5 Reasons to Fear Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys Game

The Eagles' playoff hopes hang in the balance. And I've got a bad feeling.

Photos | USA Today Sports. Tim Heitman (left), Dennis Wierzbicki (right)

Photos | USA Today Sports. Tim Heitman (left), Dennis Wierzbicki (right)

The Eagles playoff chances dangle at the mercy of the Dallas Cowboys Sunday night, and this mantra keeps echoing in my head: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Why should I feel this way? The Eagles dominated the Cowboys on one of the best Thanksgiving Days any Philadelphia fan could have. They proved they were the better team, even though the mercurial Mark Sanchez was the quarterback. The Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line crumbled like feta cheese that day — and that is supposedly the best element of their team. In addition to that, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is a notorious December choker, and he’s taking the field with cracked rib cartilage and a double fracture in his backbone.

I’m not a sky-is-falling guy. I consistently urge folks to move past that Philadelphia fan mentality of impending doom. And yet I have this nagging feeling that we could lose Sunday’s Eagles-Cowboys game, finish with an 11-5 record, and perhaps lose the final wildcard playoff spot via an NFL tiebreaker. (For the Birds to survive after this, the Cowboys would have to lose one more game this season).

To sort this out in my brain, I yield to a bullet point presentation:

  1. The Revenge Factor. It is difficult to defeat a division rival twice in one year when that rival is a good team. The Cowboys might not be Super Bowl-quality, but they are a pretty good team that, remember, defeated the Seahawks in Seattle when that wasn’t thought possible. Avenging a defeat is a powerful motivator for a pro athlete. And this revenge opportunity is coming in fairly fresh, within a three-week span.
  2. The Embarrassment Factor. There is nothing worse for a pro football player than seeing an ass-kicking on video. Coaches are relentless in film study. They challenge your manhood. They embarrass players in front of their classmates. And they correct mistakes. If the Cowboys offensive line was crap in game one, you’d better believe they are determined to reverse that in game two. Coaches in the NFL are smart. They make adjustments. Count on DeMarco Murray looking a lot better running behind that offensive line Sunday night.
  3. Rest. The Cowboys are coming to Philadelphia with 10 days of rest and are getting a late Sunday start. That’s plenty of preparation time, but more importantly, its adequate Tony Romo recovery time. The hobbling Romo looked like a shell of his spinning self on Thanksgiving, his ailments not quite quelled by only three days of rest from a previous Sunday night outing. He’ll be better this Sunday, and if the Cowboys offensive line is blocking for Murray, I fear play-action success against Eagles cornerbacks Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher and the safeties.
  4. Road Warriors. The Cowboys are a better team on the road than at home. Why? I don’t know. Maybe there’s too much pressure to perform in that goofy Jerry Jones circus tent. They are 6-0 on the road, winning at Seattle, but also at suddenly viable St. Louis.
  5. The Seattle “Bruise” Factor. The last seven weeks, teams that lost to the Seahawks also have dropped the next game on their schedule. I assume that means Seattle’s tough, physical defense takes a toll. To boot, the Eagles defense was on the field for 85 plays and for better than 40 minutes.

So there you have it. I’ve gotten it out of my system. And by getting it out of my system, I hope to purge this fear and remember that, by God, it’s the Dallas Cowboys coming to town. They are flimsy in character. They always give it back. And when I see Dez Bryant kicking up a sideline fuss with his position coach, or that loony Orlando Scandrick yelling at all of his teammates, I will relax. For it is then that the Eagles will have the game in hand, the playoffs will be cinched, and all will be right with the world.

Mike Missanelli is on 97.5 FM The Fanatic every week day from 2 to 6 p.m. Follow him on Twitter @MikeMiss975.