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Recent posts by Eric Edholm
Buzz factor (on a scale of 1-10): 9.5. You could make a case for either team being Super Bowl caliber (although far less of one after Philly's no-show last week). This is about as good as it gets for a first-round game. The sense of urgency is at all-season high for the Cowboys, isn't it? Can you imagine dining with Jerry Jones this week, especially as it gets closer to game time? He'd be a total wreck. Jones has been confident lately, especially after beating the Eagles so soundly last week. But he has to know, now that everyone is jumping on the Super Bowl bandwagon for his team, that so much rests on this one game. Such as, um, the fate of his head coach.
Most underrated story line: The fact that the Cowboys have held Eagles WR DeSean Jackson to five receptions for 76 yards and five punt returns for 33 yards is pretty amazing. That has to change if the Eagles want to win. You can spout off about their committee approach to offense all you want, but if he doesn't touch the ball 3-4 times in big ways, the Eagles will not win. Will. Not. Jackson has been pretty mouthy this week, chatting up CB Mike Jenkins and promising to "sting the Cowboys' rear ends." This is the same guy who had a dubious debut against the Cowboys last season, flicking the ball out of his hands before entering the end zone on a clear path to the end zone. He had better back up his words.
Tasty matchup: Eagles OLT Jason Peters has been better, especially lately, than I have given him credit for. And for the second straight week he gets to block Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware. Woot. For Ware, who adjust very well to players he faces off against, he might have picked up something during the week and could carry a small edge into Saturday against Peters.
Home-field advantage: Definitely. After last week's beatdown, the Cowboys have an edge at their home stadium. It has been a bit strange to hear the Eagles talk about how flippin' excited they are to go back there, although as any player will tell you, there is nothing sweeter than the silence of a stunned opponent's crowd after their loss. Still, I think the Cowboys get a mental edge and a loud crowd that will do its best not to turn on Wade Phillips or Jason Garrett or Tony Romo by halftime.
Unlikely star: I was going to pick the Eagles' Chris Gocong, who might be a nickel rusher in some blitz packages, but it's hard to pick a guy who has been benched. So I'll go with Jenkins, who has backed up his bravado and talent with an excellent season. He'll have his chances against Jackson and WR Jeremy Maclin, whom he did a nice job against in both games.
Prediction: Cowboys 27, Eagles 21. A lot closer this time, and I think it will come down to the final minute or so. The Eagles know they have to bring more pressure this time around, but Romo will be ready for it. There might be a hump in the road at some point — this is the Cowboys, and they'll feel the playoff pressure — but they'll move on in what should be an excellent game.