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The Gameplan: How The Dallas Cowboys Respond Will Tell All

Today's divisional game with the Eagles will be a tough task for the Cowboys who will have a few key players missing from the equation. However, it's always about the response.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There is far too much parity in the NFL for such a lopsided prediction in the Cowboys' fate this afternoon to be so Eagles-centric. However, none of these petty prediction games really matter that much at all, just a fun exercise in which we like to participate in. I, in fact, chose the Eagles to win this game too, but before I'm placed in the shame closet, I only chose Philadelphia because the pressure of being 0-2 is not very easy to come back from. Since 1990, only 12% of the teams that started 0-2 made the playoffs, now think of what that would mean for a team that is 0-2 in the conference and down 2.5 games to their rival?

That could very well be the case after today should the Cowboys give Philadelphia their third straight loss at Lincoln Financial and put the Eagles at 1-5 in their last six meetings. It's definitely a possibility, though most Eagles fans would think we're crazy for even mentioning it. How could Dallas have confidence in this game when they will be missing Dez Bryant? Greg Hardy, Randy Gregory, Rolando McClain and Ron Leary too? No way, Cowboys fans. There is just one thing missing from this whole conversation. The Cowboys still have Tony Romo and a bevy of other weapons that will be tough enough for Chip Kelly to handle.

When you have an elite quarterback, anything is possible, as we witnessed last Sunday in the opener. For Dallas, it will be about protecting the ball, because without the turnovers they would have utterly dominated the Giants for the majority of the game. If they had protected the football better, the score would have reflected a likely dismantling of the New York Giants.

All of this talk about Dez Bryant is just talk. Though we now have a new report from one of the NFL's "most trusted" reporters that Dez is set to be absent until December, let's reserve the right to be skeptical. After all, this is coming from another guy who joined the "Walmart Video Circus" way back when. As far as this is concerned, you can talk to all the outside doctors you want, it's the doctors on the inside of the organization that will hold the most weight. You think Jason Garrett would elect to not put Dez Bryant on IR had he known this? Of course he would, as it would free a roster spot until Bryant's return. So spare me all the reporting until something more concrete from the organization comes along.

Back to Philly, there is no way you could have watched their opener on Monday night and not come away with a few scouting tips of your own.

First, Byron Maxwell looks every bit of a guy the Seahawks weren't too scared of losing in the offseason. After Julio Jones lit him up it makes you wonder what Dez would have been capable of against Maxwell.

Second, the running backs for the Eagles really struggled with Atlanta's revamped defense under former Seahawks coordinator and now Falcons head coach, Dan Quinn. Sans Gregory, if the Cowboys have the guys they believe can torment the Eagles' offensive line much like Atlanta did, they could truly have some success with the Eagles runners too.

Philadelphia's offensive line and particularly Jason Peters had some struggles that lasted nearly the entire game. Defensively, the Cowboys will have to stay disciplined to not let guys like Darren Sproles get loose and make them pay for it. Jordan Matthews is a receiver whose arrow is definitely pointing upward, but none of these receivers truly scare you. The Cowboys defensive backs had a great gameplan last week for Odell Beckham Jr. and came away with some success to build on. They will need to continue the elevation of their game this week as well and perhaps bait Sam Bradford into making a mistake or two. As Bryan Broaddus mentioned earlier this week, Bradford is not a guy that's going to take off and run. He prefers to sit in the pocket and deliver from there, that is why it is imperative for the Cowboys to pressure him early and often. Dallas has had success against Bradford in the past, who is 18-30-1 as a starter. Deliver a few hits to get him shaky and that should be your defensive key to the game.

For the Cowboys on offense it's about how they respond in the wake of missing Dez Bryant. Joseph Randle certainly seems determined to have as good a game as he can to prove himself. Lance Dunbar was a nightmare for the Giants and it shows that maybe Scott Linehan has really found an effective way to make him a contributor. Gavin Escobar, Jason Witten, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley just need to beat their one-on-ones. They do that, and the Cowboys will have success in the passing game. In order to keep control of the clock in Dallas' favor, just run the football. Bust out your running back by committee and make them earn it. Most importantly, if the Cowboys can get the type of protection that Romo had last week, they will give him ample time to work his magic. It starts with handling all of the disguised blitzes and getting Tyler Clutts along with the other backs and tight ends to pick up their man.

In conclusion, the pressure firmly lies on the shoulders of the Eagles who will certainly bring it this afternoon. The Cowboys just need to show what depth they have and continue to do what they do best. Getting pressure and protecting Romo sounds so cliché, but that's the way of the NFL. Will the Cowboys be able to force the Eagles into an 0-2 start? Smart money is on the birds here, but anything is possible in the NFL.


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