Cowboys in the final game of the season with major playoff implications. Last year it was about who gets into the postseason, while this year it's all about seeding.
Check out Dave's full analysis after the jump.
When the 2009 NFL schedule was released several months back, every Eagles’ fan circled the last game of the season in anticipation of it being an important game, what an understatement!
Philadelphia travels to Dallas to play the Cowboys this Sunday in a 4:15 start with not only the NFC East division title on the line, but the number two seed in the conference and the first round bye that goes along with it. With Minnesota losing to Chicago on Monday night, if the Eagles win this game they get the #2 seed. If the Cowboys win and Arizona and the Vikings lose this week, they get the second spot. A more likely scenario, should the Boys come away with a victory is that these two teams will square off again in Big D the following week in the wildcard playoffs. Make sure to send Brad Childress a thank card for providing the extra motivation for the Eagles to win this game, as if strapping the Cowboys with another losing December in Jerry Jone’s billion dollar stadium wasn’t incentive enough.
You cannot deny that Dallas has been playing better the last two weeks. In an impressive 24-17 win over New Orleans they snapped the Saints 13 game winning streak, ruining their shot at a perfect season. Some of the luster has come off this win since the Saints lost to Tampa Bay last week as well. They followed that up by grinding out a 17-0 win over the punch less Redskins last week. This change in fortunes since losing two straight games to start the month can be largely attributed to the play of QB Tony Romo. In these two wins he has averaged 300 yards passing and has 2 TD’s and one interception. He is at his best when asked to manage the offense and not go out and win the game on his own and that is exactly what he has done. Trust me, in this game the Eagles will not allow him that luxury as they know the key to beating the Cowboys is to shut down RB Marion Barber and their running game and force Romo to beat them in the air. Once he does put the ball in the air, the two main players that need to be contained are WR Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten, who always seems to come up big against the Birds. In their first game this year, Austin only had one catch but it went for 49 yards and a TD. Witten added seven receptions for 49 yards to help extend several drives.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been solid against the run ranking 5th overall, but are somewhat vulnerable to the pass giving up an average of 228 yards per game ranking them in the bottom third of the league. While the Eagles will look to once again create a balanced attack by running the ball, look for Donovan McNabb to throw some short screens to Brian Westbrook as well as some deep balls to WR’s DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin to try a spring some big plays. With TE Brent Celek and WR Jason Avant as secondary targets, there will be just too many weapons on the field at one time for the Cowboy’s secondary to cover them all.
If you like drama, you could not have asked for more in this match-up. These are two teams that really do not like it other and with so much on the line it just makes the animosity level go through the roof. As is usually the case when two good teams square off against one another, whichever team that can minimize their mistakes and capitalize on the other’s will more than likely come away with the win. Given Tony Romo’s past track record in big games, especially against the Eagles, I really like Philadelphia’s chances of watching the first round of the playoffs from their couches getting ready for whoever survives.