The week following the bye is always hit or miss regarding a team’s focus. This may be one of the most strategically set bye weeks the Eagles have ever been dealt.
It comes at virtually the halfway point of the season and against one of the best opponents head coach Doug Pederson can ask for: the Dallas Cowboys (see story).
This is one of the most intense rivalries I have faced in the NFL and I have been a part of some great ones.
I played in Green Bay when the Chicago Bears were contenders and Brett Favre matched wits with inside linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Or maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens. I can remember playing down in Baltimore and linebacker Ray Lewis would whip the Ravens' fans into a frenzy while he did his animated dance before the game. It was always a war when "The Bus" Jerome Bettis and the offensive line would face Lewis and the rest of the Ravens' front seven to establish dominance in the AFC North.
But I truly feel that the rivalry between the Eagles and the Cowboys surpasses even those intense battles in their respective divisions. There was nothing better than traveling down to Irving, Texas, to play the Cowboys during the mid-90s. There were so many Pro Bowlers and Hall of Famers on the field during those battles. The hatred — yes, hatred — I felt looking at the star will affect how I analyze this game in Jerry’s House this Sunday. I was trying to break down how the Cowboys' D-line matches up with the offensive line of the Eagles, but the hype of this Sunday’s game took over.
Dallas will run various tackle-end and end-tackle stunts to get the Eagles' O-line on different levels. This will create pass-rushing lanes to free up rushers. Dallas will run these stunts as a run-stopper on first and second down to slow the Eagles' run game.
But Eagles fans need not worry about the team entering the field flat or unenthusiastic to play after this bye week. There will be plenty of spirit and focus going into this game.
The bye couldn't have come at a better time.