GAMEDAY PRIMER: Cowboys vs. Eagles NFC East matchup loaded with NFL parity
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.
Junior Seau found dead at California home
OCEANSIDE, Calif. (AP) — Former NFL star Junior Seau was found shot to death at his home Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau’s girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful.
A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.
"We believe it was a suicide," said Oceanside police Lt. Leonard Mata. "There is no indication of foul play."
Seau’s mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably.
"I don’t understand … I’m shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
"He’s joking to me, he called me a `homegirl,’" she said.
NFL Playoff picture is coming into focus
The playoff picture is starting to come into focus on this happy note: Win and you are in as a division champion.
That’s the easy scenario for the Broncos and either the Cowboys or Giants. And while Baltimore already owns at least a wild-card spot, a victory for the Ravens will earn them the AFC North and a first-round bye.
Denver is tied atop the AFC North with Oakland at 8-7, with the Broncos hosting the Chiefs on Sunday, and the Raiders at home for San Diego. Denver has the tiebreaker, but if it loses and the Raiders win, the Broncos can’t get a wild card. The Raiders can get a wild card if both they and Denver win, as long as Cincinnati and Tennessee lose, or Cincinnati loses and the New York Jets win. Got it?
In first place in the woeful NFC East are the Cowboys and the Giants, who meet at the Meadowlands. A win or a tie will give New York (8-7) the East title; neither team can be a wild card.
2011 NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: If playoffs started today … Dallas Cowboys would host the Atlanta Falcons
For a comprehensive look at the 2011 NFL Playoffs, check out the new PLAYOFFS page on The Boys Are Back blog … or click HERE.
2011 NFL PLAYOFF TRACKER: Follow the drama right here, on The Boys Are Back blog
Keep up with the ever-changing NFL Playoff race right here, on The Boys Are Back blog.
x-clinched playoff berth
y-denotes division winner
z-denotes first-round bye
*-clinched home-field advantage
During the regular season, the seeds reflect how the playoffs would stand if the season ended up to that point. The NFL playoffs are not based on a pure bracket system. In the divisional playoffs, the No. 1 seed is assured of playing the lowest-seeded Wild Card survivor. There are no restrictions on intra-division games and the higher seed of any matchup will have home-field advantage.
• Baltimore is the AFC North leader ahead of Pittsburgh based on head to head (2-0).
• Houston is the No. 1 seed ahead of Baltimore and New England based on conference record (8-2 to the Ravens’ 7-2 and the Patriots’ 7-2).
• Baltimore is the No. 2 seed ahead of New England based on common games (4-0 to the Patriots’ 3-1).
• Denver is the AFC West leader ahead of Oakland based on division record (3-2 to the Raiders’ 2-2).
• Cincinnati finishes ahead of Tennessee based on head to head (1-0).
• San Diego finishes ahead of Buffalo based on conference record (4-5 to the Bills’ 3-5).
• Cleveland finishes ahead of Miami and Jacksonville based on head to head sweep (2-0).
• Miami finishes ahead of Jacksonville based on conference record (3-6 to the Jaguars’ 3-7).
• Atlanta is the No. 5 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).
• Seattle finishes ahead of Arizona based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on head to head (1-0).
• Carolina finishes ahead of Washington based on head to head (1-0).
• Washington finishes ahead of Tampa Bay based on conference record (4-5 to the Buccaneers’ 3-6).
• Indianapolis (Week 12), Jacksonville (Week 13), Cleveland (Week 14), Miami (Week 14).
• Minnesota (Week 12), St. Louis (Week 12), Carolina (Week 14), Tampa Bay (Week 14), Washington (Week 14).
NFL Playoff Tracker courtesy: CBS Sports