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Vick And Eagles To Test Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles (8-4) @ Dallas Cowboys (4-8)
Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, TX
When: Sunday December 12, 8:20 pm, EST
Media: NBC

You know in the offseason the Philadelphia Eagles circled this date on the schedule as the first chance to enact some revenge on the Dallas Cowboys after being swept all three games last season, including one playoff loss. When the Eagles looked to this game I doubt they thought they would have one of the league’s most electrifying players playing quarterback for them.

This was supposed to be the year of Kevin Kolb. After the Eagles traded McNabb to the Redskins, Kolb was the heir apparent. Someone forgot to tell Michael Vick. Vick’s much storied past aside, his return to football last year was less than impressive. This year is a different story. Vick is second in the league, and first in the NFC in quarterback rating with a 105.7. He has 15 touchdowns compared to 2 interceptions and has regained that dual threat of using his canon arm and quick feet to keep defenses off balance.

Well, this Sunday night Vick and the Eagles come in to Dallas to face the resurgent Cowboys. The Cowboys have had a great stretch of their own. After starting 1-7, the Boys have put together a nice little streak and are a fumble away from being 4-0 under interim head coach Jason Garrett. With road victories over the Giants and Colts, the Cowboys find themselves fighting for some respect and a chance to play spoiler to their division rivals.

The Eagles

It is clear what the Eagles must do to win this game. Ride Vick. Vick has the legs to extend plays which makes it extremely difficult for the Cowboys secondary to stay with the speedy DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson and Maclin have combined for 13 touchdowns this season and are both over 14 yards/catch, with Jackson up over 20. It is this speed on the outside that will be most troubling for the Cowboys defense. While they were able to contain them in the three meetings last year, the Dallas secondary is giving up 254 ypg against the pass, good enough for 28th in the league. Vick and his stable of receiving threats, including TE Brent Celek, will look to pick apart Dallas’ less then stellar defensive backfield.

The forgotten member of this Eagles attack is LeSean McCoy. McCoy is closing in on 1000 yards, but still needs 177 to do it. He is a dual threat out of the backfield with his ability to catch swing, shovel, and screen passes. He matches up favorably against the Cowboys linebackers, James and Brooking, who have little tread left on the tires.

The Eagles defense is known to be a blitzing machine. Last year, Romo and the Cowboys torched them when they blitzed. This year, Kitna is behind center and history has shown that a good pass rush will throw Kitna off his game.

The key for the Eagles is Vick. If Vick plays well and uses his legs now and then, the Cowboys are in for a very long day and the game could get out of hand quickly.

The Cowboys

The Cowboys have been successful when they can run the ball and present a balanced game plan. Since Garrett has taken the helm he is calling plays on a 50/50 basis. It doesn’t get much more balanced then that. Last week, Tashard Choice made a huge impact against the Colts and he teamed up with Felix Jones to help the Cowboys go over the 200 yard rushing mark for the first time since Cowboys Stadium’s inaugural game. The Cowboys are best when that big offensive line, led by Lenoard Davis, is blocking down hill. Marion Barber looks like he will be out for the second straight week giving Choice and Jones another crack at 200.

If there is an area the Cowboys can exploit it is size up front. The Cowboys heavily out weigh the Eagles and if they attack them, should be able to generate some running lanes. The Eagles are a lot quicker so passing situations the line will be called upon to pick up a lot of blitzes and speed rushers on the edges. Tackle Doug Free will have his hands full with specialist Trent Cole, but after going toe to toe with Dwight Freeney last week, should be able to hold his own.

The real challenge for the Cowboys is going to be containing Vick. Look for defensive co-ordinator Paul Pasqualoni to “spy” Vick with a linebacker. The Cowboys will need to stay in their rush lanes and keep contain on Vick, not an easy task if you are trying to generate any kind of pass rush. LB Demarcus Ware will be a factor for the Boys to apply any kind of heat on Vick. Fellow LB Anthony Spencer, whose season has been a disappointment to say the least, needs to raise his game up and help Ware and the defensive line generate some pressure.

All in all this is what fans hope for in December. Two teams that hate each other and want to derail the rest of each other’s seasons. The Cowboys have a tough task this week, but I think they might surprise us.

Dallas squeaks one out 31-30.

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