It’s okay to say it out loud. We are all nervous that the Dallas Cowboys might lose to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Doing so wouldn’t totally end the Cowboys’ chances at winning the NFC East, but it would take their ability to control their fate out of their hands. Winning on Sunday gives the Cowboys a second straight division title which is something that nobody in this division has accomplished in a decade and a half, needless to say there is a lot at stake.
How can the Cowboys go about winning this game, though? Or rather, how could the Eagles go about losing? Our friend Brandon Lee Gowton from Bleeding Green Nation gave us three reasons why the Eagles could drop the biggest game of their season.
1 - The Eagles’ defense won’t be able to stop the Cowboys’ offense
The Eagles’ defense has been much better at home (16.9 opponent points per game) than on the road (29 opponent points per game) this season. But I’m not sure how much that matters for this week’s matchup.
The Cowboys are 5-0 against the Eagles when Ezekiel Elliott plays and that’s not just a coincidence. Zeke is obviously key to the Cowboys’ offensive identity. In his five games against Philly, Elliott has logged 118 carries for 574 yards (4.9 average) and two rushing touchdowns. He’s also caught 31 of his 36 targets for 241 yards and one score. So, that’s a per game average of 163 yards from scrimmage.
On paper, the Eagles are above average at stopping the run. Jim Schwartz’s defense ranks tied for sixth in opponent yards per rush attempt and 11th in run defense DVOA. But the Eagles are coming off a game where they allowed Adrian Peterson to give them issues. The 34-year-old veteran had 19 total touches for 91 yards as the Eagles struggled to tackle him on numerous occasions. If the Eagles can’t stop AP, they’re going to struggle with Zeke.
And as if stopping Elliott wasn’t challenging enough, the Eagles will also have to deal with that Amari Cooper guy. Including a 2017 game when he was still with the Raiders, the Cowboys’ No. 1 wide receiver has caught 24 of his 32 targets for a whopping 464 yards (19.3 average) and four touchdowns against Philly’s defense.
The Eagles have been torched by the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Eli Manning, and Dwayne Haskins in recent weeks. If those guys can have success against this defense, I can’t see why Dak Prescott would struggle to connect with Cooper.
2 - The Eagles’ offense won’t be able to keep pace
The Cowboys’ defense hasn’t been so great lately. Dallas has allowed 27.7 points on average in their last six games and they rank 22nd in defensive DVOA.
But have no fear, Cowboys fans! The Eagles’ offense is far from frightening.
Carson Wentz has played well recently with eight touchdowns to just one interception in his last three starts. He’s also led two clutch game-winning drives in that span. The problem is that it’s hard to see him sustaining success given his lackluster supporting cast.
Assuming Nelson Agholor is hurt and can’t play, the Eagles’ top three wide receivers are Greg Ward (practice squad call up), JJ Arcega-Whiteside, and Rob Davis (another practice squad call up). That inexperienced trio has combined for 27 career NFL receptions. Ward was the only player of the three with at least one catch in Week 15. JJAW was a disaster (dropped touchdown, running wrong routes that interfered with his teammates) and Davis was a non-factor.
The Eagles were able to beat Washington mainly by using their tight ends and running backs. Maybe they *can* continue to make that work but I have my doubts. Having viable receivers seems kinda important.
The Eagles’ current plodding offensive identity consists of these long, methodical, time-consuming drives. They really have to work hard just to kick field goals. Rookie running back Miles Sanders is like the only guy with big play ability.
If this game turns into a shootout, I don’t see how the Eagles can keep pace with the Cowboys’ offense.
3 - The Cowboys just have the Eagles’ number right now
The Eagles are 2-5 in their seven games against the Cowboys since the Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz eras began in 2016. Each team has had a meaningless Week 17 over the other in that span, so if you take those out, it’s 1-4.
Still, the fact remains that the Eagles have lost four straight games to their biggest division rivals.
If you’ll indulge me in a cross-sport comparison, this recently one-sided series reminds me of how the Sixers really struggled to beat the Celtics prior to this current NBA season. There was a point where Joel Embiid said: “This is not a rivalry. I don’t know our record against them, but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”
It feels like the Eagles are in a similar situation. The Cowboys aren’t really your rivals if they always beat you.
Maybe the Eagles will show that they’re tired of losing to Dallas. But I’ve reached the point where I’ll believe it when I see it. The matchup just doesn’t seem favorable. The Cowboys are the better team on paper.
It feels scary to say, but the Cowboys really do own the Eagles right now. Of course none of that matters and whatever happens next is what’s most important, but that is a really relevant thing to consider when talking about who’s likely going to win.
What do you make of BLG’s comments? Do they give you more confidence in the Cowboys this week? Even a little?