Through the first eight games, the Eagles and Cowboys' seasons have looked eerily similar. Unfortunately, it's not in ways either team would like.
Both entered the year with Super Bowl aspirations, but turnovers and inconsistent play have taken their toll. Now the bitter division rivals will enter Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday with matching 3-5 records. The winner of this game does more than just improve their record – they will use this game to launch a possible late-season playoff push.
"Both teams need to play their best football," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo during a conference call Wednesday. "It's the time of the year that people are going to separate themselves."
Romo has 13 interceptions on the year, the most in the league, and the Cowboys have the worst turnover differential in the NFC with -11. Unfortunately, the Eagles' (-9) is not far behind. These turnovers have hurt what are normally two explosive offenses. The Eagles are averaging only 16.6 points per game, while the Cowboys are averaging a shade fewer than 19 per game.
Another major issue plaguing both offenses has been red zone efficiency. The Eagles were 0-for-5 in the red zone against the Saints. On Sunday night against the Falcons, the Cowboys went 0-for-2 in the red zone. Both teams are under 45 percent in red zone efficiency on the year.
"It's a problem with this team every week, so we've got to just correct it, play disciplined and hopefully we can score some touchdowns," said wide receiver Jason Avant. "We've got to make some plays. We have some plays to be made when you watch the film and it's just getting to them and being able to protect, block, catch. Those type of things."
Defensively, both teams are allowing fewer than 23 points per game. And while the Cowboys rank 20th in the league with 16 sacks, the Eagles' vaunted pass rush has only 11 on the year. And both teams have been inconsistent on special teams as well.
"There's a lot of talent on both teams. We've obviously underperformed as they have," said punter Mat McBriar, who spent nine seasons with the Cowboys. "It's really time for us to turn it around here. I bet they're thinking the same thing down there. Hopefully, it's us who gets this thing rolling and turn it around."
But for all the issues, the winner Sunday will be in the thick of the playoff chase. Both teams are only two games behind the division-leading Giants. And in the Eagles' case, Sunday will be only their second division game of the season thus far. That means five of the final eight games will be inside the NFC East, giving them a great opportunity to make a real playoff run.
"One of the things that we have had the past couple of years is the way we host the division games, the intensity that we have played within them, and the way that we've come away with wins," defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins said. "I think it'd be a great way to get this thing turned around would be a win in our division."
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