Both the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys REALLY need a win on Sunday Night Football. This is the battle of two desperate NFC East teams hoping to keep their season alive in a weak division. Here are three keys to an Eagles win in this game.
1) Get DeMarco Murray going early
The Eagles failed to find any success in the run game earlier this season. DeMarco Murray rushed for a total of two yards on 13 carries against Dallas in Week 2. Philadelphia's offensive line was a mess and Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee prevented the Eagles from having any semblance of a legitimate rushing attack.
Just because the Eagles failed to run the ball against the Cowboys before doesn't mean they should be eager to abandon it again. In fact, it's best if the Birds pound the rock with Murray early and often. Dallas is allowing the fifth most fantasy points on average to opposing running back. According to Football Outsiders, the Cowboys rank 20th at stopping the run. Rod Marinelli's unit ranks 16th in yards allowed per rush attempt. Using Murray to beat his former team is a good way to attack.
2) Get the ball out quickly
One of the biggest concerns heading into this game is the fact the Eagles will be without starting left tackle Jason Peters. With Peters out, Lane Johnson will be making his first career NFL start at left tackle. Meanwhile, backup offensive lineman Dennis Kelly will be at right tackle. That's not an ideal situation. Johnson's matchup is especially difficult because he'll be going up against Greg Hardy for most of the game. In order to negate the Cowboys' pass rush and make life easier on the offensive line, getting the ball out quickly might actually work well in this situation. Maybe Sam Bradford's tendency to dink and dunk will come in handy here.
3) Force Matt Cassel to throw
Philadelphia's defense is the unquestioned strength of this Eagles team. They rank No. 3 overall by Football Outsiders. The Eagles should be able to handle Cowboys backup Matt Cassel with relative ease. Then again, it was Cassel who inexplicably got really hot against the Eagles in 2013. But that was two years ago with different teams and different situations. More often than not, Cassel is not a reliable started. He's thrown three interceptions on 52 attempts so far. Philadelphia needs to shut down the Cowboys' run game in order to put all the pressure on Cassel to beat the Eagles' defense with his arm. They should be able to force him into some mistakes. It's just a matter of whether the Philly offense can capitalize on those errors, which is something they've struggled to do this season.