The Philadelphia Eagles are scheduled to take on the Dallas Cowboys this week in what's been set up as a battle for the NFC East crown. There's no doubt it's the biggest game of the year for these two teams: the winner advances to a post-season berth and the loser gets to go golfing. Eagles head coach Chip Kelly previewed the team's next opponent in his Thursday morning press conference.
The big storyline is the fact Tony Romo is expected to miss Sunday's game. Backup QB Kyle Orton will start in his place. While the Cowboys haven't officially ruled Romo out, Kelly and the Eagles claim they are preparing for both Dallas quarterbacks. Kelly explained that he doesn't believe the Cowboys' offense to be significantly different with Orton in the game instead of Romo.
I don't think this changes their offense much just because of who the backup is. I think they are going to stick to what they do. They obviously have got playmakers in Dez Bryant and [Jason] Witten. They are going to run the ball with DeMarco Murray who didn't play against us in the first game. Usually when you see if there's a contrast between the styles of the two quarterbacks, I think Tony has got 20 carries for 39 yards or something. I don't anticipate Kyle [Orton] coming in and they are going to start running the option up‑and‑down the field. I think they will stick to their plan in terms of what they do and they have got a really good scheme offensively so I don't think it's going to change in terms of what our approach is going to be.
Another significant player the Cowboys will be without against the Eagles is linebacker Sean Lee. Lee is a critical component of the Dallas defense, and he may have had his best game of the year when the Cowboys and Eagles played earlier this season. Kelly spoke on significance of Lee's absence.
[Lee's backup] DeVonte Holloman has been playing so you have tape on what they are like when Sean is not there but [Lee's] obviously one of the top linebackers in the game and nine games he's got 99 tackles and four interceptions and seeing him up close and personal when we played them in October, he was all over the field. You know, he’s as good a linebacker as there is in this league but you have tape on what their defense is like without Sean in there because he's been out for a little bit here.
The Cowboys certainly aren't the first team missing key players that the Eagles have faced this season. Most recently, the Eagles took on a Vikings team that was missing a number of starters, including star running back Adrian Peterson. It first appeared that those Vikings injuries could have made it an easier game for the Eagles to win, but clearly that wasn't the case. Instead, Philly suffered a tough 48-30 letdown loss. Asked if Kelly is worried about a similar letdown in this situation, Kelly said he's not concerned.
I don't think anybody in this group was like, ‘Hey, we don't have to get ready this week [against the Vikings] because such and such and such and such isn't going to play.’ I know this team is not going to fall for the banana‑in‑the‑tailpipe trick. We are not concerned with that stuff.
It's hard not to believe Kelly. The Vikings game comparison is obvious but it doesn't seem exactly similar. Despite the Dallas injury issues, this match-up isn't a trap game. The Eagles are not looking past this one. It's the biggest game of their season and the biggest game to-date of Kelly's young NFL coaching career.
Sunday's contest is for all the NFC East marbles, and Kelly is playing for keeps.