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Xs and Os: Birds and ‘Boys to Battle at the Linc

Background/Storylines: Cowboys (3-5) @ Eagles (3-5)

After nine head-scratching, mind-boggling weeks that make fans want to tear their hair out, the Eagles and Cowboys enter an all-or-nothing duel at Lincoln Financial field.  Both have endured similar struggles with turnovers, blown leads, and red zone inefficiency.  Like the Eagles, the Cowboys also reside at the top of the league in total yardage, but at the bottom in points scored.  Mistake-plagued quarterbacks in Michael Vick and Tony Romo combined with gaping holes around the rest of the field have translated to 5 losses.  Philly has won three out of their last four against Dallas, but two off those games saw backups quarterbacks play most of the game when the late-season contest was meaningless.  More to the point, Mike Vick is 2-0 versus the Cowboys.

Fantasy Watch: LeSean McCoy (PHI) and Cowboys D/ST (DAL)

The Birds will counter with LeSean McCoy, the electrifying running back who had his best game as a pro against the Cowboys last October.  McCoy sprinted for 185 yards and two touchdowns in that game, and tallied 149 yards against them in 2010.  Although the offensive line is in shambles, McCoy should receive at least 20 carries this Sunday.  Like last week against New Orleans, Reid will run up the shoot with McCoy in the first half then air it out late in the game when the Eagles are losing.

Penn State Alum Sean Lee will miss the rest of the season with a toe injury, which opens up the middle for McCoy to run through.  The inside linebacker made 58 tackles through five games, and is replaced by Bruce Carter.

Expected Stats: 150 yards and 1 touchdown (21 points)

It is not often that a defense is the fantasy focus of the game, but I would not be surprised if it is today.  The ‘Boys are just the 21st ranked fantasy defense in points scored (ESPN.com standard scoring), but they match up very well with the Eagles today.  Their corners Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne are just bigger and stronger than Eagles receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.  The Cowboys and their press coverage scheme should give them a huge advantage in that department.

As usual, Demarcus Ware and Anthoney Spencer should torture the Eagles and their hard-to-watch offensive line.  The Birds are historically bad against 3-4 defenses like the Cowboys, as they have scored a combined 20 points this season when facing a team with an odd front.  Jason Garrett is no doubt looking at film from the Cardinals and Steelers games, when Vick was pressured nonstop.

Expected stats: 13 points against, 2 interceptions, a fumble recovery, and 4 sacks (20 points)

Key Matchup: Demarcus Ware vs Demetress Bell

Cowboys’ outside linebacker Demarcus Ware tortured Donavan McNabb.

Howard Mudd, Marty Mornhinweg and Andy Reid must come up with a pretty good game plan for helping Demetress Bell if they wish to stop Demarcus Ware.  Leaving the struggling Bell one-on-one with the All-Pro linebacker will result in a one-way ticket to sack city.  Ware is all about the speed rush, which means that he gets upfield quickly and beats lineman with quickness and agility.  Mornhinweg can take advantage of this by letting Ware run upfield and handing off to LeSean McCoy right underneath him while Ware takes himself right out of the play.

On outside runs and passes, the coaching staff should leave a tight end or fullback home to help out with blocking Ware.  Having Brent Celek, Clay Harbor, LeSean McCoy, or Stanley Havili chip the pass rusher will give Vick that extra second to get the ball away.

The rest of the Cowboy’s defensive line is good, but I would not be surprised if the outcome of the game hinged on this matchup.

X-Factor: Michael Vick (PHI) and Tony Romo (DAL)

This game will begin and end with the quarterbacks.  Both Romo and Vick make more mistakes each game than can be counted on one hand.  Whoever makes the least will win the game.

These QB’s are basically clones of each other.  Vick has 9 interceptions and 10 fumbles, while Romo threw 13 picks and lost 4 fumbles.  Both have thrown for over 2000 yards and 10 touchdowns.  The glaring difference between the two is completion percentage.  Romo’s stands at 77.3% and Vick has completed just 58.3% of his throws.  Romo is not afraid to throw the ball over the middle like Vick, and he makes higher percentage passes.  Oh, and Vick can run.

The weapons are there.  If Vick has enough time to throw the ball and makes good decisions, he could hang 300 yards on the Cowboys.  The same goes for Romo, even if his O-line is slightly better.   The fate of each team’s seasons rests on the shoulders of these two young men.

PredictionCowboys 24, Eagles 13

If the Birds can only score 13 against the terrible Saints defense, they would be lucky to put up 13 in this game.  The offensive line crumbles once again, LeSean McCoy rarely gets the ball in the second half, and the secondary cannot stop Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.  Vick is average, but nothing close to what he needs to be if he wants to save his job.  More “Fire Andy” chants echo throughout the Linc.

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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Sean Burke

Sean Burke is a Villanova beat writer for Khandyman Sports and also contributes to the Eagles section. Sean currently resides in Glen Mills, PA.

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