Here’s a roundup of what the national media are saying about this weekend’s Eagles-Cowboys game.
ESPN.com’s John Clayton on the league’s running backs:
It’s been a tough year for running backs. LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles is running away with the rushing title with 1,476 yards, but the role of feature running backs seems to be changing. Not a single back is averaging 20 carries a game. There were only five last year. There may be as few as 14 1,000-yard runners, two fewer than last year. The most amazing drop is in 100-yard rushing games by running backs. There have been only 87 this year. There were 121 last year.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter handicaps a close coach of the year race:
Kelly has taken his up-tempo style and transformed the offense and entire culture in the Eagles organization, leading a team that finished last season tied with the Detroit Lions for the NFC’s worst record to the point at which Philadelphia is 60 minutes away from an NFC East title Sunday night in Dallas.
LeSean McCoy makes Bill Barnwell’s All-Pro team on Grantland:
That being said, if you wanted to make a case that Shady McCoy has been a better back this year, it wouldn’t be impossible. McCoy has averaged marginally more yards per carry than Charles has over 28 additional carries. Charles has more receptions and receiving yards than McCoy, but that has required more plays: Charles has caught 67 percent of the passes thrown to him and averaged 9.9 yards per catch, while McCoy has caught 82 percent of the passes thrown in his direction and picked up 10.5 yards per reception. Charles has nobody around him, but are Alex Smith and Dwayne Bowe really that much more fancied than Nick Foles and DeSean Jackson? Their production has been about equal. I guess you can make the case that McCoy’s playing in Chip Kelly’s system, but he’s been significantly more effective than backup Bryce Brown, and he was a success in Andy Reid’s system, too …
Good Eagles-Cowboys breakdown from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders:
The Cowboys are very strong in a couple of specific ways that counter common Philadelphia strategies. For example, screens are a big part of the Eagles’ passing game, but the Cowboys have allowed the lowest QBR in the league against screens (7.7). And the Cowboys have allowed just 3.24 yards per carry on read-options, fourth best in the NFL.
Much of the Cowboys' strength against these plays has to do with Sean Lee, who won't be playing this week. But why even take the risk that the Cowboys are good against such plays when it will be open season when Foles sets up with more conventional passes? Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne have each given up more than 9.0 yards per pass, according to our game-charting data. The Cowboys also rank just 30th in DVOA against tight ends, so Brent Celek and Zach Ertz should play much bigger roles than they did in the first game.
SI.com's Don Banks has the Eagles winning, 33-20:
Kyle Orton is no Curtis Painter or Caleb Hanie, so the Cowboys have a chance with their backup quarterback starting in place of the hobbled Tony Romo. But even if Romo were available, the Eagles have too much offense and Dallas too little defense for the Cowboys to hang for four quarters with Chip Kelly's Gang Green. And the .500 trend continues for yet another mind-boggling year for the Cowboys, as does their abysmal failures in Week 17 NFC East title games. It would be the definition of insanity if Dallas stays status quo after this year's instant replay-like finish to the season.
Nick Foles got snubbed for the Pro Bowl, writes Chris Burke of SI.com:
A few quarterbacks might feel slighted right now, including Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. But in Foles is a player that some are starting to push for league MVP, thanks to his work in guiding the Eagles to the edge of a playoff spot. Heck, 25 touchdown passes to two interceptions sorta speaks for itself. Likely holding him back, though: He has started just nine games.
Greg A. Bedard of The MMQB says the Eagles' defense has been key to the second-half run:
Defensive coordinator Bill Davis has worked wonders transforming his unit from a 4-3, wide-nine defense in Andy Reid’s final seasons, to a multiple 3-4 defense in just a year. As always, change takes time, and it has for the Eagles. Once near the bottom of the league in scoring defense (27.5 points per game allowed in the first four games), the Eagles have been near the top of late (19.2 in the last 11). Toss out the one outlier since Sept. 29—a 48-30 loss at Minnesota—and the Eagles have given up an average of 17.4 points without surrendering more than 21 points in that span. The Eagles are tied for second with the Seahawks in holding opponents under 21 points in 12 games this season. Only the Panthers (13) are better.
Elliot Harrison of NFL.com has the Eagles, 34-28:
This is the game of the week, sorta. I don't know if any of you out there have heard this, but Tony Romo has a herniated disk in his back and will be placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery. I was watching "The Hobbit" the other night and HBO broke in with a report from Larry David informing me that Romo was out and Kyle Orton will start for Dallas. On the Orton front, I expect neckbeard to do well. He succeeded in plenty of pressure-filled situations in Chicago, and he's proven to be effective in spurts, as during his time in Denver. That's great. But here's what's not: The Dallas secondary allows receivers to run around like kids at a public swimming pool. Don't expect LeSean McCoy to run for 150 yards, because he won't have to.
Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com has Foles ninth in his end-of-year QB rankings:
Foles never looks quite as good on Game Rewind as he does in the box score. Perhaps that's why he's only 16th on Pro Football Focus' rankings despite leading the NFL in many categories: touchdowns per throw, yards per attempt, yards per completion and quarterback rating.
Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com has the Eagles, 38-35:
This is for the NFC East title. If Tony Romo can't play, can Kyle Orton get it done? Can the Eagles keep their offense rolling with Nick Foles? Winner goes to the playoffs. Loser goes home. I see a lot of points and some bad defense. When they met the first time, it was low scoring. This won't be. Without Romo, it's the Eagles who win it.
Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has the Cowboys in a 35-30 upset:
Chip Kelly's Eagles looked eerily similar to Chip Kelly's Oregon Ducks last week. They're lights out on offense, they're a matchup nightmare, and the defense is keeping up with the pace. Guess what? I like Dallas on Sunday. No Sean Lee. Potentially no Tony Romo. But if we've learned anything this season, expect the unexpected. The Cowboys find a way, send the Eagles packing, and face the Saints in the wild-card round next week. Oh, baby.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk likes the Eagles, 27-23:
With or without Tony Romo, the Cowboys don’t have the defense to once again hold Philly to three points — especially without Sean Lee available. Another year, another 8-8 finish, another loss in the de facto NFC East championship game.