Cowboys - Eagles Preview & Prediction

QB Tony Romo is the new money man in Dallas and is most often credited for the Cowboys' early-season success.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 8:15 ET

GAMEDATE: 11/4/07


TV: NBC, Al Michaels, John Madden, Andrea Kremer SERIES: 96th meeting. Dallas leads series, 53-42. The Eagles swept the Cowboys last season. Dallas has faced no team more than Philadelphia and has defeated the Eagles more times than all but one team (Washington, 55).

PREDICTION: Cowboys 30-26

KEYS TO THE GAME: QB Tony Romo is the new money man in Dallas and is most often credited for the Cowboys' early-season success. But the offense is set up with a running game averaging 4.8 yards per carry, third best in the NFL, putting Romo in favorable situations. If the Eagles are going to pressure Romo into the mistakes they need to pull the upset, their No. 8-ranked run defense must hold tough against RBs Julius Jones and Marion Barber. Then Cole & Co. can pin their ears back. ... Eagles QB Donovan McNabb is displaying more mobility in the pocket after getting sacked 23 times through six games. He was dropped just twice last Sunday, and is showing the ability to make plays on the move again. He'll need his mobility against Dallas' aggressive front seven, and the Cowboys' primary concern should be WR Kevin Curtis, who leads the NFL with 18.2 yards per catch and has the potential to hurt Dallas' shaky deep coverage.

KEY INJURIES: Cowboys: CB Anthony Henry (ankle sprain) is practicing and should play after missing two games. ... WR Terry Glenn (knee) remains out, but hopes to start running in a few weeks. Eagles: FS Brian Dawkins (neck stinger) is expected to play after missing five games, although his snaps will be limited; RT Jon Runyan (fractured tailbone) continues to play through the pain.

FAST FACTS: The Cowboys seek their first 7-1 start since 1995, when they went on to win Super Bowl XXX. ... Eagles RB Brian Westbrook is the fourth-fastest player with 20 rushing touchdowns and 20 receiving touchdowns in his career, doing it in 76 games.

COWBOYS PERSONNEL NEWS: --NT Tank Johnson has looked strong in practice and is in good condition. When he is activated from the suspended list next Monday or Tuesday, the Cowboys will be able to immediately work him in the rotation with Jay Ratliff. "It'll help Ratliff on the rush, because he's basically playing every play," Wade Phillips said. "It'll just give him a rotation that'll help him."

--CB Anthony Henry practiced more Thursday, according to coach Wade Phillips, and should be ready to contribute on passing downs against the Eagles. "He worked some with the dime group, third down group," Phillips said. "It is more of a possibility that he'll be worked into the lineup. I doubt very seriously he'll start, but there is a better chance he'll work back in similar to the way we did Terence Newman. That's a positive."

--FB Deon Anderson has been solid at fullback since taking over for the injured Oliver Hoyte. Coach Wade Phillips said the rookie sixth-round pick still has a lot to learn but he is a willing student. "He's seeing a lot more defenses than you see in college," Phillips said. "It changes who you block and then protections certainly are always hard for young guys. But he's worked hard at it. We've put him in position that he wouldn't see too many changes. He's learning more and more and seems to be doing better and better with it."

--FB Oliver Hoyte has been cleared by doctors to return to practices after missing the past five games with a stinger. But Hoyte is still not 100 percent as he has not regained all his strength so he won't be active for the Eagles game.

EAGLES PERSONNEL NOTES: --DE Jevon Kearse, who tore ligaments in his knee last year, didn't practice Thursday because of tenderness in the knee. It's uncertain whether it will affect his ability to play Sunday against the Cowboys.

--RT Jon Runyan, who has a fractured tailbone, didn't practice for the second straight day. But he will definitely play on Sunday.

--FS Brian Dawkins participated fully in practice Thursday for the second straight day and will play Sunday against the Cowboys for the first time in five weeks. He has been sidelined with a severe neck stinger. He is expected to take about 30 to 40 percent of the defensive snaps.

--S Quintin Mikell, who has replaced Brian Dawkins at free safety the last five games while Dawkins was recovering from a neck stinger, still will take more than half of the defensive snaps at free safety Sunday even though Dawkins will play.

--WR Reggie Brown participated only on a limited basis in Thursday's practice. He is nursing a neck injury, but is expected to play Sunday against the Cowboys.

INSIDE THE COWBOYS CAMPS: The Cowboys had a bye and they got better on defense -- literally and figuratively.

The Cowboys became the No. 1 defense in the NFC after having the weekend off. Credit the Patriots, who throttled the previously No. 1-ranked Redskins defense. It allowed the Cowboys to move up from No. 2 to No. 1, giving them the No. 1 offense and defense in the NFC.

"We did all right," joked coach Wade Phillips about the bye-week progress. "You know, I think we've got a good, solid defense. We've got a ways to go, but to be No. 1 in the NFC in offense and defense after seven games is pretty good."

The Cowboys expect to be improved on the field, as well, following the bye.

The defense has come a long way since giving up 35 points in the season opener against the Giants.

That they are No. 1 in the NFC despite linebacker Greg Ellis missing the first part of the season while rehabbing a torn Achilles, cornerback Terence Newman missing the first two games and cornerback Anthony Henry missing the past three games is a testament in itself.

Now the Cowboys feel they can only get better.

Ellis will only get more comfortable back in the lineup in the second half of the season.

Henry is returning to the field in a nickel role against the Eagles. He could be in the starting lineup against the Giants next week, marking the first time this season that he and Newman were in the lineup together.

And then the team is expected to get suspended defensive tackle Tank Johnson on the field following the Eagles game.

Johnson will be fresh and motivated to prove his critics wrong, while bolstering the Cowboys defense for the stretch run.

INSIDE THE EAGLES CAMP: Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said Thursday that safety Brian Dawkins will play about 30 to 40 percent of the snaps Sunday against the Cowboys.

"That could change a little bit depending on situations and that," Johnson said. "But we're going to be smart with him, just like we were with Lito (Sheppard).

"I know he's going to be emotionally high, and he's going to be drained. So, we'll be smart with it."

Dawkins, a five-time Pro Bowler, has missed the last five games with a severe neck stinger. Special teams ace Quintin Mikell replaced him and has done an outstanding job. Mikell had a touchdown-saving tackle on the Vikings' Adrian Peterson in last week's 23-16 Eagles win.

Johnson said he has been impressed by Mikell's play and will continue to use him in the defense in some capacity even after Dawkins is completely recovered.

"He showed me he can handle a lot of situations, as far as making calls and stuff like that," Johnson said. "He did a great job with that. I knew he was a physical player, a good cover guy and a playmaker. He's always been that way.

"Just the confidence I see in him now, as far as him and (strong safety) Sean Considine making all of the calls; we've had very few mental breakdowns over the last five games."

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