ARLINGTON, TX -- Among the 90,000 or so fans who gather at Cowboys Stadium today, there will be a distinct and proud group of Eagles fans. Midnight Green has invaded the Dallas/Arlington/Gravevine area, and while the Eagles fans are going to be the minority today, you will know the Eagles fans are in the house when the Eagles play Dallas. I'm on the move now, in search of some of this and some of that as we prepare for the regular-season showdown with the NFC East title at stake ...
*2:03 p.m. (Texas time) *
So much for the Eagles playing at full strength today. They have listed Quintin Demps on the inactive list, meaning that either/both Macho Harris or Jeremy Maclin will return kickoffs today. Michael Vick, who on Friday expected to be 100 percent for this game, is instead listed as the team's third -- or emergency -- quarterback.
Not having both of those players available could have a large impact. Harris fumbled twice, losing one of the fumbles, in last week's win over Denver. He has not been as explosive or as strong a runner as Demps has been this season on kickoff returns. Vick was expected to have a role within the offense, as head coach Andy Reid indicated on Friday after practice. Vick must not have been able to recover as quickly as he expected from then until now. Kevin Kolb is the team's No. 2 quarterback.
Also inactive: Wide receiver Kevin Curtis, offensive tackle King Dunlap, tight end Martin Rucker, defensive tackle Trevor Laws, and center Dallas Reynolds. Stacy Andrews is active for the first time since the loss in San Diego.
Every single person who walks into this building for the first time looks around and says, "Wow!" It is an awe factor that the Eagles must overcome.
"Every team has to go through it the first time they come here," said Rick Gosselin from The Dallas Morning News. This is the way the Cowboys want it. Bigger is better, and this is the biggest stadium yet."
The Cowboys are expecting 94,000 fans today, which includes a lot of "party pass" fans. Those fans buy tickets and find a place to stand. So, yeah, the crowd will be huge and it will be loud. How loud really will be determined by how the Eagles play. Can Philadelphia come in and take it to Dalals from the start?
"I think that is a gigantic part of this game," said Gosselin. "The emotion of this game is very important."
*12:16 p.m. *
Former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman, whom I rode up with in the elevator, sees a great game ahead.
"Two good teams, an outstanding game. I expect Philadelphia to come in here and play a terrific football game. Dallas has to match that," said Aikman. "Close all the way. I couldn't tell you that there is a better team. Donovan McNabb against Tony Romo. There are a lot of factors, but the quarterbacks are going to play the biggest part."
*11:41 a.m. *
What is the key matchup in this game? I know the Eagles must protect Donovan McNabb and they must win the line of scrimmage offensively, but I'm going to point to defensive ends Trent Cole and Juqua Parker against Dallas left tackle Flozell Adams and right tackle Doug Free, respectively. The Eagles must dominate this matchup and keep Tony Romo in the pocket. Romo is at his best when he improvises, when he keeps plays alive with his legs.
I think the Eagles have the advantage here. I think they need to win those battles and then blitz from guard to guard and not allow Romo to step up in the pocket to make throws.
Just my two cents as I watch the halftime show rehearse on the field here.
*11:24 a.m. *
I'm at the stadium now and Cowboys Stadium, I must say, is all it's cracked up to be. It is a massive place, very glitzy, with suites everywhere and amenities all over the place. The roof is closed and the field is sport turf, in case you were wondering. The scoreboard, Jumbotronicus, is amazing. I've been in the press box, all through the club levels and on the field. The locker room is incredibly spacious. Now, there are some serious distractions. The players walk onto the field through a Suite area, and there is a bar on ether side of the path to the field. Plexiglass separates a lot of fans who have been drinking from the players.
It is important that the Eagles come out of the gates quickly. This is going to be loud -- I don't see how it can't be loud -- and the Eagles have to hush the fans from the start.
I was told on the long cab ride here from the team hotel that the locals really are upset at the tax increase here to pay for the $1.3 billion stadium. There is a large public contribution and the locals, I was told and this is the truth, call the Cowboys the "Arlington Bleepholes" for raising the taxes here. Cowboys Stadium is located right next to the baseball stadium for the Texas Rangers out in the middle of nowhere in Arlington.
*8:33 a.m. *
The weather is cloudy and cool outside the team's hotel in Grapevine, TX. Since the moment the team arrived here, friends and family have been present, friendly and supportive, as the players filed into their rooms and settled in for the final night before this game. We arrived at the hotel at about 4 p.m. (Texas time) and the players had a few hours to themselves before they had position meetings and then the 11 p.m. bed check. During those hours, players go out and get some dinner, or go for a walk or just sit in their rooms and watch football.
Many of them have family here and the Eagles set aside a hospitality room for the players and their families to visit. By 7:30 p.m., though, the positional meetings begin and the players are back in football mode.
Today is expected to be fine, weather wise. I'm excited to see the stadium, which is said to have a square footage three times the size of Lincoln Financial Field. A couple of my friends who went to the Cotton Bowl on Saturday said the stadium has the feel of a "hotel atrium" and that the sound "escapes because it is so huge there." They didn't exactly provide a glowing review.
We'll see about that.