When the Cowboys and Eagles played earlier this season the game got out of hand very quickly. And that basically took the offense out of their game plan. The defense was scrambling to adjust to the onslaught of the Eagle offense. And by the time things settled down the game was long gone.
Their were obviously some tactical errors in Rob Ryan's game plan defensively. He left the middle of the field exposed and the Eagles attacked the middle with ease. LeSean McCoy ran wild all game long. And what is scary is that I'm not sure that the defense is any better now than they were in that game. But I am sure that the game plan will be different this time around. Ryan was aggressive early in the game with blitzes but the Eagles called the perfect plays every time to burn the blitz and that made Ryan go into a conservative shell defense which the Eagles then shredded to pieces. I expect a better mix from Ryan this time around.
The most important thing to help the Cowboys this time around will be a good start by the offense. Last time they got out of the gate slowly and Martellus Bennett tipped up a well thrown ball by Romo right to the defense for an interception. And by the time the game settled down the Cowboys were so far behind that running the ball was out of the question. The Cowboys will need long, methodical drives in this game to control the ball and the time of possession.
The defense isn't good enough to have to defend Michael Vick, DeSean Jackson, and LeSean McCoy over and over and over. The offense can limit the opportunities that any of those players get by keeping the ball away from them. That means that the Cowboys need to be able to run the ball and convert third downs.
I really hope that the Cowboys are being honest when they say that they are just being conservative with Felix Jones and his tight hamstring. Sammy Morris looked good last week but I wouldn't want the Cowboys to depend on him for 20+ carries. Felix Jones needs to be the primary ball carrier because he is more explosive and he is in far better football shape than Morris.
This game can go one of two ways. It is either going to seem like a playoff game if the Giants lose or it will almost be meaningless if the Giants win (unless Atlanta loses out but the have Tampa Bay in their final game). The Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a Giants loss and a win on Saturday. It would be awfully nice for some of the banged up players to get some rest in the final game of the week with a playoff game clinched. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the Giants will find a way to beat the Jets and make the season finale essentially a playoff game.
I have no idea what to expect going into this game. I am sure that the Eagles aren't going to steamroll the Cowboys like they did the last time. But I don't see the Cowboys blowing out the Eagles either. I think the game will come down to the fourth quarter as usual. The good news there is the the Eagles have been a horrible 4th quarter team this year in close games. I'm not saying the Cowboys have been great in the 4th quarter but they have certainly been better than the Eagles.
It is hard to predict a score for this game without knowing what happens in the Giants-Jets game earlier on Saturday. But I am going to assume that the Cowboys will be playing everyone for the entire game. I think it will be tight but I think the Cowboys will find a way to get it done. I'm picking the Cowboys to win 27-25. Whether that win actually means anything will be the bigger story.