We get to do this twice a year and I always look forward to exchanging 5 questions with our "frienemy" Dave over at the Cowboys blog, Blogging the Boys. You can find my answers to his questions over there...
Which team would you say is under more pressure tonight?
I would say the Cowboys are under more pressure because they are the home team and it's very important to hold serve at home within the division. They are also the defending NFC East champs and they've been pegged as favorites in the NFC by a lot of the media, deserving or not. For all those reasons, the Cowboys probably have more expectations placed on them going into the game, but winning at home in the division is the real reason they have a little more pressure in the game.
Despite the fact that Dallas has looked like the better team over the past two season(records speak for themselves), the Eagles have won 3 of the last 4 matchups between the two. Is this is a case of the records being meaningless in an NFC East game or is there something the Eagles are doing that particularly frustrates the Cowboys?
There is something to the idea that games within the division can be harder to predict based on records than other non-division matchups. But the real reason Dallas has struggled with the Eagles is probably the blitz schemes and not dealing with those well. In the games we lose we tend to have an anemic running game and that forces the QB to try and win it. We haven't done a great job of dealing with that and consequently turn the ball over too much.
How much of an effect does the massive hype around the Cowboys right now have on the team? Is it superbowl or unemployment for Wade Phillips this year?
The team is dealing with the hype pretty well right now. The problem is you really don't know how well they'll deal with it until they hit a rough patch and lose games. As long as you're winning and playing well, those issues of 'hype' seem to never matter. Check with me when things get rocky and I'll let you know then. As far as Wade Phillips' employment, no one really knows what Jerry Jones is thinking on the matter, but they'll need to elevate Jason Garrett to head coach very soon or they're going to lose him.
The Cowboys kick and punt coverage teams struggled at times in preseason. Against Cleveland they were solid, but they didn't have to face pro bowler Josh Cribbs. Do you think the special teams problems were just preseason rustiness or is there real concern there?
There's definitely a concern there but is has been alleviated somewhat by the good play last week and the signing of safety Keith Davis right before our season started. He's spent the last few years as our special teams ace and he adds some stability to the group. Also, we tried a lot of guys in different spots during the preseason on special teams, but now that the season has begun we're putting our best out there. We are concerned though, and will be watching those units closely.
I'll steal this question from you... What is the one thing on offense and defense the Cowboys have to do to win on Monday?
On offense we have to make sure we do not get into situations where we have to resort to the passing game on every down and allow the Eagles to pin back their ears and come after Romo. This means establishing a running game that allows us to move the chains on the ground. It also means making Philly pay when they do blitz. If we can get some protection and hit big plays against the blitz, that can settle a defense down and make them wary of coming all out. Not that that would totally stop the Eagles anyway.
On defense, same as it ever was. Keep your eyes on Brian Westbrook and make sure that you tackle him when has the ball. The Cowboys have experienced some tough days trying to get him to the turf and nothing frustrates a defense like missed tackles and not getting off the field on third down. If they can bottle up Westbrook, I'll take our chances with our revamped secondary against the Eagles wide receivers.
As much as we all dislike the Cowboys... It's always great to hear from Dave. We won't be speaking with him again until the final week of the season when the Cowboys have to come up to Philly. Between week 2 and week 17 we could be looking at two totally different teams...