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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
The Huddle
November 9, 2005
Season Ticket
Sun 1 PM Sun 1 PM Sun 4 PM Sun 8:30 PM Mon 9 PM
BAL at JAC NE at MIA NYJ at CAR On Bye:  
KC at BUF WAS at TB* STL at SEA TEN. NO Times ET

Prediction: Dallas 17, Philadelphia 16

The Colts and Patriots last week and now Dallas at Philadelphia - Monday Night Football has strung two interesting games together! The Cowboys stomped the Eagles already this season, winning 33-10 in week five but that was back in Dallas when the Eagles had a different set of receivers. The Terrell Owens fiasco has been a distraction and could still play into this game a bit but both teams know this is a must win game. If the Eagles win, they help knot up the NFC East and a loss here likely spells doom for the divisional title if not a playoff birth. If Dallas sweeps the Eagles, all they have left in the way are two more road games against Washington and the Giants.

Update: L.J. Smith is still listed as questionable this week with a concussion and has missed the first two days of practice. He is expected to return to practice and all going well, will start on Monday night. I am adding him into the projections though he is not cleared yet. He has until Monday night to continue to improve.

Dallas Cowboys (5-3)
1 28-24 @SDC 10 Nov 14 @PHI
2 13-14 WAS 11 Nov 20 DET
3 34-31 @SFO 12 Nov 24 DEN
4 13-19 @OAK 13 Dec 4 @NYG
5 33-10 PHI 14 Dec 11 KCC
6 16-13 NYG 15 Dec 18 @WAS
7 10-13 @SEA 16 Dec 24 @CAR
8 34-13 ARI 17 Jan 1 STL
9 Open Bye M THU SAT
DAL at PHI Rush Catch Pass
QB Drew Bledsoe 0 0 260,2
RB Julius Jones 60 10 0
TE Jason Witten 0 70,1 0
WR Keyshawn Johnson 0 70 0
WR Terry Glenn 0 80,1 0
WR Peerless Price 0 20 0
PK Shaun Suisham 1 FG 2 XP -
Pregame Notes: The Cowboys come off their bye and have been preparing for this match-up for two weeks. The Cowboys defense completely throttled the Eagles back in week five but that game smacked of being one of those where one team was more motivated than the other. Dallas won't be taking the wounded Eagles lightly this week, Owens or not. After all, the Cowboys have not won in Philadelphia during this century.

Quarterback: Drew Bledsoe has thrown for at least one score in every game this season and his best effort of the year was against the Eagles when he had 289 yards and three scores back in week five. He also has not had more than one score in the three games since that match-up.

Running Backs: The Cowboys released Anthony Thomas during the bye week and with that a clear message that Julius Jones should be healthy enough to take his starting job back this week. While he has been out, Marion Barber has looked really as good as Jones ever has but the rookie will take a step back on the depth chart this week. What remains to be seen is if HC Bill Parcells will start using Barber more at the expense of Jones. During the preseason, Barber had rave reviews and was slated to become the next "Richie Anderson" for third downs. What they didn't realize that was Barber could carry the full load so well.

Expect Jones to take back his starting gig this week but using the rotation worked well during his absence and that could play into Parcells using Barber - or even Tyson Thompson to a lesser degree - more often to keep Jones fresh.

Julius Jones gained only 72 yards and no score against the Eagles in week five.

Wide Receivers: Terry Glenn started the season as the hot receiver with three 100+ yard games in the first four weeks and scoring three times in that stretch, but he's settled down to only 40-60 yards per game for the last three match-ups and has not scored again. Keyshawn Johnson has enjoyed more action and has scored in each of the last two games. Johnson only has one 100+ yard effort so far and often remains at 60 or less yards, but he's been relied on more in the endzone than last year. He leads the Cowboys with five touchdowns on the season.

Terry Glenn had 118 yards and two scores against the Eagles earlier this season while Keyshawn Johnson only turned in 47 yards on six catches.

Tight Ends: Though Jason Witten only has two scores so far, clearly off his pace of 2004, he has remained a solid part of the passing game and typically has at least 50 yards in each game with a high of 85 back in week three. Witten had seven catches for 80 yards in week five against the Eagles.

Match Against the Defense: The Eagles rush defense has not been good in most games this season - unless they are at home. This is the defense that held Tomlinson to only seven yards and broke his touchdown streak. The Eagles have only had three home games and in those the best any runner had was only 34 yards by Kevan Barlow. Jordan (16-19) and Tomlinson (17-7) were both completely shut down. Knowing that this is a "circle the wagons" week, the Eagles defense will load up once again for a home stand and should hold Julius Jones to no more than moderate yardage and no scores.

This game turns on how well Bledsoe can pass and the Eagles secondary has been their Achilles heel. Until last week, each of the last six opponents had thrown for two or more scores against them with four games topping 289 yards passing. Dallas had great success throwing in the last matchup and will be forced to go there again this week with some success. Look for a nice game from Bledsoe who should end up with at least 250 yards and a chance for 300 if a shootout happens. He'll throw for a couple of scores that strongly favor Glenn and Witten again.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-4)
1 10-14 @ATL 10 Nov 14 DAL
2 42-3 SFO 11 Nov 20 @NYG
3 23-20 OAK 12 Nov 27 GBP
4 37-31 @KCC 13 Dec 5 SEA
5 10-33 @DAL 14 Dec 11 NYG
6 Open Bye 15 Dec 18 @STL
7 20-17 SDC 16 Dec 24 @ARI
8 21-49 @DEN 17 Jan 1 WAS
9 10-17 @WAS . MON SAT
PHI vs DAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Donovan McNabb 0 0 260,1
RB Brian Westbrook 30 60 0
TE L.J. Smith 0 30 0
WR Greg Lewis 0 70,1 0
WR Reggie Brown 0 60 0
WR Billy McMullen 0 40 0
PK David Akers 3 FG 1 XP -

Pregame Notes: The Eagles have been through the grinder lately, losing three of their last four games and needing an improbable blocked kick returned for a score to take the lone win over the Chargers. What is happening is that the offense has no ability to rush and cannot score as it did earlier this year. Terrell Owens has been the focal point of the entire offense and now that he is gone it could be a help in making the Eagle's passing game more diverse, but recall in the pre-Owens days that diverse mainly meant tons of throws to Westbrook. If the Eagles can get motivated to win any game this year, this is the one.

Quarterback: Without Owens last week, Donovan McNabb still threw for 304 yards and one score against a very tough Redskins defense. He gave Reggie Brown a career best 94 yards and was great at spreading the ball around so that three different players had over 50 yards receiving for the first time this year. Problem was that when he needed completions the most, he could not find an open guy. And he only managed the one score thanks to one long completion to Brown. Oh yes, and McNabb only threw for 131 yards against Dallas this season.

Running Backs: The Eagles did try to run more last week when they gave Brian Westbrook a season high 17 carries that he turned into a mere 24 yards gained. This rushing attack is one of the worst in the league but at least Westbrook has managed over 50 yards receiving in each of the last three games, something that is bound to only increase as the season progresses and Owens fades from memory.

Westbrook only gained 12 yards on six carries in Dallas this year.

Wide Receivers: Reggie Brown took over for Owens and had a team high 94 yards on five catches for one score. His numbers were greatly aided by that 56 yard touchdown catch and run. Greg Lewis only had 57 yards on five receptions because now he becomes the main focus of the secondary and he's simply not good enough to be able to beat that sort of coverage. Billy McMullen moved up to the slot last week and had three catches for 60 yards with one 38 yard catching doing the most damage. On the plus side, these wideouts are relatively equal so the secondary may not double anyone from now on but outside of one or two long receptions, the first game without Owens only produced one touchdown and moderate games for all.

Owens only had 50 yards on five catches while Greg Lewis managed just 36 yards against the Cowboys earlier this year.

Tight Ends: L.J. Smith only had one catch for ten yards before suffering a concussion and leaving the game. Stephen Spach replaced him and only had two catches for 14 yards. Pending clearance for Smith to play this week, I am assuming that Spach takes the start. Updates as warranted.

Match Against the Defense: The Cowboys have only allowed two rushing scores this season so there's no reason to assume that Westbrook will make any numbers on the ground this week. Chalk him up for some nice yardage on passes but little else.

McNabb was overwhelmed by the Cowboys in week five but he'll be better this week and the Cowboys can no longer just triple cover Owens and call it good. CB Anthony Henry is out so Greg Lewis has the better match-up this week and should manage his first score of the year here with at least moderate yardage. Brown had a big game last week but only thanks to one reception but he cannot be relied on for more than moderate gains yet. If McNabb does not pick on the new matchup against Lewis, then Brown has a chance to shine again since McNabb prefers throwing to his right. The possible loss of Smith will not help and most likely this should turn into what we saw last year - plenty of dink and dunk with Westbrook becoming more important.

The Eagles need a defensive score in this game to even the scoreboard but the Cowboys likely won't play along with that.