PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys couldn’t be more similar.
Both teams are 3-3 and tied for first place in the NFC East entering Sunday’s game at the Linc. Both teams are 2-0 in the division. Both teams are 0-3 against the AFC West, losing to Denver, Kansas City and San Diego.
Their passing offenses are ranked sixth and seventh, respectively. Their scoring averages are in the top five. Their defenses are 30th and 32nd overall. They each have 45 penalties and are their turnover margins are plus-4 and plus-2.
Something has to give this weekend.
“Our challenge right now is as big as it can get because it’s the Dallas Cowboys,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “That’s the way we look at it. We don’t look at it and compare this week and that week and how we are. They have got our full attention. Our eyes are totally focused on the Cowboys and we are not comparing them to anybody else.”
One major difference between the teams is performance at home. The Cowboys are 3-1 at their $1.2 billion stadium. The Eagles have lost eight straight in front of their fans, including two games this season. Their last win at home was against the New York Giants on Sept. 30, 2012.
That doesn’t make the Cowboys feel better about their visit to Philly.
“I think it’s always a difficult place to play,” Tony Romo said. “The fans are always into the game, they’re very loud and they give them a home-field advantage.”
While Romo prepares to make his 100th career start for Dallas, Nick Foles is set to make his eighth for the Eagles. Michael Vick has a strained hamstring and likely will miss his second straight game.
Foles has been outstanding in six-plus quarters filling in for Vick, and was the NFC’s offensive player of the week after throwing for 296 yards and three touchdowns and running for a score in a 31-20 win at Tampa Bay.
“I can play so much better, and that’s why I come out here and work,” Foles said. “I think about the things I didn’t do very well and I work on them. I feel good about it, but I noticed a lot of things I need to work on.”
Here are five things to watch when the Cowboys play the Eagles for first place in the NFC East:
BANGED-UP COWBOYS: Running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end DeMarcus Ware aren’t expected to play because of injuries sustained in a win over Washington last week. Joseph Randle, inactive for two games this season, would replace Murray. He got his first career touches against the Redskins and was held to 17 yards on 11 carries. Ware, who has never missed a game in eight-plus seasons, has 16 career sacks in 16 games against the Eagles. The Cowboys already are missing defensive end Anthony Spencer for the season and they released injured four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Jay Ratliff this week.
KELLY VS. KIFFIN: Kelly’s offense at Oregon averaged 50 points per game while going 2-1 against Monte Kiffin’s defense at Southern California the last three years. Kiffin is in his first season as Cowboys defensive coordinator. So, the offensive innovator and defensive mastermind will renew their rivalry at the pro level.
“Chip Kelly is the best,” Kiffin said. “Some coaches talk a lot but don’t put it on tape. Coach Kelly puts it on tape. I don’t care if it’s high school, college or pro, he’s a good football coach.”
Kelly’s previous success doesn’t mean much to him now.
“Football is a players’ game. I was fortunate when I was at Oregon to have some outstanding players,” he said.
LESEAN AND DESEAN: Eagles running back LeSean McCoy leads the NFL with 630 yards rushing and wide receiver DeSean Jackson is second in the league with 589 yards receiving. The dynamic duo has combined for eight touchdowns, and both are on pace to set career highs in several categories.
PROTECTING THE BALL: Foles hasn’t thrown an interception this season, and only has two picks in his last 248 attempts, including a streak of 97 passes without one. Romo has only three interceptions to go with 14 TDs so far.
“Our guys are doing a great job, too, of running their routes, guys up front are doing a great job blocking,” Foles said. “It takes everybody being on the same page.”
OFFENSE, OFFENSE, OFFENSE: The Eagles are the fourth team in NFL history to gain 400 yards in each of the first six games. The Cowboys are behind the Eagles in total yards, but have a higher scoring average at 30.5 points per game to Philadelphia’s 27.7.