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Game of the Week: Cowboys at Eagles
It has not been an auspicious start for the NFC East. Collectively, its teams have notched seven wins through six weeks of the season. (To give this figure proper context, the AFC West claims 17 victories to its credit, with the NFC West right behind at 15.) A perennial playoff contender, the Giants are winless through six games. Washington’s franchise player has been a shell of himself in return from injury, and the organization is under intense fire to change its racially-charged nickname. The Eagles have the worst-ranked defense in the league; the Cowboys haven’t fared much better, checking in at 30th. Safe to say this division has seen better days.
Nevertheless, the NFC East is not without theater. Spurred by Chip Kelly’s up-tempo offense, Philadelphia is averaging the third-highest yardage output in the league. While Dallas flaunts a .500 record, the team is this close from an undefeated state, as three losses have come by a combined 13 points. The winner of this Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys rendezvous will sit atop the division, making this showdown our WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.
Michael Vick’s ground prowess is allegedly the stimulus for Coach Kelly’s spread attack. Conversely, whatever level of evasiveness Vick’s speed injects, his accuracy, or lack thereof (53.8 completion percentage), negates. Enter backup Nick Foles, who hit 71 percent of his intended targets last Sunday for 296 yards and four total touchdowns in replacement of Vick, who was sidelined by a hamstring injury. At first glance, these deeds can be brushed off, realizing they came against a winless Buccaneers ball club. Further investigation reveals that Tampa’s record is not indicative of its defense, as, before Week 6, the Bucs had amassed more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed. Vick’s dual dexterity is enticing, but his erraticism can put the reins on the Eagles’ potential. With Foles under center, the Eagles offense could transform into an unwavering threat.
Of course, it helps having a backfield virtuoso like LeSean McCoy at the Eagles’ disposal. Following an injury-plagued 2012, McCoy has come out of the gates blazing in 2013, averaging an NFL-best 105 rushing yards per game. McCoy has also been a force in the receiving arena, hauling in 15 grabs for 241 yards. In the NFL’s pass-enriched landscape, McCoy’s terrain proficiency is a lost art, one that’s made the Philadelphia offense a nightmare for opposing defenses.
Speaking of which, almost every facet of the Cowboys comes under some degree of scrutiny, but the fire has been especially warm for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The Dallas D is allowing 413.2 yards per contest, with most of this carnage coming against the secondary (308.2 passing yards conceded, second-highest in the NFC). Worse, the Cowboys will be without DeMarcus Ware for the next month, as the All-Pro end suffered a quadriceps injury last weekend. If the Cowboys have aspirations of contending for the division crown, this defensive fallacy will need to be fixed in a hurry.
Luckily for the Dallas defense, their offensive counterparts have put on a fireworks display this fall. Tony Romo and company are averaging 30.5 points per game, second only to Denver as the best mark in the league. Romo is routinely raked though the coals, some of which is justified. However, the Pro-Bowl signal caller has been relatively effective in the passing game despite a so-so backfield and offensive line. Romo has a chance to prove his merit this week, as starting running back DeMarco Murray’s injury puts the offensive responsibility solely on the shoulders of the Cowboys QB. How he handles such an assignment likely dictates the outcome of this ballgame.
So who emerges as the victor of this NFC East battle? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com simulation engine, the Cowboys come out on top 50.9 percent of the time by an average score of 26-25. For the rest of this week’s projections, check below:
Please note: The Bills-Dolphins, Bears-Redskins, Texans-Chiefs, Ravens-Steelers, Bengals-Lions, Patriots-Jets, Cowboys-Eagles, Vikings-Giants, Browns-Packers and Chargers-Jaguars games were resimulated on 10/17 to account for injuries and roster updates.
NFL Week 7
|@ Kansas City Chiefs||71.8||24||Simulate Game|
|St. Louis Rams||36.0||19||Boxscore|
|@ Carolina Panthers||64.0||24||Simulate Game|
|@ Green Bay Packers||60.6||25||Simulate Game|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||44.4||25||Boxscore|
|@ Atlanta Falcons||55.6||28||Simulate Game|
|@ New York Giants||54.9||25||Simulate Game|
|@ Miami Dolphins||52.7||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Philadelphia Eagles||49.1||25||Simulate Game|
|@ Detroit Lions||47.1||23||Simulate Game|
|@ Indianapolis Colts||40.1||21||Simulate Game|
|@ Washington Redskins||39.3||21||Simulate Game|
|San Francisco 49ers||62.8||19||Boxscore|
|@ Tennessee Titans||37.2||15||Simulate Game|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||36.3||20||Simulate Game|
|New England Patriots||66.1||22||Boxscore|
|@ New York Jets||33.9||17||Simulate Game|
|@ Arizona Cardinals||30.7||17||Simulate Game|
|San Diego Chargers||77.6||29||Boxscore|
|@ Jacksonville Jaguars||22.4||19||Simulate Game|
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