Game Capsule

RB Julius Jones has yet to top 100 rushing yards in a game this season, and the Cowboys need to get their workhorse rolling in order to control the time of possession and protect their defense.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 4:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 10/09/05


TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

SERIES: 92nd meeting. The Cowboys lead the series, 51-40. Eagles have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including both games last season. The Eagles' average margin of victory in the last nine wins is 22.1 points.

2005 RANKINGS: Eagles: offense 1st (24th rush, 1st pass); defense 9th (20th rush, 10th pass). Cowboys: offense 9th (17th rush, 9th pass); defense 24th (24th rush, 22nd pass).

PREDICTION: Cowboys 21-20

KEYS TO THE GAME: RB Julius Jones has yet to top 100 rushing yards in a game this season, and the Cowboys need to get their workhorse rolling in order to control the time of possession and protect their defense. The Eagles are a pass-heavy team (league-high 184 pass attempts), so if the Cowboys can run the ball effectively they have a chance to wear the Eagles down in the second half. But it won't matter if Dallas can't stop Philadelphia's passing game. WR Terrell Owens, RB Brian Westbrook and TE L.J. Shelton are each on pace for at least 88 receptions. Preventing big plays has to be the priority for Dallas, which would struggle to go toe-to-toe in a shootout.

FAST FACTS: Eagles: Have won 25 of their past 29 games against NFC East rivals. ... Coach Andy Reid is 10-2 (.833) against Dallas. Cowboys: Have scored touchdowns on nine of their 11 red-zone possessions. ... Coach Bill Parcells needs one victory to tie Bud Grant (168) for 10th-most all-time.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Eagles: --DT Darwin Walker, who has missed the last two games with a deep thigh bruise, likely will be a game-time decision this week. He's listed as doubtful and hasn't practiced, but the Eagles say it's still 50-50 whether he'll play.

--DT Mike Patterson, the club's rookie first-round pick, may make his third straight start Sunday if Darwin Walker is unable to play. Patterson has been impressive thus far. He's been solid against the run and already has two sacks.

--TE Stephen Spach got his most extensive playing time last week against the Chiefs as the Eagles used a lot of two-tight end sets to protect injured QB Donovan McNabb. They'll likely do the same thing this week against Dallas.

--MLB Jeremiah Trotter's bruised quadriceps felt better Thursday and he is confident he'll play Sunday against the Cowboys.

--QB Donovan McNabb, who is playing with a sports hernia, felt much better this week than he did after the Eagles' Week 3 win over Oakland.

Cowboys: --LB Dat Nguyen (stinger) is questionable for the Eagles game. He didn't practice Thursday. Scott Shanle took most of his reps in practice. Nguyen suffered the injury against the 49ers two weeks ago and has been bothered by it ever since. "We did some tests on him to make sure we know what's going on," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said.

--RB Tyson Thompson will play against the Eagles. The Cowboys are still unclear about the third running back spot behind starter Julius Jones. Thompson is guaranteed to suit up because he is the primary kickoff returner. The other spot will go to either Marion Barber or Anthony Thomas. Thomas, who has been inactive the past two games, has taken reps in practice this week. The Cowboys believe his experience may be needed against the blitzing Eagles defense.

--QB Drew Bledsoe is the seventh-rated passer in the NFL and looking every bit the winner following his unceremonious departure from Buffalo last season. The Bills are struggling behind quarterback J.P. Losman. Yet Bledsoe says he is not rooting against Losman or the Bills. "I want to have success down here, and that will be my vindication," Bledsoe said.

--TE Jason Witten went off after the Raiders game when quarterback Drew Bledsoe didn't throw him the ball on the failed fourth day play. Witten said he was wide open and was unhappy he didn't get the ball. But he made sure he made peace with Bledsoe on the plane ride home from Oakland. He wanted to let Bledsoe know he is not the type of player who shows up his quarterback. "I didn't want to be that guy," Witten said. "I didn't want to come across like that. I was just trying to make a play in that situation, he realizes that."

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Eagles: The Eagles remain hopeful that defensive tackle Darwin Walker might be able to play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Walker, the starting right tackle, has missed the last two games with a deep thigh contusion. He is listed as doubtful for this week's game and didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday.

"I think it's like Andy (Reid) said yesterday," defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said. "It's probably still 50-50. I'm not sure when we'll tell. Maybe tomorrow (Friday). He's better every day. We'll just kind of have to see how it goes. It might be a game-time decision. I'm not quite sure. But he seems better every day."

The Eagles have their bye week next week, and it probably would benefit Walker long-term to sit out one more game and then have another two weeks to make a complete recovery.

"I'm sure it would," Johnson said. "But hopefully, if he's close, I think we'd still like to have him in this game."

That's because the Eagles are thin at tackle. They lost backup Paul Grasmanis last week to a season-ending Achilles' tendon tear, and currently only have three healthy DTs - Hollis Thomas, rookie Mike Patterson and Sam Rayburn. Johnson prefers to use a four-man rotation, particularly in warm weather. And it's supposed to be warm Sunday in Dallas, with a predicted high of 80 degrees.

If Walker can't play, the Eagles likely would sign one of two DTs from their practice squad - either rookie Keyonta Marshall or Jason Jefferson. Jefferson was just signed to the practice squad earlier this week.

Cowboys: How good the Cowboys (2-2) are and what kind of season they are going to have will be decided over the next month, coach Bill Parcells said.

With three of the next four games at home, starting with back-to-back NFC East matchups with the Eagles on Sunday and the Giants on Oct. 16, the Cowboys (2-2) will soon find out a lot about themselves.

The October schedule includes a matchup at the Seahawks Oct. 23 before a home game against the Cardinals.

"This is an important month for us, I will acknowledge that for you," Parcells said. "We have three of the next four at home. It's important that we play well."

Parcells, however, said it doesn't get easier even after the Cowboys get through this stretch because of what calls a tough overall schedule.

Of the remaining 12 games, only two are against opponents currently with losing records - Arizona and Detroit.

"I don't see any breaks in our schedule," Parcells said. "I think we have a very hard schedule. As the season has gotten underway, our division looks like it's going to be strong. I feel like some of the people we are playing outside of the division are going to be good teams. I think Seattle will be formidable. That can be a good thing. If you can start putting some wins together against some good competition, that helps your outlook."

The Eagles will be a formidable test to begin the tough stretch.

They have won nine of their past 10 against the Cowboys. The average margin of victory in the nine wins is 22.1 points.

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