Pressing Questions  

C-Spire  

For Eagles to advance, offense must solve Dallas dilemma

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
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Three pressing questions surrounding the Philadelphia-Dallas wild-card matchup on Saturday:

1. Can the Eagles score enough?

The Eagles were swept by the Cowboys in the regular season and scored just 16 points in eight quarters with only one touchdown in that stretch. Dallas gave up 11.6 points a contest over the last seven regular-season games. The Eagles, who were averaging 31.2 points a game in the six weeks prior to last week's blanking, will be challenged.

The first issue Donovan McNabb faces is the fact he has been sacked 12 times his last three trips to Dallas. Last week, Philadelphia had a 4-to-1 passing to running ratio and need to get more balance. Look for McNabb to show more of a willingness to take off and run with the ball in this game.

Another challenge for the Eagles is using LeSean McCoy with Brian Westbrook. In the Week 9 matchup, McCoy filled in for Westbrook and had 18 touches for 115 yards. However, he only had three touches for 9 yards last week. Westbrook was back last week and contained to 37 yards on nine touches.

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2. Can Philly slow the run and pressure Romo?

The Eagles gave up 179 yards on the ground (5.6-yard average on 32 attempts) in Week 17 and that simply can't happen again. Marion Barber and Felix Jones are Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. Jeremiah Trotter needs to play a significant role when Barber is on the field. When a team sees an opponent as many times as the Cowboys have seen the Eagles' fire-zone blitz scheme, they get a feel for where to run the ball. In week 9, Philadelphia held Dallas to 3.3 yards per rush and need another performance like that to force the game to Tony Romo. Expect to see Barber and Jones in together, which means the passing and running options are equally as good.

Romo has been great, but the Eagles got to him six times this season. They have sacks from 15 different players this year, making it tough to diagnose where the pressure is coming from. Romo threw for 618 yards in the two wins and Asante Samuel has to slow Miles Austin down, while Trent Cole has to beat Flozell Adams. Adams won the battle in the finale, but Cole had a sack and two tackles for loss in Week 9.

3. How do the Eagles rebound?

Being shut out is embarrassing to say the least. There were only 10 shutouts all season in the 256 games played. Two were last week, so we don't know how the Eagles and Bengals will respond, but in the eight other occasions, the teams that were blanked went a combined 2-6 the week after.

Since the merger, there have been 56 times that teams have met twice in the regular season and then in the playoffs. In the 19 times that a team was swept, on seven occasions the two-time losers won the playoff game. With a veteran quarterback in McNabb and one of the best road coaches in Andy Reid, the Eagles will come ready to knock off the Cowboys.

Here's another thing I would tell the Eagles. Four times since 2000, a team played the season finale and came right back to face the same opponent in the first round. The result, three of the four teams that lost the Week 17 game were victorious in the playoff matchup. Reid is 7-0 in playoff openers and will have the Eagles ready.

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