5 Key Matchups This Week

Warnest Contributor Andrew Pluta looks at five key matchups in Sunday night's big Eagles, Cowboys game. Pluta looks at the McNabb vs. Romo matchup, T.O. returning to Philly, and the hot Trent Cole going up against the Cowboys offensive line. All of that and much more inside.

With a record of 3-4, the Eagles get set to face off against the Dallas Cowboys (6-1) on Sunday with a chance to make some noise in the NFC. With the Cowboys in first place in the division and Philadelphia in last, a win for Andy Reid's team, which has not won back-to-back games yet this year, would make the getting to the playoffs a more achievable goal. Here is a look at five match ups for the game:

Donovan McNabb vs. Tony Romo

Philadelphia and Dallas rely heavily on the play of their franchise quarterbacks, and both McNabb and Romo have shown that they can carry their teams. For the Eagles, McNabb looks to be regaining some of his mobility and is coming off his best game since the 56-21 blowout win against the Lions in week two. Last week's game against Minnesota and the game against Detroit were the only times that McNabb has finished with a quarterback rating over 100 this season, but Philadelphia has the fifth best passing offense in the NFC. For the year, McNabb has thrown for 1,780 yards and 8 touchdowns and has a 90.6 quarterback rating. He will look to build on the chemistry he seemed to have with Reggie Brown last week against the Vikings, when Brown had a career-high 8 catches for 105 yards.

The Cowboys proved how valuable Romo is to them by signing him to a six-year contract extension recently. Romo and his mobility in the pocket are a large reason why Dallas has the number two overall offense in the NFL coming into the game against Philadelphia. By avoiding blitzes, Romo is often able to find receivers as the play breaks down and he will look to do the same thing against the Eagle's intimidating pass rush.  He has thrown for 1,984 yards and 16 touchdowns so far this season and looks to be in good position to make another Pro Bowl appearance.

T.O. Comes back to town

Terrell Owens
Getty Images/David Sherman

Terrell Owens signing with the Cowboys after his fallout with McNabb only added to the heated rivalry between Dallas and Philadelphia, and the receiver will likely play a big role in the outcome of the game.  Owens has once again thrived in the role as Romo's favorite target, and he is still extremely explosive at the age of 33. This season, Owens has 34 receptions for 556 yards and five touchdowns.

If they hope to keep Owens out of the end zone, the Eagles will have to limit T.O.'s yards after the catch and keep him from getting into a groove with Romo. With Lito Sheppard back in the starting lineup, the secondary should be up to the task and continue the type of play that has kept them in games. Against Philadelphia's defense, opposing quarterbacks have a 79.4 quarterback rating.

Brian Westbrook vs. DeMarcus Ware

The match up of the Eagle's best offensive weapon against the Cowboy's most dominant force on defense. Ware, who possesses a scary combination of speed and strength, has 34 tackles on the season and 5.5 sacks, along with a forced fumble. As a pro bowler last year, Ware is becoming one of the most hard to defend outside linebackers in the NFL. Against Philadelphia, Ware will likely be chasing Westbrook out of the backfield or playing him in coverage at times.

The Eagles will try to use Westbrook on the ground and through the air to maximize his game breaking potential and keep the Dallas defense off balance. On the ground, Westbrook is third in the NFC with 536 rushing yards along with 3 touchdowns. As a receiver, he leads the team in receptions with 35 and has 345 yards and two touchdowns.

Trent Cole vs. Dallas O-Line

Cole was a beast in the Eagles 23-16 win over the Vikings last week and has shown all season that he is effective as a pass rusher and as a run stopper. After recording two sacks last week, Cole currently leads the NFL in sacks with nine, and he also has 38 tackles and two forced fumbles on the season.

Against Dallas, Cole will be facing an offensive line that has let up 11 sacks this year. The line is anchored by 6-foot-7, 340-pound 10-year veteran tackle Flozell Adams and 6-foot-6, 366 pound guard Leonard Davis, who was acquired from Arizona in the off season as a free agent. Adams went to the pro bowl last year as an injury replacement, taking the place of the Saint's Jammal Brown, and Davis has been a pro bowl alternate in the past.

Omar Gaither vs. Jason Witten

The Eagles middle linebacker will have a tough assignment this week covering one of the NFL's elite tight ends. As Philadelphia's top coverage linebacker, Gaither has been all over the field this season, leading his team in tackles with 44, while breaking up four passes and recording one interception. At 235 pounds, Gaither is nimble enough to stay with most tight ends and running backs on passing plays.

For the Cowboys, Witten is an integral part of their offense as a run blocker and as a receiver, and he will be used often. Witten currently leads NFC tight ends in catches (42) and yards (540) and has 4 touchdowns. In seven career games against the Eagles, Witten has averaged about five and a half catches and 63 yards per game. The fifth-year pro out of the University of Tennessee has been to three straight Pro Bowls and is making a strong case to be an all star again this year.  

Andrew Pluta can be reached at ajp8231@gmail.com.

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