Face-Off: Cowboys vs. Eagles

Face-Off: Cowboys vs. Eagles

Credit: Getty Images

DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on October 30, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Cowboys 34-7. (Photo by Rob Tringali/SportsChrome/Getty Images)

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by EDDIE MIDDLEBROOK

WFAA Sports

Posted on December 27, 2013 at 7:00 AM

Updated Friday, Dec 27 at 1:54 AM

DALLAS vs. PHILADELPHIA

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., AT&T Stadium

TV: 7:30 p.m., NBC

Radio: 4:30 p.m., 105.3 The Fan

Records: Dallas 8-7, Philadelphia 9-6

Series: Dallas leads, 62-47

Last meeting: Dallas, 17-3 (2013, in Philadelphia)

Betting line: Philadelphia -7

Weather: 51 degrees, 10% chance of rain

It took a last-minute touchdown last week to beat a three-win Washington team. That win was with Tony Romo (albeit dealing with injuries), but now this team looks to a quarterback that hasn’t started a game since 2011. No Romo, no Sean Lee, but this team does get back Dwayne Harris. Let’s see how these two teams match up:

Dallas offense vs. Philadelphia defense

All eyes will be on Kyle Orton this Sunday night in Arlington. One thing is certain, Orton has confidence in himself:

"I fall back on my experience," Orton said. "I've played a lot of games in this league and had some success so just excited with the group of guys I've got around me. I don't really feel like I've got to go out and do too much. Get the play to the playmakers. Get the ball to (DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and Dez Bryant) and let those guys go to work."

With all the question marks at quarterback, Murray will be more important than ever. Last week, he gained 94 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown. The Cowboys are 11-0 during Murray’s career when he gets at least 20 carries. If the Cowboys are going to win, it will be on the back of No. 29.

While the Cowboys are going to try and establish a running game, it will be going up against an Eagles defense that is 12th in the league. Philadelphia’s weakness is in the secondary as their pass defense ranks 30th in the NFL.

Will Orton be able to establish a good relationship with Witten, Bryant and Terrence Williams? We will find out Sunday night.   

Edge: EVEN

Dallas defense vs. Philadelphia offense

In the last matchup between these two teams, Nick Foles had his worst performance of the season (11-29 and 80 yards). Despite that one bad performance, Foles has been excellent this season as he has thrown for more than 2,600 yards, 25 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

So how exactly did Dallas hold the Eagles to only three points back in October? Defensive Coordinator Monte Kiffin had this explanation:

“We hustled and just really played well that day,” Kiffin said. “We have to do it again. They’re better now.”

While this defense has been historically terrible the entire season, they have the opportunity to right a lot of wrongs on Sunday. At the least, it will be an uphill battle without Sean Lee once again.          

Edge: PHILADELPHIA

Key matchup

Murray and the offensive line vs. Eagles front seven: The chance that Orton will be able to lead this team to the playoffs with his arm is slim. In the last three weeks, Murray’s rushing totals are 146, 134 and 94 with three total touchdowns including the game winner against Washington. Murray most likely needs to contribute more against a solid running defense from Philly. When healthy, Murray is a top five running back in this league and the Dallas offensive line is great at run blocking. I hope Jason Garrett and the coaching staff are committed to the ground attack.

Edge: DALLAS

Special teams

Micheal Spurlock had a 62-yard punt return in the first quarter last week to set up a touchdown. What does he get in return? Spurlock was cut this week by the team to allow Jon Kitna on the team. Good news is that special teams superstar Dwayne Harris will return from a hamstring injury this week. With Harris back in the fold, the special teams unit returns to being a dynamic part of the game for the Cowboys.

Eagles’ Kicker Alex Henery has missed five field goals this season, but has made his last six consecutive. Returner Damaris Johnson is decent, but he isn’t dynamic.      

Edge: DALLAS

Intangibles

Both teams need this win to make the playoffs. Dallas has been excellent this year against the NFC East (5-0) and played well at home (5-2). If Orton wins this game, there will be no living with anti-Romo fans.

Edge: EVEN

Did You Know?

Since Romo became the starting quarterback, he has missed 13 games. In those games, the backup for the Cowboys is 6-7.

Prediction: Philadelphia 35, Dallas 24

Eddie Middlebrook is the co-host of “Chin Music” and VP of Media for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Eddie.Middlebrook@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @emiddlebrook           

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