By Shawn S. Lealos

The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles battle this week for first place in the NFL East. More than that, the winner will remain undefeated in the division and hold a major advantage over their rivals as they head into the second half of the 2013 NFL season. The bad news for Dallas is that they head into the game without their starting running back and their best pass rusher.

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 13:  DeMarco Murray #29 of the Dallas Cowboys jumps over a tackle during the first half of a game against the Washington Redskins at  AT&T Stadium on October 13, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

(Credit, Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

DeMarco Murray injured himself while hurdling over a would-be tackler in the game with the Washington Redskins. The injury was a sprained MCL, which is great news because it is not broken. However, it also means he will miss the game with the Eagles. The Cowboys number one backup running back, Lance Dunbar, is also out with a hamstring injury.

Replacing Murray in the lineup is rookie Joseph Randle with Philip Tanner backing him up.

The other big absence is that of defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who will miss the first game of his career. Ware was also injured in the Redskins win and hobbled off the field under his own power after straining his quad. The rumors going around say he will miss three to four weeks, which is a killer for a Dallas defensive line decimated this season by injuries. However, he said he will not be out that long and even said he plans to travel with the team and be in uniform for the Eagles game, just in case.

Dallas released defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, who was on the PUP through the first half of the season. His Dallas career is now over with, but Ratliff’s agent said his client plans to return to play for someone next year. That leaves Jason Hatcher as the only original starter left on the offensive line, as Anthony Spencer is on the IR for the rest of the season. The scary thing is that Hatcher has been limited in practice all week with a neck problem. He will play, but this defensive line situation is getting scary.

Two other defensive lineman are also on the injury report, as Edgar Jones (groin) is still out and George Selvie is nursing a sore shoulder but returned to limited practice on Thursday.

Wide receiver Miles Austin also missed practice on Thursday, but he practiced in full on Wednesday, so he might just be resting up his hamstring as he tries to work his way back to full strength.

On the Eagles side, there’s also a major player missing this week in Michael Vick. The starting quarterback missed last week’s game and will sit out his second straight week as Nick Foles replaces him in the lineup. This means that the Eagles will throw the ball more as Foles is not a scrambling quarterback like Vick. With Dallas weakest against the pass, that might mean Vick’s absence is actually good news for the Eagles.

The biggest worry for Philadelphia was tackle Jason Peters, but he returned to full practice on Thursday. Starting safety Patrick Chung missed two games with a shoulder injury, returned last week, and then left injured again. He has been limited in practice this week with what is called a “nerve issue.” With Dallas needing to throw the ball a lot in this game, a weakened Eagles secondary is not good news for Philadelphia.

Injury Report

Dallas Cowboys

  • Austin, Miles – WR – Hamstring
  • Dunbar, Lance – RB – Hamstring
  • Harris, Dwayne – WR – Hip
  • Hatcher, Jason – DT – Neck
  • Holloman, DeVonte – LB – Neck
  • Jones, Edgar – DE – Groin
  • Murray, DeMarco – RB –      Knee
  • Selvie, George – DE – Shoulder
  • Ware, DeMarcus – DE – Thigh

Philadelphia Eagles

  • James Casey – TE – Groin
  • Patrick Chung – S – Shoulder
  • Donnie Jones – P – Left Foot
  • Jason Peters – T – Shoulder/Finger
  • Chris Polk – RB – Shoulder
  • Michael Vick – QB – Hamstring

For more Cowboys news and updates, visit Cowboys Central.

Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos.

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