'Tis the season for the Cowboys Cheerleaders to be Santa's helpers. (Does Mrs. Claus know about this?)
Well, I'm as nervous as Antonio Cromartie at a paternity hearing. After the nightmare of the first game between our Dallas Cowboys and the not-so-well-liked-around-here Philadelphia Eagles, I am really hoping things are going to go a lot better. If not, I may need to have a large quantity of extra strength eggnog to get through Christmas.
But I am going to remain optimistic that today will bring the Cowboys closer to the division championship and the playoffs, perhaps even clinching it outright. So here is a look at the latest news about the teams and the game.
It does not look like a very good day for the tailgaters, with rain expected and temps in the low 40s. No doubt the roof will be securely closed at Cowboys Stadium.
Hard news and rampant speculation after the jump.
Speaking of Christmas, this is the season when good will towards our fellow man spreads, and often even the hardest hearts can be softened by the spirit of the season. Like, apparently, that of Jerry Jones.
"We had one of our players, neatest thing I've ever seen, basically write a handwritten note to over 300 people in our organization, including all of his teammates, and said, 'Santa's a little tight this year. You know the times that we're in,'" Jones said, via The Dallas Morning News. "He personally wrote a little something himself and put a dollar bill in there and says, 'Hope this will do you. Merry Christmas."
Aw, that's sweet!. Cheap, maybe, but sweet.
That was posted on Fox Southwest, and there were a couple of other good articles. First, there is the worry about whether Felix Jones is going to be able to play against the Eagles. It's not just a matter of racking up yards and eating the clock, either.
If Jones can't play Saturday, his absence doesn't just affect the running game. He's also the only running back fully schooled in the Cowboys' blocking schemes. That's kind of important to Tony Romo, who will be peeking at NFL sack leader Jason Babin out of the corner of his eye.
This makes me wonder if Tony Fiammetta might get pressed into service as the back when Romo is in the shotgun. I would guess he knows more about those protection assignments. And it might be a chance to get him involved in the offense a little more, which could be a confusion factor for the Eagles.
OK, I am desperately looking for a silver lining here. Let's just hope Felix can go today. The ESPN Cowboys Blog offers a model for him being able to play.
Safety Gerald Sensabaugh missed a week of practice prior to the Thanksgiving Day game against the Miami Dolphins with a sprained foot. Sensabaugh is still bothered by the foot and said this week he still gets a pain injection on gamedays.
Sensabaugh does not take a shot for practices.
Coach Jason Garrett said there are no hard-and-fast rules whether or not a player can participate in a game without practicing.
This week, his workload could increase if Jones is declared inactive. But the Cowboys hope they won't have to resort to a contingency plan that also features Chauncey Washington, a veteran running back who was promoted from the practice squad Friday and has carried the ball four times in his career.
Four times? That doesn't exactly make me giddy with anticipation.
At least the passing game has a lot to make us feel good.
"I couldn't ask for a better group of guys," Romo said. "Not only from just their play on the field, but just their personalities and who they are as people. They are a joy to be around every day. They're just fun guys who work their butts off, and they are committed to winning and being part of a team.
And while we are talking about Antonio, here is a point from the mothership that bears thinking about.
And get this: In those seven games [since the loss to Philly] , Romo has thrown for 1,936 yards, completed 69 percent of his passes, thrown 18 touchdown passes and has been picked off only twice. Twenty of the top-32 ranked NFL quarterbacks haven't thrown 18 touchdowns passes for the entire season so far.
NFL.com chimes in with the fact that Tony may be able to greatly change the perception of his career with a good performance in the game.
Despite the team struggles, it all remains in front of Romo. If the Cowboys beat the Eagles at home and follow with a win at the Meadowlands against the Giants on New Year's Day, they are NFC East champions. If they get some help from the Jets (who play the Giants on Saturday), Dallas could lock up the division this weekend.
Meanwhile, there are times you don't want to have too much Christmas Spirit. Instead, some nasty old payback is more appropriate.
For the Cowboys and Eagles, it's personal.
Saturday's game is a rematch of a 34-7 thrashing by the Eagles back on Oct. 30. The Eagles were motivated by Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan calling them the "all-hype team."
Now it's the Cowboys who are motivated by the embarrassment of that earlier loss.
How would you like some grudge to go with that fruitcake?
There has been a lot of focus on Jerry Jones' remarks about fearing the Eagles. A piece from the Arizona Republic points out an obvious counterargument.
But if anyone should be scared, it probably ought to be the Eagles (6-8), whose slim playoff chances will evaporate if they lose at Cowboys Stadium Saturday against Dallas (8-6).
Well, thank you! And the article goes on to give some respect most of the media seems to lack.
The Eagles, meanwhile, will have to contend with a seemingly re-energized Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Since his three-interception game against Detroit, Romo has been picked off just four times in his past 10 games and has thrown 22 touchdown passes in that stretch.
His quarterback rating has soared to 102.6, which would be a career high if he can sustain it for two more games. Romo said he no longer is trying to win games by himself, that he's not forcing passes and instead, he trusts his offense to make plays.
The Dallas Morning News points out the one big issue the Eagles offense has had all season.
On the surface, the Eagles have no perceivable offensive weakness. They are third in the league in total yards, rushing production and big plays. But dig deeper and the flaws become more obvious. Even glaring. The Eagles, after all, have the given the ball away 35 times - the highest total in the NFL.
At Fox Sports, John Lynch offers his own plan for how the Cowboys can nullify the Eagles' offense. (Hint.: The name DeMarcus Ware seem to have a lot to do with it.)
ESPN's NFC East blog has not only has some pertinent stuff on our game, but also there's a fun tidbit about the Liza Minnelli Bowl (New York, New York - and I'm gonna keep using this line until I get a laugh, dang it).
The New York Giants are working on a streak of five games in which their opponent has converted at least 50 percent of its third-down opportunities. That's the longest such streak since the merger, and the Giants are 1-4 in those games. The good news is that the Jets' third-down conversion percentage of 36.5 is only the 18th-best in the league, much worse than that of any of the five teams the Giants have played during that stretch.
And there are the various and sundry previews of the game, keys to victory, and such.
The Sporting News offers up it's pre-snap read.
The mothership has its preview.
"Toward the end of the game, I hollered out for anybody who hadn't played to raise his hand. This little kid ran up and said, ‘I haven't.' I told him get in there and run sweep right. He went in there and laid it down in the end zone 65 yards later. Needless to say, he didn't stay on the ‘B' team long. He started out small, but he stayed in the weight room and got bigger."
From the Eagles' regional and other media, there is a look at why the Cowboys should be tougher this game than last, how the Eagles are trying to stay alive with a win, how a Giants win earlier makes that impossible, how the Cowboys can't be running scared, and a look at how both teams are trying to just focus on this game.
Now, so far I have managed to ignore the recent poll about who is the favorite team in the country and all that. However, I did notice this one little factoid in the announcement that Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will be working the game in Dallas.
Fox's Philadelphia Eagles-Cowboys game at 3:15 p.m. Saturday is scheduled to be seen in 88 percent of the country, the rest getting San Francisco-Seattle.
That's all I think need be said.