After back-to-back games on the road against two playoff-caliber teams, the Dallas Cowboys finally get to return home to play the first of two games against their division rival, the Philadelphia Eagles. The outcome of this matchup carries a little more weight considering it’s a battle for the NFC East, and as such, heightens the importance of the outcome.
For the Cowboys to win this matchup they must do their best to exploit any, and every, weakness the Eagles have. As with any game it’s always a chess match, however, the familiarity these two organizations have with one another makes game-planning for both teams all the more interesting. Whichever team best exploits the other will likely leave with the victory.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the key matchups to watch in Week 3 in the battle for the NFC East.
Jalen Hurts vs. Cowboys’ defense
The Cowboys defense will be getting Randy Gregory back for Monday Night Football, but will be without DeMarcus Lawrence (foot), Dorance Armstrong (ankle), Carlos Watkins (knee), and quite possibly Keanu Neal (COVID). That’s a lot of starters to be without, especially against a dual-threat player like Jalen Hurts. This is a matchup that looks to favor the Eagles QB, who can hurt them through the air or on the ground.
Don’t count the Cowboys defense out just yet though. Despite giving up 419.5 yards-per-game, Dallas is ninth in league in red zone defense. They have held their opponents to two touchdowns on four-of-nine red zone possessions, a TD rate of 44.4%. And surprisingly enough, they also lead the league in takeaways with six. If they can remain true to form, Hurts can pretty much do as he displeases as long as he’s kept out of the end zone.
Micah Parsons vs. Eagles offense
Again, with both DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong out of action in this Week 2 matchup the Cowboys find themselves really thin at the defensive end position. Things become even more complicated if Keanu Neal misses as well. Depth becomes a problem at two positions, which puts even more pressure on Micah Parsons to step up once again, whether it’s at defensive end or linebacker.
With a dual-threat QB like Jalen Hurts, designating a LB to spy on him wouldn’t be a terrible idea. The ideal player for that role would be No. 11, but he may be asked to play more DE again because of the depth issues. The next best option would probably be Keanu Neal, but he may not be available either. That puts Dan Quinn in a bit of a bind as to how to best use Parsons’ versatility. LB on early downs to DE on passing ones would be my guess.
Osa Odighizuwa vs. Landon Dickerson
The Cowboys aren’t the only one dealing with injuries. The Eagles starting right guard Brandon Brooks will miss this matchup with a pectoral strain, which is a pretty big blow to Philadelphia’s offensive line. Their rookie second-round pick Landon Dickerson was inserted into the starting lineup during the game last week and is expected to make his first start at RG Monday night against the Cowboys. Lining up opposite him, Dallas’ rookie DT.
Osa Odighizuwa has been a pleasant surprise this season and one of the few defensive lineman making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage for the Cowboys. Whether it’s in the running or passing game, Odighizuwa absolutely needs to make his presence felt. This is a rookie against rookie battle the Cowboys may need to win, because to the victor could go the spoils. Because of that, No. 97 is someone to watch closely this week.
Trevon Diggs vs. DeVonta Smith
The Cowboys second-year cornerback is off to a hot start. He has back-to-back games with an interception and is looking to make it three in a row this week against the Eagles. In order to accomplish that feat, he’s probably going to have to get the better of his former Alabama Crimson Tide teammate DeVonta Smith, who he may or may not be traveling with in this Week 3 matchup.
This is the ultimate chess piece matchup. These two players are very familiar with one another dating back to their days at Alabama and because of that should know the strengths and weaknesses of one another. The former Heisman winner has game-changing ability, so Diggs has to be on top of his game at all times. This is the first chance we’ll get to see what should be a long-time grudge match between two really talented players.
Amari Cooper vs. Darius Slay
The best against the best is the kind of matchups that makes this game so exciting. Darius Slay was brought to Philadelphia to help neutralize Dallas’ talented pass catchers and he might have a slight edge heading into this contest. Sadly, Amari Cooper (ribs) isn’t at 100%. There’s no way of knowing how productive he may or may not be in Week 3 because of that, and with Michael Gallup already out, it creates a pretty big concern.
As gloomy as all of that sounds, there is a glimmer of hope as far as Amari Cooper’s production is concerned. In seven career games against the Eagles, all with the Cowboys, No. 19 has accumulated 33 receptions for 614 yards (18.6 avg.) and four touchdowns. Even at a less than 100% Cooper has proven he can still be productive, even against a talented player like Darius Slay. Fingers crossed he can do it again.
We ran a Madden simulation on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel to see how the game thinks this contest is going to go.
Watch it below and make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos!