It's rivalry week in Philadelphia as the hated Dallas Cowboys come to Lincoln Financial Field in the Eagles' home opener. And though they were upset on the road last week in Atlanta, the Eagles find themselves catching the Cowboys at a good time.
Dallas will be without superstar wideout Dez Bryant, as well as defenders Orlando Scandrick and Randy Gregory. To #BeatDallas, the Eagles will need a few things to go right, including these three keys to the game:
Get the run game going
This seems painfully obvious, but after Monday night, it bears repeating. In their Monday night loss to the Falcons, the Eagles ran the ball only 16 times for 63 yards - 50 of those yards belonging to Darren Sproles.
The Eagles will be going against a Cowboys team that surrendered a respectable 99 yards on the ground to the Giants in Week 1, but who will be without rookie defensive end Randy Gregory. The Cowboys' second round pick in last year's NFL Draft suffered a high ankle sprain and will be replaced in the lineup by Jeremy Mincey.
The Eagles offense is predicated the run game, and with a passing game that took some time to get moving against Atlanta, it would behoove the Eagles to try moving the ball on the ground early and often.
Slow down the Romo-to-Witten connection
Without question the biggest injury in this game come on the Dallas sideline. Wide receiver Dez Bryant suffered a broken foot against the Giants, and will likely miss at least half the season. This means quarterback Tony Romo's go-to weapon will likely be Jason Witten.
So while the Eagles won't be facing another elite wide receiver in Week 2, they will be going against a future Hall of Fame tight end, and one they've struggled with historically. No team in the league has surrendered more yards to Witten (1,493) than the Eagles.
This year, though, Chip Kelly's defense comes complete with some additional speed at linebacker. Kiko Alonso will likely be asked to split coverage duties with Mychael Kendricks. Alonso did not have his best game against the Falcons, but it was hardly surprising considering he'd played in one preseason in about two years. But paired with Kendricks, the Eagles have one of the fastest and most versatile set of inside linebackers in the league.
Where Alonso could help the Eagles against Witten is in the size department. At 6-3 and 238 pounds, Alonso matches up with the 6-5, 263 pound Witten better than Kendricks, who is under six feet tall.
Last year on Thanksgiving the Eagles were able to limit Witten to one catch for eight yards, and defensive coordinator Bill Davis will be looking for a repeat performance in this year's first meeting with Dallas. Expect Alonso to be a big part of that game plan.
Take the meat off the bone
The Cowboys may have one of the top offensive lines in football, but what they don't have is their top rusher from 2014. Unless you've been living under a rock that doesn't have wi-fi, you know he'll be on the other sideline this time around.
In their Week 1 win over the Giants, the Cowboys seemed to favor the running back by committee approach, giving 16 carries to lead back Joseph Randle and six carries to Darren McFadden. But they weren't able to get anything going, and only picked up only 80 yards in the run game. Dallas' running game won't have an easier time this week.
The Eagles defense is built to run the ball, and that starts with the front three. And while guys like Fletcher Cox and Bennie Logan played well against the Falcons, the Eagles did give up 105 yards on the ground, including 80 to rookie Tevin Coleman.
Dallas will be without their strongest receiving weapon, so don't be surprised to see them try to pick up yardage on the ground Sunday. It will be up to the Eagles' big men to slow them down, a task they should definitely be able to handle.