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Defense

Defense

Before I get into matchups and personell, the crownd factor must be mentioned. This will likely be one of the most inspired, raucous crowds in Eagles history. We saw what the tremendous will of a crowd can do when the Saints returned to the Superdome. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that the Philly crowd will have that level of passion and emotion. If you aren't an Eagles fan, you won't understand just how big this game is. To a town where football is religion, this game has the devil coming into the the grandest church in town. It just may be that the  will of the congregation will cast him out...

Obviously "the player" has created an incredible media storm as usual, and we've heard about his off-field dramas over and over again. But what effect has he really had on the field? For a guy who traditionally starts out on fire, TO has been... well, good. Not great, certainly not TO.

Owens is on pace for less than 80 catches, less than 1,000 yards, and 5 TDs. That's almost exactly what they got out of Keyshawn last year. Keyshawn had 70 catches, 6 TDs, and yardage in the high 800s. He has only 1 TD in his first 3 games. Now his numbers are not bad and he is not on pace for  a bad year... but the 33 year old is certainly showing signs of slowing down. ESPN flashed up a graphic that showed that Dallas has less TDs, yards throughthe air, and less catches this year as they did in the same amount of games last year.

Plus, the arrivial of Owens has for some reason completely neutralized TE Jason Witten who has been used more and more often as a blocker rather than a reciever. Witten, who has made himself into one of the top 10 TEs in football the past few years. Two years ago Witten had 87 receptions, last year he had 66. This year he has only 9 so far for less than 100 yards and only 4 first downs. He could be a big X factor in this game and the Eagles front four will probably dictate that.

We all know how immobile Drew Bledsoe is. Bledsoe has "dared" the Eagles to blitz, most likely because he realized watching tape this week that the once blitz happy Eagles defense is gone. The Eagles have brought pressure from their front four and it's their defensive line that has gotten all but of their NFC leading sack total. Bledsoe knows that he was able to torch the Eagles last year due to the fact that they blitzed constantly and could never create pressure with it. This left Terry Glenn and Jason Witten in single coverage which they exploited. It seems clear by his "dare" that Bledsoe is worried that the Eagles will not blitz, but they will still get pressure. Look for Jim Johnson to ignore this silly "dare" and try to have his front four create pressure against an improved Dallas offensive line.

Clearly, it's imperative for the Eagles to give plenty of help to their secondary. There was some good news this week that Lito Sheppard will be returning to the starting lineup not a moment to soon. I can't say what a massive upgrade Lito representsw to the Eagles secondary. We all saw Hanson get owned by Plaxico Burress play after play. We all saw Rod Hood get beat multiple times in San Fan as he literally limped after a reciever. The Eagles secondary has been the major weakness on this team, but how could it not when it starts a #4 corner or a guy who is limping all over the field? To add a pro bowl calibre, healthy  corner to the lineup is a godsend going into a game against a team with 2 #1 WRs.

Special Teams

If this game is close and comes down to a kick, the Eagles should have a big advantage with David Akers over Mike Vanderjagt. Certainly, when healthy, Vanderjagt is one of the best kickers in football. However, he's been 4 of 6in FGs this year and hampered by injuries since the preseason. If he is still feeling the ill effects of his injury, it could be a tremendous advantage to the Eagles especially outdoors in windy Linc where Vanderjagt has not been his best.

Dallas is on an uptick after beating probably the second worst team in football. As worrysome as a game this is for the Eagles, this is a very tought game for Dallas. Going on the road to win a division game against a good team is a tall order for anyone. These are the games that seperate good teams from superbowl contenders.

Interesting stats

 - Donovan McNabb is on pace for a 36 touchdown, four interception season.

 - Donovan McNabb is 8-4 in his career vs the Cowboys

 - The Cowboys have won only 1 game in Philly since 1998

 - Donovan McNabb's head coach at Syracuse was Paul Pasqualoni, who is currently the Cowboys TEs coach

 - TO has caught 3 touchdowns against the Eagles in 5 career games totaling 307 yards.

Prediction

I said before the season that I thought the Eagles would split with the Cowboys this year with each team winning at home. That said...

If Westbrook plays, Eagles win 24-17

If he does not play Eagles lose 24-17