Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 7:00 AM
Everyone hoped it would be important when the schedules first came out this past summer. Now, Thanksgiving Week has arrived and the Philadelphia Eagles/Dallas Cowboys showdown Thursday afternoon isn’t just a rivalry game…it’s a potential divisional championship game matching 8-3 powers. Though, the two teams will meet again in Philadelphia down the road…it’s this meeting that will set the stage for the final month in the championship chase.
Philadelphia has weathered the loss of starting quarterback Nick Foles thus far. Sure, they lost badly at Green Bay. It’s hard for anyone to win there, particularly when the Packers are mostly healthy and hitting on all cylinders. The Eagles are positioned to be a Wildcard at worst if Foles is able to return in time for the playoffs. And, both of these teams still have a chance to chase down a #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs and home field advantage after a bye week.
NFC Playoff Standings
2…Green Bay 8-3
3…Philadelphia and Dallas 8-3 (only one can win division)
Philadelphia lost to Green Bay, and Dallas lost to Arizona in the game Tony Romo missed, so the tie-breakers aren’t smiling on the NFC East teams currently. But, somebody’s got to win Thursday to reach 9-3…and you can’t assume the Cards and Packers are going to win out…particularly Arizona with backup quarterback Drew Stanton.
That’s the backdrop. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup.
Won-Lost Records (Strength of Schedule)
Philadelphia: 8-3 (#27 schedule in USA Today)
Dallas: 8-3 (#31 schedule in USA Today)
Important to note for fans of both teams that each has played a very soft schedule. Don’t start ordering those Super Bowl tickets yet! Both teams could be 7-4 or even 6-5 against league average schedules. Hard to judge because the NFC has been relatively upside down this season. Dallas legitimately crushed Seattle in the stats earlier this season. What does that even mean when Seattle is up and down? For now, you have to see this teams as playoff caliber, but not necessarily Super Bowl caliber just yet.
Philadelphia: 5.7 on offense, 5.4 on defense
Dallas: 6.1 on offense, 5.9 on defense
Nothing impressive here after you’ve mentally adjusted for strength of schedule. The Eagles “high octane” offense isn’t really lighting up the stat book. Their fast pace creates that illusion because more plays equals more raw volume. On a per-play basis, the offense is just okay…against a weak schedule. Dallas has the better offense, but the softer defense at the point of attack.
Another strike against both teams in terms of the Super Bowl. And, one of the biggest surprises of the season because Philadelphia’s offense was supposed to be relatively turnover proof! Spread everyone out…throw the ball to the open guy…that’s how Nick Foles exploded as a first year starter last season. Defenses have adjusted. That makes the Eagles much more mistake-prone than they had been. Big edge to Dallas here because it’s visiting teams that are often pressured into mistakes in important road games.
Philadelphia: 7-4 ATS
Dallas: 6-5 ATS
Dallas couldn’t cover this past Sunday Night in New York against the Giants. That kept them from matching the Eagles for the season. Both teams are showing a profit.
Current Line: Dallas by 3, total of 55
The numbers we’ve just studied would point to Dallas based on home field plus turnover differential. The other stats are largely a wash. The key for Philadelphia will be avoiding mistakes. They can’t have a replay of the Green Bay debacle. Handicappers have to be concerned though about Romo’s health. He still moved gingerly every so often vs. the Giants. Dallas had to rally to barely beat a bad team that night! Do you want to lay points with the Pokes if Romo isn’t able to play at a peak? Don’t forget that he becomes mistake-prone in pressure games too.
JIM HURLEY is really looking forward to the NFL Tripleheader and the full Thanksgiving football slate. He’ll make sure you get the best sides and totals up and down the card. You’ll be able to purchase the full TURKEY SHOOT extravaganza right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about this annual NETWORK SHOWCASE or about extended service in football or basketball, call us in the office Wednesday during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with tomorrow to wrap up our Turkey Day Trio of previews. Then, it’s on to another great weekend of football. Here’s what’s ahead…
Thanksgiving Day: NFL TV Preview…Seattle at San Francisco on NBC
Friday: College TV Preview…Arizona State at Arizona
Saturday: College TV Preview…Auburn at Alabama
Sunday: NFL TV Preview…Denver at Kansas City on NBC
Monday: NFL TV Preview…Miami at NY Jets on ESPN
If you missed yesterday’s preview of Chicago/Detroit, please check the archives. Make sure you’re as prepared as possible for what’s shaping up as the greatest Thanksgiving football weekend ever! Best of luck if you’re a do-it-yourselfer. You’re cordially invited to join your “football family” here at JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for a THANKSGIVING FEAST!
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