Eagles-Cowboys Sunday Night NFL

COWBOYS MUST WIN OUT FOR 10-6 RECORD, AND ANY SHOT AT NFC WILDCARD

There's really not much of importance in Sunday Night's nationally televised game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys beyond the possibility that Tony Romo and company can make a late run at a Wildcard spot. Sports bettors must determine if that "must-win" motivation is factored enough into the line here, and in all other upcoming games involving contenders.

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Since there's not much new to add to our previous preview discussions of these teams (Philly just played on Monday Night, Dallas back on Thanksgiving), let's take a deeper look at the NFC Wildcard picture heading into this weekend. We'll study the records, and the remaining schedules for the six most serious contenders.

GREEN BAY (7-4): Minnesota, Detroit, at Chicago, Tennessee, at Minnesota
The Packers are heavy favorites to reach the postseason because they'll be favored in at least four of those games, and all five are obviously winnable. Of course, the Packers aren't exactly sizzling in recent weeks in terms of production. That makes some of those lose-able too! If the Packers just go 3-2, that's enough for a 10-6 finish...and it's hard to imagine 10-6 not being good enough considering what everyone has left. It's not 100% certain yet...but Green Bay is a prohibitive favorite to win one of the Wildcards if they don't catch Chicago for first place. If they do, Chicago will surely get one of the Wildcards.

TAMPA BAY (6-5): at Denver, Philadelphia, at New Orleans, St. Louis, at Atlanta
The Bucs are expected to lose in Denver as touchdown favorites Sunday. That would drop them to .500 at 6-6. They will be favorites at home against Philadelphia and St. Louis, but will have tough divisional road games vs. the Saints and Falcons. They might catch a break in their finale if Atlanta has already wrapped up the #1 seed and home field advantage throughout the NFC brackets. We'd have to say there's a good chance for 9-7 here, with 10-6 as a real possibility.

MINNESOTA (6-5): at Green Bay, Chicago, at St. Louis, at Houston, Green Bay
That's a brutal schedule for the Vikings, with the only "gift" game coming on the road vs. the Rams. Sorry, unless there are injuries or other big surprises, we don't see the Vikings making it to 10-6 against that slate. They will likely be betting underdogs in four of the five games.

SEATTLE (6-5): at Chicago, Arizona, Buffalo (in Toronto), San Francisco, St. Louis
Seattle is an underdog Sunday in the Windy City. But, that's their last true road game of the season. Playing Buffalo in Toronto won't be particularly challenging outside of the travel (the Seahawks are getting yanked around a bit of late). They will be favored to win three of those five games...and could surely take out the 49ers in the Pacific Northwest. Easy to see 9-7 out of that, with 10-6 a possibility. To this point, we're looking at Tampa Bay and Seattle fighting for that sixth and final spot.

WASHINGTON (5-6): NY Giants, Baltimore, at Cleveland, at Philadelphia, Dallas
If you're 5-6 now, you have to win out for a 10-6 finish. That's a lot to ask of any team, no matter how good they are. And, there aren't any extenuating circumstances here that would signal a sudden surge. We've seen in the past some teams get hot once they got healthy. Washington hasn't been ravaged by injuries. They're a 5-6 team with a promising young quarterback. The good news is that all five games are winnable, and that the Skins will be favored in the last three unless Michael Vick returns and the Eagles start trying again. We'll talk more about Skins/Giants tomorrow since that's the Monday Nighter. Lose that, and Washington can only hope for 9-7. A longshot for this season...much less of one for next year.

DALLAS (5-6): Philadelphia, at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, at Washington
Can Dallas go 5-0 against that slate? A win as a double digit favorite Sunday Night on NBC moves them to .500...but then there are no sure things left. In fact, Dallas will be matched against playoff contenders in three of their final four games. Can Dallas string together wins against other teams who also need to win? Looks like 9-7 is the ceiling here...which means Dallas would need help from opponents of Seattle and Tampa Bay to reach January.

That's the backdrop to any meaning for Sunday's matchup. Here's a brief run-through of our standard indicator stats you can use for analyzing pointspread possibilities...

 

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES at DALLAS COWBOYS (8:25 p.m. on NBC)
Las Vegas Spread: Dallas by 10, total of 43

WON-LOST RECORDS (schedule strength according to USA Today)
Philadelphia: 3-8 (12th ranked schedule)
Dallas: 5-6 (2nd ranked schedule)

The fact that the Cowboys have played a brutal schedule is a nice hidden indicator for their quality. They'd be 6-5 or 7-4 vs. a league average schedule. Maybe that gives them more hope in the final month.

TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL
Philadelphia: -17
Dallas: -11

Well, if Romo can't fix this, Dallas isn't going anywhere! In fact, head coach Jason Garrett and Romo maybe headed elsewhere after the season if turnovers create a poor finish. Dallas just isn't playing top quality football this year, even after you adjust for strength of schedule.

OFFENSIVE STATS
Philadelphia: 357.1 yards-per-game on 5.2 yards-per-play
Dallas: 375.6 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play

Philly's average is below 300 in the games Foles started, and he was erratic in a backup role when he saw this Dallas defense a few weeks ago.

DEFENSIVE STATS
Philadelphia: 345.5 yards-per-game on 5.6 yards-per-play
Dallas: 328.8 yards-per-game on 5.5 yards-per-play

Philly's defense has played much worse than its numbers since they fired their defensive coordinator. In fact, their last five opponents have scored 30, 28, 38, 31, and 30 points. Not hard for a home favorite to cover 10 points if they're going to score 30!

MOST RECENT BOXES

CAROLINA 30, PHILADELPHIA 22
Total Yardage: Carolina 398, Philadelphia 311
Rushing Yards: Carolina 109, Philadelphia 204
Passing Stats: Carolina 18-28-0-289, Philadelphia 16-21-0-107
Turnovers: Carolina 0, Philadelphia 3
Third Downs: Carolina 50%, Philadelphia 25%
Vegas Line: Carolina by 3, total of 41

Carolina and Dallas played a very competitive game not too long ago. So, this is a reasonable assessment of what Dallas would do on the in a full game vs. Foles right now. This isn't a road game Sunday for the Cowboys. They're at home. That would suggest a victory margin more in the 13-14 range.

WASHINGTON 38, DALLAS 31
Total Yardage: Washington 437, Dallas 458
Rushing Yards: Washington 142, Dallas 35
Passing Stats: Washington 20-28-1-295, Dallas 37-62-2-423
Turnovers: Washington 1, Dallas 3
Third Downs: Washington 50%, Dallas 47%
Vegas Line: Dallas by 3, total of 42

It's easy to get overwhelmed by all of Philadelphia's recent negatives when you study this game. It's important to remember that Dallas has big weaknesses too. They have no running game. Throwing all the time makes them turnover prone. And, the defense comes and goes with alarming frequency. Don't lay the points unless you're confident you're going to get the best of Dallas. The worst of Dallas almost lost to Cleveland on this field and did lose to Washington.

BEST EXPECTATION
That really depends on the Eagles. If they lay down after what had to be a disappointing loss to Carolina (they were trying most of the night in front of a national TV audience), then this game is going to get nasty. Dallas will jump to a big lead. Chippiness will cause flags to fly. NBC will regret not using its flex scheduling to bring another game to prime time even if there weren't a lot of great options this week. On the other hand...if the Eagles aren't ready to throw in the towel yet, they can at least match what Cleveland did a few weeks ago in Big D...and might even steal a game straight up if Romo throws too many picks.

JIM HURLEY has been working with his Philadelphia sources to get a read on the team's mindset. Once you know that, the game picks itself. You can see if Eagles-Cowboys make the final cut for Sunday right here at this website. Big, juicy winners are always just a few clicks away! If you have any questions, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you tomorrow for an expanded preview of NY Giants-Washington, a Monday Night game that could really deliver the goods in terms of drama and importance. It's going to deliver a truckload of cash too if you link up with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

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Aug

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