IRVING, Texas – It's much easier to settle on the key aspects of a matchup when you've already seen it play out on the field. Obviously, both the Cowboys and Eagles will be looking to add some wrinkles to Sunday's division rematch, but we already have a clear idea of what each team brings to the table in this matchup.
In that regard, determining the crucial aspects of this game is as easy as turning on the last one and studying where things went so wrong for the Cowboys – and so right for the Eagles.
Cowboys Win If:
There is a common thread when it comes down to Cowboys victories against defeats, and that would be how they play on third downs. In their nine victories this season, the offense has averaged a conversation rate of 51 percent in those opportunities. In their four defeats they, have only managed to convert 39 percent of the time.
The last time these two teams met, the Eagles held this offense to just 33 percent for the game, and it was good enough to walk away with a victory. For the year, the Eagles are ranked in the middle of the pack when it comes to playing on third downs -- allowing opponents to convert around 38 percent of the time. During home games that percentage drops to 36 percent, which is ninth in the league.
On the flip side of that, the Cowboys offensively have been at 48 percent on the road this season -- which is best in the league. For the Cowboys to win this game, they cannot have possessions where they need less than three yards and come away empty each time. Conversions must be made and drives have to be finished with points.
If they struggle once again like they did in the last meeting with the Eagles, I believe their offense will punish them for their lack of execution and that would be the difference in the game.
Eagles Win If:
I think the gameplan for the Eagles is pretty simple this week – once again control the line of scrimmage with their front seven to protect their secondary.
There is no question that the Eagles' biggest weakness is their secondary, and things would be far worse for them if not for the ability of their front seven to rush the passer. The difference in the game the last meeting was that the Eagles were able to control the line of scrimmage with their front -- both run and pass -- which took the pressure off them.
The Eagles came into that game believing they were better up front than the Cowboys, and for that afternoon, they were. They were more physical and did a better job of getting stops. The Cowboys had trouble blocking Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks, so I have to believe that we will once again see them play a major role in their plan of attack.
Defensive coordinator Billy Davis has to believe that, as much as Dallas wants to remain balanced, they will lean on their offensive line to protect Tony Romo and let him throw the ball around, attacking the secondary. He has to be worried that this Cowboys offensive line is in fact able to hold up to the pressure, which would put his defense in a huge bind.
But if not, and he gets the same results from this front as he did last time, they will win this game.