The Dallas Cowboys sit atop the NFC East after just one week, as the rest of the teams in the division failed to win their 2015 season openers. The defending NFC East champs can get a second divisional win in Week 2 when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Despite the results of Week 1, Philadelphia is a significant favorite over Dallas. The point spread nearly doubled between Monday night and Tuesday afternoon, and the Cowboys find themselves getting six points, according to vegasinsider.com. The over/under of 55.5 points is the highest of any game at Las Vegas casinos.
Dallas is banged up after their last-second win over the New York Giants, suffering injuries to wide receiver Dez Bryant and defensive end Randy Gregory. Philadelphia lost to the Atlanta Falcons by two points on “Monday Night Football,” but they return home where they’ve won 10 of their last 13 games. The Cowboys went undefeated on the road in the 2014 regular season.
Dez Bryant Out
The Eagles won’t have to deal with one of the NFL’s top receivers, and it doesn’t appear that any of Dallas’ opponents will have to worry about stopping Bryant for quite some time. He suffered a broken bone in his foot against the Giants, and while the Cowboys have given Bryant a timetable of four to six weeks, the All-Pro could miss half the season.
Bryant’s injury limited him to just 48 yards in Week 1, but Dallas’ pass game could still be dangerous in Week 2. Tony Romo completed passes for 308 yards to players other than Bryant in the opener, as Jason Witten and Lance Dunbar led the way with eight catches each. Romo posted a 103.3 passer rating, and he’s had a rating of at least 100.0 in nine of his last 10 games.
Romo could have a similar game in Week 2, considering the Cowboys are going up against a pass defense that could struggle all season long. The Eagles intercepted Matt Ryan twice, but one was an incredible pick by linebacker Kiko Alonso, and the quarterback still had a very strong performance. He picked apart Philadelphia’s secondary, throwing for 298 yards and two scores.
Sam Bradford vs. Dallas Secondary
Looking at the schedule before the start of the regular season, it appeared that Bradford might put up monster numbers in Week 2. Dallas is without top cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the entire season, and Bradford was terrific in the preseason. But the season opener for both the Cowboys and Eagles might indicate a different result on Sunday.
Bradford struggled out of the gate in Atlanta against what was the NFL’s worst defense last season. He was intercepted twice, and his 77.1 passer rating ranked 21st among quarterbacks in Week 1. The Cowboys limited Eli Manning to 193 yards and the No.25 passer rating. They held Odell Beckham Jr. to 44 receiving yards, ending his record-tying streak of nine straight games with at least 90 receiving yards.
Dallas could see the Bradford that showed up in the second half against the Falcons. He completed 21-of-25 passes for 219 yards, perhaps shaking off the rust of having not played a regular-season game in 99 weeks.
DeMarco Murray Faces Former Team
The Eagles signed last season’s top rusher in the offseason, while the Cowboys have a lot of uncertainty in their backfield. Both teams had trouble on the ground in Week 1, and Murray will face Dallas in just his second NFL game in which he's not wearing a Cowboys uniform.
Murray wasn’t able to establish anything against Atlanta, rushing the ball eight times for nine yards, though Darren Sproles lifted the team’s overall numbers with 50 yards on five attempts. Joseph Randle, Murray’s replacement as Dallas’ No.1 running back, ran 16 times for 65 yards. Darren McFadden had just 16 yards on six attempts.
Philadelphia’s offensive line isn’t as good as Dallas’, but it’s hard to believe Murray won’t play significantly better on Sunday. Head coach Chip Kelly went to Ryan Matthews instead of Murray down the stretch of Monday night’s game, and it didn’t work out well for the Eagles.
Romo faces as much criticism as any player in the NFL, but he’s proven to be a top quarterback, and he'll help the Cowboys put up points without Bryant. Bradford should be much improved after a strong second half, leading to a potential shootout at Lincoln Financial Field. The team that has the ball last could end up winning the game. Either way, it should be decided by less than a touchdown.
Philadelphia over Dallas, 34-33