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Mirror Image Injury Reports Could Decide the Cowboys-Eagles Rematch

It's been a long time since the division rivals met.  It was week two when Romo and McNabb had a shootout, one that put 54 first half points on the board and which ended with Dallas outlasting their rivals 41-37.

Being week two, both teams were nearly 100% in the health department.  Now, in week 17, the annual attrition has taken its toll on both teams, and that grind will determine who has the better shot a winning Sunday afternoon. 

Here's a rundown of injured players, which suggest we'll see a much lower scoring game this time around:



RB -- Felix Jones;  He was a factor in September.  His kickoff return TD staked Dallas to a big early lead and made the two-TD gift Tony Romo and the refs provided easier to overcome in the 2nd half.  The team has missed his big play skills from the minute he left in Arizona.

LG - Kyle Kosier -- He did not play in that game, where the Cowboys line held the Eagles rushers without a sack, in perhaps their best pass protection game of the year.  He won't be here either.  Cory Proctor did his job that day, thought he wiped out a long pass to T.O. with a holding penalty.  Montrae Holland does not appear likely, so Proctor will need to man up again.

CB - Terence Newman -- He was on the roster, but didn't factor in that game.  Adam Jones and Anthony Henry took turns covering rookie DeSean Jackson, and both had difficulty.  Jones and Roy Williams combined on a he's-yours-no-he's-yours! mixup in the 2nd quarter to let Jackson burn them for a long TD. 

Newman has been taking the opponents best WR since the bye -- provided he's healthy.  He performed well against Santana Moss and Domenik Hixon in two key Cowboys wins.  He'll likely follow Jackson everywhere this week.  Jackson is taking a roasting in the Philly press for dropping two long passes last week, one of them a game-tying TD in the last three minutes of the game.  Still, he's the only legit receiving threat the Eagles have.  If Newman contains him, the Cowboys odds of winning go way up.

Roy Williams -- He was targeted and beaten by Philly.  He's gone and his understudy Keith Davis was doing the job, until his tackling skills abandoned him at the worst possible time last week.  SS remains the weakest spot on the defense, though Davis and Ken Hamlin should have an easier time containing L.J. Smith, because the Eagles WRs are dinged.  More on that later.

Jason Witten? -- Steve Austin has nothing on the Cowboys' Bionic Man, who takes wicked lickings and keeps on ticking.  But the injuries he suffered late in the Ravens game may take him away this week, or at least diminish his playing time.  He was a huge target for Tony Romo;  Witten abused Brian Dawkins in the first game, catching a long pass just before the half to give Dallas a lead and a deep seam in the 4th to set up Marion Barber's game winner.  We may find out if Martellus Bennett can do a passable Witten impersonation.  This is week 17.  He's not a rookie any more.

Marion Barber -- Dislocated toes are serious business.  The ligament damage in Marion's little piggie has taken his explosiveness away.  It's Tashard Choice time. 

Roy E. Williams -- The team has been mum on his plantar fascia injury but it's clear he's not healthy.  Dallas does not call deep patterns to him, because he's having trouble getting open up the sideline since the injury.  Miles Austin has gotten more reps in every game since he returned from his knee injury and will probably get more, since he does seem to have his burst.


Shaun Andrews/Max Jean Gilles/Todd Herremens - The Eagles RG position has mirrored Dallas' LG situation.  Andrews is a Pro Bowl guard who missed a lot of camp getting treatment for depression.  He's since injured his back and has only started twice for the Eagles.  He's on their active roster, but has not played in weeks.  Third-year OG Max Jean-Gilles was getting into the groove at RG in November, but broke his ankle in the Eagles Thanksgiving Day win over Arizona.  The Eagles are down to rookie Mike McGlynn here.

This loss may have affected the Eagles' play calling.  Brian Westbrook ran the ball 33 times in the Meadowlands three weeks ago, when the wind was horrible, and the Eagles knocked off the Giants.  Since then, however, Philly has gone back to a roughly 60/40 pass-run ratio.  Last week, in similar conditions, Westbrook got only 12 carries in the Redskins loss.  The Eagles Nation tore into Reid, who has gone to extremes calling passes over runs in the past.  He might be revealing a lack of faith in his interior run blocking.  LG Todd Herremans played, but he missed the week's practices with a bum shoulder.  The Eagles are even more threadbare at the guard position than Dallas right now.

Hank Basket/Kevin Curtis -- The Eagles are a scheme team.  They have a quality QB and two playmakers in RB Brian Westbrook and WR DeSean Jackson.  Andy Reid likes to spead the field with multi-WR sets, to get mismatches for Westbrook and Jackson, who can both line up in multiple spots.

Reid's shell game gets harder when his WR corps are thinned.  Both Baskett and Curtis missed last weeks Redskins game.  Their availability will determine how much passing flexibility Reid and OC Marty Morhinweg will have.

Brian Westbrook/Correll Buckhalter -- Westbrook has been dinged for weeks, but he's the Eagles most important offensive piece, so he does a Ken Hamlin; he sits during the week and performs on game day.   He was Philly's only big play maker last week.  Dallas will certainly try to give Jackson to Newman and devote the remainder of their game plan to containing number 36.  Backup Buckhalter is also nursing a bad knee.

Brian Dawkins -- Witten might be black and blue, but if he plays, he'll face an opponent who is gutting through a bad back.  Age may finally be slowing Dawkins, who has only one pick this year.  The back problem doesn't help either.

Every team goes through injuries.  Football hurts.  The extensive skill position injuries to both skill position sets and to both secondaries means this could be the guts bowl, decided by the team better able to ignore and overcome that pain. The Cowboys situation looks pretty good.

Note:  The weather should not be a factor.  Forecasts call for temperatures in the low 50s, with a breeze of 15 mph and a slight chance of rain.



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