This is going to feel a little different. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles meet twice a year every year, but there's no Andy Reid this time. And no Michael Vick. No DeMarcus Ware or Anthony Spencer. No DeMarco Murray or Jeremy Maclin. No Rob Ryan or Marty Mornhinweg.
It's a new era for both teams, so it's not easy to get a read on this classic matchup.
We'll try anyway. Here's our final preview of a game that, despite being between two 3-3 teams, is for sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
What Dallas Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition
Spread 'em out and exploit that weak pass defense. Murray's absence hurts, but Greg Cosell of SiriusXM NFL Radio claims the Cowboys have run more snaps with empty backfields than any other team in the league while the Eagles haven't had to play dime defense once this season.
This Philly defense has surrendered the second-most passing yards in the league, so Tony Romo and Co. might be able to get away with being one-dimensional.
What Dallas Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition
Don't fall victim to the high-tempo pace. The Eagles are probably going to score some points, but the key will be to slow them down.
Press man coverage worked against the Redskins, so the Cowboys should stick to that against a shallow receiving corps and young quarterback. Pressure on Nick Foles would be nice, but if it doesn't come to fruition, at least prevent him from striking deep.
What Philly Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition
Find unique ways to get the ball to LeSean McCoy and protect the football. These two things go hand in hand, because keeping it on the ground is always safer.
But let's be real: Without Ware and Spencer, the Cowboys will probably have to blitz and stick to press man coverage a lot. That'll make it easier to get McCoy rolling in the backfield and on screens. He's your best offensive player, so make sure he's the centerpiece.
What Philly Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition
Prevent Dez Bryant and the Dallas passing attack from taking over the game and win the turnover battle. That means the pass rush will have to come alive and get in Romo's face.
If Philly lets Bryant, Miles Austin or Terrance Williams get into a groove, it'll be hard to keep up.
5 Most Important Non-Quarterbacks, Cowboys Edition
Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick: They'll be in charge of slowing down DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper. There will be some help from Morris Claiborne, but not likely a lot from the depleted front four.
|Most deep completions, 2013|
|Rank||20-yard completions||40-yard completions|
|1||Philadelphia Eagles (34)||Philadelphia Eagles (8)|
|2||Baltimore Ravens (27)||Baltimore Ravens (8)|
|3||Denver Broncos (27)||Denver Broncos (6)|
George Selvie, Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee: Lee will be responsible for controlling McCoy, or at least limiting the damage he causes. Selvie and Hatcher will have to compensate for three major losses on the defensive line and find a way to get some preesure on Foles.
5 Most Important Non-Quarterbacks, Eagles Edition
Cary Williams: He'll lead that secondary in coverage against Bryant and Co. That entire unit has to be superb, starting with Williams.
Trent Cole and Connor Barwin: I think the Eagles would be better off with Brandon Graham taking more snaps, but it doesn't look as though that'll happen. Therefore, those two guys will have to find a way to start bringing the heat.
DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy: Obviously...
Injury Analysis, Cowboys Edition
Spencer is on injured reserve. Meanwhile, Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reports that Ware and Murray are officially doubtful whereas Hatcher and Selvie are banged up but probable. It's just a mess along that defensive line, which might mean that Foles will have time to throw from start to finish.
Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne will have to play extremely well.
Injury Analysis, Eagles Edition
The Eagles continue to be remarkably healthy in comparison to their NFC East peers.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction
I think the Cowboys are the better team, but they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. No Ware or Spencer for a matchup with an offense that is firing on all cylinders.
The Eagles win another NFC East shootout.
Eagles 35, Cowboys 31
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