The Philadelphia Eagles have a difficult divisional rivalry against the Dallas Cowboys. As a prime-time game and one of their final home games this season, this is basically the Super Bowl for the Cowboys 2010 season.
A victory would be huge for Jason Garrett’s chances of becoming the Cowboys head coach as the Cowboys will be favored against the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals in upcoming weeks. A potential 6-2 finish with victories against all the NFC East rivals, Indianapolis Colts, and a blunder away from beating the defending Super Bowl champions on Thanksgiving Day? Can’t do much better than that.
The early spread on this game is Eagles (-3). Here are eight of the key aspects and what to watch out for when betting. All stats are from NFL.com unless otherwise noted. Lines from Cooper’s Picks.
Update 12-12-10: Update on Asante Samuel is a NO GO!
#1: Divisional Rivalry
The Eagles and Cowboys match-up has transformed into one of the NFL’s biggest rivalries. These divisional match-ups often don’t go according to the script. The most recent example was last week’s Oakland Raider Victory in San Diego.
#2: Recent History
The Dallas Cowboys swept the Eagles in 2009, including winning in back-to-back weeks in Week 17 and Wildcard weekend. They’ve won at least one game against the Eagles every season since 2007.
#3 Philadelphia Eagles Second Half Team
The Eagles usually play their best football throughout December and into the NFC Championship, where Andy Reid is 1-4 all-time.
#4: Asante Samuel
Asante Samuel is listed as “Questionable” as of 12/6. They’re already without Ellis Hobbs, Marlin Jackson, and Antoine Harris. Samuel’s absence has made the Eagles vulnerable to allowing points. They surrendered 55 points in their past two games, and the Cowboys passing attack could exploit it again if he doesn’t play. I’d expect him to play, however.
UPDATE 12-11-10: Asante Samuel will miss this game!
The Eagles have had three more days of preparation after playing on Thursday Night football. As a divisional game, that could be less important since there is more familiarity between the coaching staffs. Then again, the Cowboys haven’t played against Michael Vick, and Andy Reid hasn’t coached head-to-head with Jason Garrett.
#6: Dallas Cowboys Defense
Since their Week 4 bye, the Cowboys have surrendered 30 or more points in six of their past nine games. The three games that they didn’t still resulted in nineteen or more for the opponents.
Take note of this: The Cowboys defense has allowed the fourth highest opponent QB rating at 98.4. The Eagles are 3-0 against teams in the top six (Texans #1, Jaguars #3, and Lions #5).
#7 Opportunistic Defense
The Eagles +15 turnover ratio is the NFL’s best. At -3, the Cowboys have been victimized by their blunders and penalties. Roy Williams fumble against the New Orleans Saints is the most recent example of that.
The Cowboys lost Dez Bryant for the season due to an ankle injury. Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins, two of their main cornerbacks, are both questionable. Marion Barber is also doubtful, although the Cowboys backfield is loaded. The Cowboys injuries leave them incredibly vulnerable to the Eagles athletic wideouts in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
This is a dangerous game for the Eagles. They don’t want to drop this game because they have a divisional match-up at the New York Giants. They need to win three of four because they’re already a step behind the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears in a wildcard tiebreaker. That doesn’t include the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are also competing for a spot. Winning their next two games would basically clinch the NFC East and put the Giants in a situation where they’d have to win at Lambeau in Week 16 or basically be eliminated from the playoffs.
The Cowboys can score with the Eagles. Their problem is that their defense is pretty slow and shouldn’t get enough stops as they’ll struggle to contain Michael Vick. The Eagles are opportunistic and should create the key turnovers that the Cowboys defense won’t. It’s a difficult match-up for the Eagles, but if they’re a true Super Bowl contender, they’ll prevail.
Bonus: With so many injured defensive backs and such high powered offenses, look at taking the over on totals. Currently, that’s at 51.
Against the Spread: Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
Straight: Philadelphia Eagles
More From Yahoo! Contributor Network
Week 14 Predictions Against the Spread & Totals – Complete Version
Check my profile throughout the week for more individual and whole NFL picks articles. Check out the AC NFL Pick ‘Em contest throughout the week HERE for NFL predictions from up to nearly a dozen other writers.
Cooper’s Picks, December 6, 2010.
NFL.com, December 6, 2010.
Injury Reports, Covers.com. December 6, 2010.