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Eagles at Cowboys

Wildcard Playoff

1/9/10

The Dallas Cowboys are truly one of the "Wild Cards" in this years NFL playoffs and we are not saying that because they happen to be hosting a Wild Card game on Saturday Night. What we mean is, the Cowboys are a team that could potentially beat any other playoff team in either conference if they show up and execute. Of course showing up and executing is no easy task and if we are to use the past as an indicator, you would have to assume that executing offensively is where the Cowboys will come up short.

It can be argued that the Cowboys defense is the best in the NFL. There are actually a few very good defenses in this years playoffs, but no question the Cowboys defense is on par with or better than the others.

What's really  interesting about the Cowboys is their offense. Strictly from a yardage standpoint, it's one of the best in the league. I believe they finished 2nd overall in the NFL as they averaged just under 400 yards per game. Their problem has been that they have not made use of those yards. They have moved the ball successfully against everyone but have come up short in spots due to their inability to put the ball in the end zone, which includes some turnovers and some spots where Tony Romo just couldn't get it done.

Let's put it into perspective a little further. A team that gains the yards the Cowboys do should have an offensive yards per point number of around 13. The Cowboys, instead, have a ypp number of 18 season to date and even worse, 22 over the last 6 weeks. That is unheard of for a playoff team. It's, well, pathetic. If the Cowboys had a ypp of 13 as they should, when combined with their defensive ypp number of 20.5 (22 at home) on the year, they would have a positive ypp margin of +7. The Eagles margin is +2. Which means the Cowboys would be an 8 point favorite this week if they had produced the number of points that a team that gains their yardage should have. (5 point difference plus a field goal for home field)

I commented when the Cowboys played the Saints that if they executed as they are capable of, they could win that game. Well, they did just that. They made use of their yards and went on the road and beat one of the best teams in the NFL. If by chance they can do that in the playoffs, they are capable of making it all the way to the Super Bowl, and even winning it. Unfortunately, they have done that very few times this year and have not shown us that they can string together a few games in a row of consistent football.

As for the Eagles, you have to toss out last weeks game. The game had no urgency. Sure there was the NFC East title on the line and some playoff positioning, even a bye, but it wasn't do or die. Both sides knew they'd live to fight another day. The Eagles may have gone into the game with the intention of winning, but there's very little doubt that they abandoned the game plan and gave up on the game once they fell behind early. Here's a team that blitzes more than any other team in the NFL, and they really didn't blitz the entire game against the Cowboys. Hmmm.

As with the other rematches this week, you're going to see a much different game than the one you saw a week ago. Division rivals from the NFC East in a playoff game? You'd expect nothing but a smash mouth game that goes to the wire. The average score the last 20 times these two teams have played is 21-20 with 3 of the last 5 decided by 4 points or less.

You use what a team has done in previous games in an attempt to predict what they will do in future games. You can't attempt to predict when a team like the Cowboys will play up to their abilities, like they did against the Saints. You have to assume that the team that took the field in 90% of their games this year will again take the field and show itself again at some point on Saturday.

If that's the case, you'll see a Cowboys team that moves the ball, but settles for field goals, or worse, turns the ball over. Aside from that, Andy Reid is just too  good of a coach to allow his team to play anything but a close game Saturday night.

As a result of the Cowboys inability to put teams away, the +4 looms large in this one. This is not an official play. The Cowboys are just too unpredictable for us to get involved here. But we'll make a slight recommendation on the Eagles +4


 

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