PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 30: Michael Vick #7 of the Philadelphia Eaglesr rushes past Sean Lee #50 of the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on October 30, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Game time: Sunday, Nov. 11, 4:25 p.m. ET, Lincoln Financial Field
Weather: Mid-60s, sunny
Records: Cowboys (3-5) at Eagles (3-5)
1. Will the offensive line be able to protect QB Michael Vick? Highly unlikely. In a perfect world, yes, this ragtag bunch would miraculously pull together and look like a proper NFL line. But when you lose 80 percent of your starters (only left guard Evan Mathis remains), the reality is that blown assignments, missed blocks and sacks are all going to be a weekly part of the Eagles' game-day experience.
Vick has said that he'll try to do his part -- break the pocket, buy time with his legs, get rid of the ball earlier -- to help but it'll require an MVP-type effort to give the front five a chance. (In related news: according to Pro Football Focus, Vick holds the ball longer than all but one starting quarterback -- rookie Russell Wilson. On an average dropback, 3.1 seconds expire before the ball is out of Vick's hands. This -- and the current state of his protection -- portends very bad things.)
2. Will DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin struggle to get open against Brandon Carr and Maurice Claiborne? This has less to do with the Cowboys' secondary than it does with the Eagles' offensive line (see above). Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg could do some things this week that takes the pressure off the o-line and Vick -- screen passes, slip screens, slants, draw plays … you get the idea -- and keep Dallas' D on its heels. But innovation and on-the-fly adjustments haven't been this offense's strong suit through eight games. Assuming that the Eagles' can protect Vick, Jackson and Maclin could be in for a big afternoon. Neither of the Cowboys' corners have done much to earn the "shutdown" designation; according to Football Outsiders, Dallas' secondary ranks 17th in the league vs. No. 1 receivers and 20th against No. 2 receivers. And they're even worse against tight ends, where they rank 24th.
3. Will the pass rush build off last week's effort against the Saints? Great question. The Eagles sacked Drew Brees twice last week -- one each for Jason Babin and Brandon Graham -- but it's been a lackluster season for this group when it comes to pressuring the quarterback. Any penetration and disruption the front four can bring will go a long way in helping out the rest of the unit. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is better than the media sometimes portrays him but he's prone to turnovers, usually in bunches.
4. How will the secondary fare against Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Jason Witten? The Eagles' defensive backs should have a better afternoon than their counterparts. Not so much because they've suddenly come on like gangbusters but because Bryant, for all his talent, regularly runs the wrong routes. Austin has struggled with constancy, while Witten is easily the Cowboys' best weapon. If Philly can slow him down they'll limit Romo's downfield options.
5. X Factor: Michael Vick If Vick was ever going to play up to the $100 million contract he signed before the 2011 season, this would be the time to do it. Coach Andy Reid needs a crisp, mistake-free outing in the worse way but the chances it happens are exacerbated by the absence of the aforementioned offensive line.