The Cowboys and Eagles have one of the more intense rivalries in the NFL, and for the past few years it has largely been centered on the competing legacies of each franchise’s young quarterbacks. But there won’t be any Carson Wentz or Dak Prescott on Sunday, as this matchup will feature Andy Dalton and Jalen Hurts slinging the ball around.
Of course, there is still a lot to play for on both sides in this rivalry. Despite each team having nine losses already, they’re both still in the playoff hunt. But the loser of this game will be officially eliminated from contention, while the other could still be eliminated based on other games happening Sunday. The Eagles have looked like a completely different team, in a good way, since Hurts took over halfway through their Week 13 game, while the Cowboys have won two games in a row for the first time all year. Both are hitting their stride, but only one team can emerge victorious.
When Philadelphia has the ball
Stop the run, for both Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders
The Eagles have struggled to find a consistent running game in recent years, but the pairing of Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders might finally be something. In the last two games, Hurts has totaled 169 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, with Sanders putting up 179 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 31 carries.
They now face one of the worst run defenses in the NFL in Dallas, who will be playing without defensive tackle Antwaun Woods, linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, and safety Xavier Woods. They already weren’t great at stopping the run, but losing those three players will significantly complicate things. Perhaps a surprise appearance from vintage Sean Lee, who will be starting in place of LVE, could help this unit contain Philadelphia’s resurgent ground game.
When Dallas has the ball
Get Andy Dalton in a rhythm early
Andy Dalton has been quietly putting up some good football since returning from the COVID-19 reserve list. In the last five games, the Red Rifle is hitting on 66% of his passes for 1,097 yards with ten touchdowns and just three interceptions. He’s mostly been doing it with quick passes to his receivers, who have been exceptionally good at generating yards after the catch.
The Eagles boast a really good run defense (10th in run defense DVOA) coupled with a terrible pass defense (23rd in pass defense DVOA) that’s lost several key players to injury. The last time these two teams met, it was Ben DiNucci’s constant side-arm throwing motion that struggled to take advantage of this secondary, but Dalton is playing at a much higher level. If Kellen Moore can get Dalton in a groove early on, this offense should be able to move the ball pretty effectively.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
I always get hyped for a game against the Eagles as they have been the Cowboys strongest competition for the division title over the better part of the decade. One of these teams have taken down the division crown in six of the last seven seasons. While it’s not likely they can pad that streak this year, this game still has huge implications, whether it’s for the division or a premiere draft slot. It’s also big for another reason as it provides a glimpse of what the future holds. As Cowboys fans, it’s just human nature to take pleasure in the downfall of Carson Wentz, but we don’t want to get too excited about things because what if that Jalen Hurts fella continues to play well?
That ultimately makes Philly a better team. And speaking of better team, we must see more from this Cowboys group that can be carried over into next year. I believe the best coach on the field is Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and he’ll have his group ready. When you combine that with the intermittent playmaking ability of Hurts, that spells trouble for Dallas. The Cowboys will play some good ball, but it won’t be consistent enough to earn the win. And oh yeah, turnovers. That’ll swing it.
I’m taking a Philly sweep this year, Eagles 33, Cowboys 20.
I’m tempted to pick against the Cowboys because I did last week, and look what happened. But I’m not superstitious or anything, knock on wood, so I have to try and evaluate things from a rational standpoint. The Eagles have finally elevated Jalen Hurts to the position he was drafted to take, which makes them a much more dangerous team.
But Dallas got a lot of their secondary back on the field, and were rewarded with two picks. The big problem with Hurts is his running, and we know how the Cowboys have not done so well in stopping that. Still, with the confidence born of the past two wins, I think they will manage to pull this one out.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 23.
This week the Cowboys will be facing the future in Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. He can beat you through the air and with his legs much like Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. Unfortunately for the Cowboys Hurts is red hot right now and the Cowboys will also have to face that tough defensive line as well. The one good thing going for the Cowboys it the Eagles defense is dealing with injuries in the secondary which they can exploit. But I believe Hurts will be too much for this banged up Cowboys defense to handle this week.
Eagles 28, Cowboys 13
To be completely frank: Jalen Hurts’ recent performances worry me. I don’t think Doug Pederson has really been a problem in Philly (the performances of Nick Foles and, heck, Josh McCown in his system are evidence of that). Carson Wentz is out, and now he’s got a multi-dimensional quarterback at his disposal, a prototype Dallas’ D hasn’t particularly handled well.
The Cowboys won the turnover battle last Sunday, but I don’t know if that’s a precedent that will carry into this week. Philly’s defense (despite a losing record through their last five) isn’t absolutely putrid, and I think they sustain enough against Dallas’ underwhelming O-line to give Hurts an adequate cushion.
Cowboys 17 Eagles 28
I’ll admit, I did not see the Cowboys performing the way they did last Sunday against San Francisco. The defense was still not close to perfect, but they did continue to take the football away, leading to the victory. Young defenders Donovan Wilson, Trevon Diggs, and Neville Gallimore all played very well.
This week, I think the defense continues their trend of forcing turnovers, taking the ball away from Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense twice. On offense, I see the Cowboys’ offensive line struggling to protect Andy Dalton. Philadelphia will record four sacks on the day, proving to be the difference-maker. The Cowboys stay in it until the end, but Philly wins this one on a field goal, ending the Cowboys’ playoff hopes.
Give me the Eagles, 21-20.
The Cowboys run defense is always an issue this year. And with Jalen Hurts able to use his legs so well, there will be a tortuous amount of third-down conversions where the Cowboys defense fails to account for Hurts. It will happen over and over and finally break the Cowboys. Eagles 27-Cowboys 24.
I really can’t get a read on this game. Both teams have been playing noticeably better recently, but are either of them really sustainable runs? Philly’s offense is clicking thanks to Jalen Hurts, but their pass rush has faded as of late, which is really the only good thing about their defense at the moment. Dallas has been getting efficient drives on offense coupled with opportunistic takeaways on defense, but Hurts doesn’t turn the ball over that often.
With the Cowboys missing Antwaun Woods, Leighton Vander Esch, and Xavier Woods for this game, I can see the Eagles running roughshod on this defense. But the Cowboys should also do plenty of their own damage against a bad Eales defense. This has the makings of a game that will come down to the wire, but I’m going with the team whose quarterback is more talented. And I’m sorry, Andy, but Hurts can do things you just can’t.
Eagles 29, Cowboys 24