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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Dallas at Philadelphia: Five Things to Know

DeMarco Murray vs. Eagles

Tied at 9-4, although Philadelphia currently have the head-to-head tiebreaker (and are 3-0 in the division), the Dallas Cowboys play the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night in a game with huge playoff implications including the title of NFC East Champions. 

Last week, Dallas triumphed over the struggling Bears in Chicago 41-28 while the Seahawks came to Philadelphia and conquered the Eagles 24-14. 

While I am not necessarily a fan of either team, I do work with far too many Dallas fans and, ergo, am rooting for the Eagles. Besides, I do like Darren Sproles. I wanted this assignment because of its monumental implications and I have never graced the big box on Football Nation's home page.

Statistically, there are several similarities between these two teams. Dallas QB Tony Romo has been impressive, completing 242 out of 350 passes for 2,923 yards, 25 touchdowns, and eight interceptions; with a notable 108.8 passer rating. For the Eagles, Nick Foles was 186-of-311 for 2,163 yards, 13 touchdowns, ten interceptions, and an 81.4 passer rating before succumbing to a fractured collarbone in week nine versus the Houston Texans. In his absence, Mark Sanchez, in his six games on the season, is 121-195 for 1,500 yards, ten touchdowns, seven interceptions, and an 88.0 passer rating. 

Cowboys' leading WR Dez Bryant has caught 73 balls for 1,064 yards and ten touchdowns while the Eagles' Jeremy Maclin has 74 receptions for 1,109 yards and ten touchdowns as well.

On the ground, Dallas' DeMarco Murray currently leads the league with 1,606 yards on 320 carries with nine touchdowns. Philadelphia's RB LeSean McCoy has 259 carries for 1,068 yards and four touchdowns. And let's not forget Sproles. The former Charger and Saint has 49 carries for 295 yards and five touchdowns.

Additionally, in terms of passing offense, rushing offense, passing defense, and rushing defense, Dallas is ranked 17th, 3rd, 23rd, and 17th; while Philadephia is ranked 8th, 7th, 24th, and 18th, respectively. Based upon such similarities, this should be an exciting and interesting game, right?! Although, when we expect good games, they tend to not reach fruition. So, fingers crossed because the majority of Sunday Night Football games this season have been underwhelming.

In addition to the aforementioned information, what other interesting factoids should you know prior to the game?

1. There have been 111 meetings between these two teams--including four postseason appearances--with Dallas emerging victorious in 62 of them. Their last meeting was on Thanksgiving Day when the Eagles walloped the Cowboys 33-10.

2. This is the Cowboys' first nine-win season since 2009 when they finished a splendid 11-5 and clinched the NFC East title. At Lincoln Financial Field, Dallas has won its last two games, and four out of its last five. Further, Dallas is 6-0 on the road this season.

3. Murray is actively chasing former Rams' great Eric Dickerson who currently has the NFL's single-season rushing record with 2,105 yards. Since Dickerson's accomplishment, five other RBs have rushed for over 2,000 yards: Barry Sanders (1997), Terrell Davis (1998), Jamal Lewis (2003), Chris Johnson (2009), and the recently-controversial Adrian Peterson (2012). 

As mentioned, Murray currently leads the league with 1,606 yards for an average of 123.5 yards per game. For comparison's sake, Pittsburgh's Le'Veon Bell is in second place with 1,231 yards. Additionally, Murray is a mere 168 yards shy of breaking Cowboy great Emmitt Smith's franchise single-season rushing record. To be mentioned in the same sentence as Smith, Murray says is "definitely humbling."

4. Last week, the Seahawks held the Eagles to a measley 139 yards of total offense. Of distinct concern is that Dallas utilizes a similar 4-3 defense that Seattle does so if the Cowboys craft a defensive game plan that mixes zone, man, and cover 1/cover 3 schemes like Seattle did then they, too, have the opportunity to exploit Philadelphia's offensive Achilles' heel; particularly with Sanchez under center who, in his career, has been largely inconsistent. But, of course, Cowboys' head coach Jason Garrett asserts that Dallas has its own game plan and will not make major adjustments based strictly upon the performance of another team. How'd your strategy work out for you last time, Mr. Garrett?

5. Of particular interest is that Philadelphia is 3-0 following a loss this season and have outscored opponents 108-73 in those three games; however, the last four teams the Seahawks have beaten have lost their subsequent game. But we all know that statistics are not truly indicative of what will happen. In the words of Vin Scully, "Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, not illumination."



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