It doesn’t get much more even than this. The 3-3 Cowboys, who are 2-0 in the division, face the 3-3 Eagles, who are 2-0 in the division. Both teams stand atop the NFC East in about as grandiose a matchup as possible in Week 7 of an NFL season, with the Cowboys attempting to win their first road game of the 2013 season after starting 0-2 away from home.
Dallas had been criticized in years past for a lack of a home field advantage. Well, the Cowboys are now 3-1 at home this year. The problem has been on the road, where they’ve played a resurgent Chiefs squad and a quick passing Chargers team. The Cowboys swept the Eagles last year in the regular season series, but this is a much different Eagles team with Chip Kelly at the helm.
Special teams could make the difference once again. If there’s anyone happy to see the Eagles, it’s probably Dwayne Harris. He has two punt return touchdowns in his career. The most recent one occurred last week against the Redskins, and his first came last year against the team the Cowboys will travel to see this weekend. Harris recorded a 78-yard punt return touchdown in the Cowboys’ win at Philadelphia last year.
That game also featured a defense maligned for its inability to create turnovers finding a way to get the ball back. Brandon Carr had an interception return for a touchdown and Jason Hatcher had a fumble return for a touchdown. Both of those players played exceptionally well last week against the Redskins and will be needed if the Cowboys’ defense wants to prove the previous two weeks against the Chargers and Broncos were flukes.
The Eagles share the same record in the league and the division as the Cowboys, but the way they got there is completely different. Dallas is 3-1 at home and 0-2 on the road, while the Eagles are 0-2 at home and 3-1 on the road this year. In fact, the Eagles haven’t won a home game since Week 4 of the 2012 season, spanning eight straight home losses.
Philadelphia will want to reverse that trend after three straight road games, in which the Eagles went 2-1. Those two wins came against Giants and Bucs teams that are still searching for their first victories of the season. The Eagles’ opponents in their three wins this year have a combined one win. Both the Cowboys’ and Eagles’ three losses this season have come against the Chiefs, Chargers and Broncos.
They’re two very evenly matched NFC East teams that will be meeting each other. Both have 45 penalties this season and rank in the top five in scoring average and in the bottom five in total defense. They both also have positive turnover margins at plus-four for the Cowboys and plus-two for the Eagles, and both boast a playmaking star receiver. DeSean Jackson has 34 catches for 589 yards and five touchdowns, while Dez Bryant has 34 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns.
Both teams are also dealing with significant injuries. Michael Vick isn’t expected to return from his hamstring injury this weekend, meaning Nick Foles will be the quarterback again. The Cowboys saw Foles in both games last season, as Vick left the first matchup injured. Foles threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns without an interception last week against the Bucs. With LeSean McCoy, the NFL’s rushing leader this year, the Eagles still have plenty of offensive firepower.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr playing without putting pressure on himself, unlike last year.
Brandon Carr, coming off perhaps his most impactful game with the Dallas Cowboys since signing his $50.1 million free agent contract.
“I don’t feel pressure any more,” the veteran cornerback said Monday at Valley Ranch. “I put it on myself last year. It’s a new year. I’m still working, still trying to get better. I’m going to continue to evolve as a player. I’m not going to put pressure on myself. I’m going to continue to have fun and show the passion I have for this game and make plays.”
Carr had six tackles, a tackle for loss, and three pass breakups against the Redskins on Sunday. Instead of playing just one side of the field, he stayed with the Redskins’ No. 1 target, Pierre Garcon, and limited him to six catches for 69 yards on 15 targets.
“You can call it what you want to call it,” Carr said. “I’m going to go out there and do my job wherever they match me up, or on the side I play. I’m going to try to shut it down. It’s a compliment to me and a great challenge for me. I have been working to get to this level for six years now.”
Carr said he still sees himself developing.
“I’m still a work in progress, but I’m down for any task or challenge they present to me,” Carr said. “Any receiver they tell me to go out and cover or give them my best shot, that is what I’m going to do every Sunday.”
Asked which Eagles quarterback he’d rather face on Sunday, Michael Vick or Nick Foles, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said it was a no brainer.
He’d rather face Foles because he was more of a drop back passer rather than having to chase Vick all over the field.
“I would like to see Foles, because Vick is like a rabbit,” Hatcher said. “He’s all over the place. Foles is more like a stationary guy in the pocket.
“But both of them are awesome quarterbacks. Foles is playing his butt off these last couple of games. Either one, but I would take Foles over Vick.”
Well, Hatcher will get his wish as the Eagles have ruled Vick out for the game because of an injury, leaving Foles as the starter for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys.
Foles has been pretty good in wins over the Giants and Buccaneers in place of the injured Vick the past two weeks, completing 38 of 56 passes for 493 yards and five touchdowns.
“Foles can throw it, now,” Hatcher said. “He can throw it. It’s going to be a challenge either way.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones stated the obvious on his radio show this morning. He said the defensive line is the Dallas Cowboys biggest concern six weeks into the season.
The loss of defensive end DeMarcus Ware for at least a week or two is the latest setback up for a unit that is already without ends Tyrone Crawford and Anthony Spencer for the season and has seemingly given up hope of getting back defensive tackle Jay Ratliff at any point this season.
The Cowboys are scouring the waiver wire and the streets for help up front but Jones said the team will not trade a future high draft pick to get a defensive lineman.
“It’s pretty well known, I imagine, around the league, some of the issues we got with our defensive front,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM], “so if some other GMs or personnel people are sitting there saying, ‘I bet Dallas might be interested in this lineman,’ then their wheels are turning, too. That could still happen, but we’re not going to be in a position, and don’t want to give up a high draft pick to get a defensive lineman right now.”
The Cowboys are expected to sign veteran defensive end Jarius Wynn, who has five years of experience with the Packers and Chargers.