SNF - Eagles at Cowboys
December 27, 2013
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Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Philadelphia -7 (-105) & 53.5
Opening Line & Total: Eagles -3 & 56
The NFC East becomes a one-game playoff on Sunday night when the Eagles visit the Cowboys, with the winner hosting a postseason game, and the loser ending its season.
Philadelphia is 6-1 SU (5-2 ATS) since November with an offense averaging 34.6 PPG on 448 total YPG. Dallas will be without starting QB Tony Romo (back), which will give Kyle Orton his first start since 2011. The Cowboys are 1-6 ATS (4-3 SU) since November began, and still have the NFL’s worst defense, allowing 419 total YPG. But the much-maligned Dallas D held Philly to three points on 278 total yards in a 17-3 win in Week 7, giving the Cowboys their third straight victory in this rivalry series.
Most betting trends favor the Eagles in this one, as they are 35-15 ATS (70%) on the road revenging a loss against an opponent since 1992, and Dallas is 0-10 ATS versus great offenses (375+ YPG) in the second half of the season since 2011. But the Cowboys benefit from the fact that Philadelphia is only 5-14 ATS (26%) versus bad defenses (350+ YPG) in this same three-year timeframe.
The Eagles are pretty healthy on offense, but the secondary is ravaged with injuries with CBs Brandon Hughes (hamstring) and Curtis Marsh (hand) both out, while safeties Kurt Coleman (hamstring), Colt Anderson (knee) and Earl Wolff (knee) are all questionable.
In addition to Romo being out, Dallas will also be missing top LB Sean Lee (neck), while CB Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and LB Ernie Sims (groin) are listed as questionable. Star WR Dez Bryant has been bothered by back problems, but is considered probable for Sunday night's game.
The Eagles have been efficient both on the ground and through the air this season, which is why they rank second in the NFL in both scoring (27.9 PPG) and total offense (421 YPG). Philadelphia leads the league in total rushing yards (162 YPG), rushing yards per carry (5.2 YPC) and yards per pass attempt (8.6 YPA). RB LeSean McCoy has an NFL-best 1,476 rushing yards, but has also caught 51 passes for another 536 yards. Despite his 338 touches, McCoy has fumbled just once all season. But McCoy was held to just 3.1 yards per carry and 4.3 yards per catch in the Week 7 home loss to the Cowboys.
QB Nick Foles was also horrible that day, completing 11-of-29 throws (37.9%) for 80 yards (2.8 YPA), 0 TD and 0 INT. But the second-year pro is 7-2 as a starter, and has thrown for 2,628 yards on 9.0 YPA with 25 TD and just 2 INT this season. He has benefitted greatly from the continued excellence from star WR DeSean Jackson (1,304 rec. yards, 9 TD) and the emergence of No. 2 wideout Riley Cooper (796 rec. yards, 8 TD). TEs Brent Celek and Zach Ertz have also done a nice job getting open, especially near the goal line where they have combined for 62 catches, including nine for touchdowns.
Defensively, the Eagles have given up a ton of yardage (393 YPG, 3rd-most in league), but much of that is due to being on the field for 33:49, which is longer than any other NFL defense. They have done a nice job in stuffing the run with 3.8 YPC allowed (3rd-best in league), but are surrendering 285 passing YPG (3rd-most in league) and have a third-down defense giving up 41% conversions (24th in NFL). Philly has been able to hold 10 of its past 11 opponents to 21 points or less thanks to 23 takeaways in this 11-game span.
The Cowboys will certainly miss QB Tony Romo, who is having a great season with 3,828 passing yards (7.2 YPA), 31 TD and just 10 INT. His backup, QB Kyle Orton, made his last start in the 2011 season finale and has attempted just five passes all season. He has a 35-34 career record as an NFL starter with 6.6 YPA, 81 TD and 57 INT. In Orton's two career starts versus the Eagles (2008 and 2009), he combined to throw for only 388 passing yards (5.2 YPA), but tossed 6 TD and just 3 INT. He will try to expose a poor Philly secondary by mostly targeting WR Dez Bryant (1,134 rec. yards, 12 TD) and TE Jason Witten (716 rec. yards, 8 TD).
However, the Cowboys have not allowed RB DeMarco Murray (1,073 rush yards, 5.4 YPC, 9 TD) to touch the ball nearly enough this year, but they finally gave him more than 20 carries last week (22 carries, 96 yards, 2 TD) for the first time since Week 3. Murray was unable to play in the Week 7 meeting versus Philly due to a sprained MCL, but he has been outstanding in his past five games this year with 525 rushing yards (5.9 YPC) and six touchdowns.
He'll be a key to sustaining long drives and keeping the Cowboys atrocious defense of the field. This unit been shredded all season, both through the air (291 YPG, 2nd-worst in NFL) and on the ground (128 YPG, 6th-worst in league). Dallas has surrendered 27.2 PPG (8th-most in NFL) and has been subpar both on third downs (44%, 4th-worst in league) and in the red zone (64% TD efficiency, 5th-worst in NFL). Although the Cowboys forced three Eagles turnovers in their last meeting, this unit has generated only six takeaways over the past six weeks combined.