When the Cowboys prepared to face the Giants two seasons ago in the playoffs, nearly everyone who followed the Cowboys picked Dallas to pull out the win. The Cowboys had beaten the Giants handily on the road several weeks before, so there were reasons to think that Dallas would come out and end the franchise playoff drought.
The difference then was that the Cowboys had completely lost momentum between the Giant games, while the Giants had started building momentum by nearly knocking off the Patriots in the final week of the season and by routing Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys came into the game hoping they would put everything back together, but they didn’t.
Unlike the circumstances surrounding the 2007 season, the 2009 Cowboys are peaking at just the right time. Most are picking the Cowboys to beat the Eagles on Saturday night, and these predictions can be based on how this team is playing right now, not how it was playing when the teams faced each other in November.
At ESPN, only Ron Jaworski picked the Eagles to win. Hardly a surprise, given that he was the QB of the 1980 Philadelphia team that beat Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. At the Dallas Morning News, only Kevin Sherrington predicted a Dallas loss.
As for the simulations, two predicted a Dallas win, but the video game simulation once again predicted a Dallas loss. Of course, the Madden simulation predicted losses to the Redskins and Saints, and neither of those turned out to be accurate.
AccuScore: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 22
The Cowboys won 66% of the simulations against the Eagles by an average score of 27.5 to 21.6.
The Cowboys pass rush has sacked the opposing QB at least 3 times during their hot 3 game streak. If they can harass McNabb again this week and limit the big down field pass completions the Cowboys should win. If the Cowboys have 3 or more sacks they have a 74 percent chance of winning, but if they 2 or less the game is a virtual coin flip with Dallas having a 51 percent chance. Tony Romo has thrown just 2 INTs in his past 3 games and there is a high 45 percent chance that he throws no INTs this week. However, if Romo throws 1 or more INTs the Eagles chances increase to 42 percent. If the Eagles can also hold Marion Barber and Felix Jones to under 4.5 yards per carry while also forcing at least 1 Romo INT then Philadelphia has a 57 percent chance of winning by an average score of PHI 25, DAL 22.
What If Sports: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17
According to What If Sports, the Cowboys have a 13.7% chance to win Super Bowl XLIV. This ranks fourth behind the Jets (!), Saints, and Vikings.
Dallas won 63% of the simulations in the wildcard round by an average score of 23-17.
Quarterback Tony Romo threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns, Dallas’ defense allowed less than 40 yards rushing and the Cowboys clinched a home-field rematch against the Eagles with a 24-0 victory in Week 17. Now they’ll try to beat Philadelphia for the third time this season and a second time in as many weeks in the first round of the playoffs.
Philadelphia boasts the fifth-best scoring offense in the league at 26.8 points per game, but has scored a total of 16 against the Cowboys this season as Dallas’ defense has stymied Donovan McNabb and big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Dallas’ offense, on the other hand, ranks in the top 10 in nearly every major statistic except for points, but had two of its best games against the Eagles. Two of Romo’s eight 300-yard games came against Philadelphia and the Cowboys average more than eight yards per pass attempt.
In the first of three Week 17 rematches, the computer begins the trend of liking last week’s winner. Romo’s numbers certainly don’t stand out, but the Cowboys once again make the Eagles one-dimensional, beating the Eagles 63% of the time by an average score of 23-16.
Madden Simulation: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27
I considered omitting this, but I am going to err on the side of confronting one’s fears:
The Cowboys looked to have the game wrapped up with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter when a Marion Barber fumble opens the door for a miracle Eagles comeback. With time running out and Philadelphia down to just one final play, Donovan McNabb hits Brent Celek for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 30-27 victory.
Despite the soul-crushing defeat, Tony Romo played like the Romo Dallas fans saw in December ’09 and not the quarterback fans began to doubt after previous late-season collapses. In fact, Romo threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, and more importantly, never turned the ball over.
Moreover, until Barber’s fumble, the Cowboys offense looked flawless (at least virtually). But in the playoffs, the fine-line between victory and defeat can sometimes come down to one mistake, and in Dallas’ case, this mistake was a difference maker, not only for the game, but for their season.
This isn’t going to happen.
My Guess (10-6 based on win-loss)
My conservative prediction last week didn’t turn out to be close in terms of the score.
I’ve had mixed feelings about tomorrow’s game all week. Part of me thought that Dallas might lose to the Eagles but then turn around and win a couple of playoff games as the #6 seed. However, I’ve since become convinced that the Cowboys will pull this one out. The teams will be tied 10-10 at the half thanks to a late score by the Cowboys. The Eagles will take a lead, but a Dallas touchdown in the fourth quarter will be enough to give the Cowboys their second NFC East title in the past three seasons.
Dallas 17, Philadelphia 13
Dallas took a 17-0 lead at the half and never looked back, so the team didn’t need a late score to pull out the game.
For the season:
Week: My Prediction (Actual Result)
Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)
Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)
Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)
Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)
Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)
Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)
Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)
Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)
Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20 (actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)
Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6 (actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)
Week 12: Dallas 30, Oakland 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Oakland 7)
Week 13: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12 (actual: N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24)
Week 14: Dallas 27, San Diego 20 (actual: San Diego 20, Dallas 17)
Week 15: New Orleans 30, Dallas 18 (actual: Dallas 24, New Orleans 17)
Week 16: Dallas 31, Washington 0 (actual: Dallas 17, Washington 0)
Week 17: Dallas 17, Philadelphia 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0)
For the season, the Cowboys would have gone 13-3 had my predictions come true. Frankly, this team had the ability to go 13-3, but it is probably better that the team struggled a bit before rebounding late in the season. The Cowboys have not entered the playoffs with this much momentum since the 1992 season (which was, of course, a 13-3 season). There are also plenty of comparisons we could make between the 2009 team and the 1991 team, the latter of which won five straight to finish the season at 11-5 and ended a playoff drought with a win over Chicago.
The Cowboys didn’t merely slip by the Eagles last week; instead, Dallas controlled both lines of scrimmage. Moreover, the Cowboys made mistakes but still pulled out a dominant win. I think Dallas will jump out to a 21-10 lead and then hold off a late Philadelphia rally.
Dallas 24, Philadelphia 19