Is this a big game? Will Romo need to carry the team...again?



The starting running back is once again expected to miss the game.

The second wide receiver is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

The defensive line is in shambles.

The opposing team is ranked fourth in points scored per game.

The opposing starting quarterback posted a passer rating of 133.3 in the last game.

Despite the fact that this Sunday's game marks but the seventh game of the season, it could very well decide the NFC East. In 2011, Dallas was 0-2 against the NFC East champion New York Giants. The Cowboys were also winless against the NFC East champion Redskins in 2012.

A win on Sunday would break that troubling trend, as Dallas would have at least one win against each divisional opponent. Of greater importance, the Cowboys would notch a win entering a stretch where four out of their next five games are on the road.

The schedule works against the Cowboys in regards to the Eagles, increasing the importance of this game. Dallas boasts the 12th easiest schedule with an opposing winning ratio of .4891. Philadelphia has the third easiest schedule with a .4396 winning ratio.

The only teams remaining on the Eagles schedule currently sporting winning records are the Packers, the Bears, and the Lions. The latter two teams play in Philadelphia.

Dallas, on the other hand plays at Chicago and at Detroit, as well as at New Orleans. The Cowboys must also still host the Packers. The easier schedule offers Philadelphia a significant advantage, magnifying the importance of divisional games.

When taking the schedule into account, it becomes obvious that the NFC East is a two horse race between the Eagles and Cowboys. Washington plays the 14th ranked schedule in regards to difficulty (.4946), but have yet to host Chicago, Kansas City and San Francisco, as well as play at Denver. With four losses on the ledger, the season appears to be over for the Redskins.

If the draft were to be held today, the first overall selection would belong to the New York football Giants. Yes, New York is currently considered worse than Jacksonville.

Perhaps this game on Sunday at Philadelphia should be considered a big game.

The Dallas defense may be missing Selvie (injured), Ware (injured), Spencer (IR), Ratliff (waived), and Crawford (IR), five of their top six defensive linemen. It is difficult to run an effective 4-3 scheme when the defensive front gets intermittent pressure.

The Eagles rank 9th in passing yards per game (271.3 yards), 5th in passer rating (102.4), and tied for 2nd in yards per pass attempt (8.9 yards). Philadelphia has a formidable passing game.

Conversely, Dallas ranks 30th in passing yards per game (308.2 yards), 25th in passer rating (98.3), and 24th in yards per pass attempt (7.9 yards) defensively in those same areas. This appears to be a match-up that the Eagles should exploit, especially with Nick Foles behind center.

Since the Eagles have already displayed a propensity to score (27.7 points per game), it would not be a surprise for Philadelphia to score over 30 points in this game. The Eagles only have thrown two interceptions this season and have lost six fumbles (Michael Vick has thrown both interceptions and lost two fumbles, accounting for half of the Eagles turnovers. Jason Hatcher may want to re-think his preference).

In the face of an offensive onslaught, Dallas could attempt to keep the ball out of the hands of the Philadelphia offense through an effective running game (the Eagles are ranked 16th yielding 105.7 yards per game) or could attack in an attempt to outscore the opposition. The Eagles are currently 29th, giving up 29.8 points per game defensively.

The latter strategy of outscoring the Eagles appears to be the path of least resistance, but places the pressure of the game squarely on the shoulders of Tony Romo. Considering that the Philadelphia defense is on par with Broncos' defense (Dallas scored 48 points) and Giants' defense (36 points scored), the Cowboys should have success scoring.

Unlike Washington, Philadelphia has struggled to pressure the passer (13 sacks in 6 games). The Eagles may elect to blitz as much as the Redskins, but have not shown that tendency out of their 3-4 alignment to date. Perhaps fewer blitzes may offset the loss of DeMarco Murray, the best of the pass blocking running backs.

When the Cowboys rely heavily on Romo's play making ability the results are mixed. The record reflects that over reliance on one person: 3-3. Dallas won last Sunday because Dwayne Harris, Sean Lee, Brandon Carr, and Jason Hatcher contributed greatly in the win.

Outside of the offensive players playing alongside Romo, who stepped up against Denver? Sean Lee? Just one player?

Several defensive players performed wonderfully and made big plays against New York, but which non offensive players excelled at San Diego?

Ironically, Dallas' best chance to win this big game against Philadelphia is to rely on Romo to move the offense much in the same way he did against Denver. The key to winning this game and to winning the division, however, is for several players on special teams and/or defense to perform at a high level on their respective units and make big plays.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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