This was a game we all were looking toward when the schedule was released. Most prognostications had the NFC East coming down to a contest between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles. That has held true, although having the surprisingly frisky New York Giants forcing their way into the convo was mostly unforeseen. Still, this week’s SNF contest between Dallas and Philly will leave one of them as the division leader.
We discussed a lot of the ideas from this post on the latest episode of Ryled Up on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our shows! Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
If the Cowboys are going to come out on top, they have to come up with some real answers in the game against the undefeated Eagles.
Do they have an answer for Jalen Hurts?
The Philadelphia QB is a dual-threat. He is having a more than respectable year passing, currently ranking seventh in passing yards per game. Dallas would seem to be a good matchup against him with their ferocious pass rush and solid secondary, but the real problem with Hurts is that he is a very mobile quarterback who makes plays with his legs as well as his arm. That has been a real vulnerability for the Cowboys this year, as they let Daniel Jones really hurt them and also let Joe Burrow turn negative plays into positive ones with his mobility. Hurts is a better runner than both of them, and the Eagles are not afraid to use designed run plays to exploit his talent.
Dallas has to have a counter. The logical choice one is Micah Parsons with his speed and vision. Dan Quinn and his defensive staff should be more prepared for Hurts since he is a well known threat with his running and escape ability. But Parsons had to fight through a groin issue against the Los Angeles Rams, and they may have to rely on other defenders to step up. Having Jayron Kearse back on the field should help. We know this defense is going to bring pressure. They must add good containment to slow down the Philly offense.
However, Hurts has not been lighting up the scoreboard with his arm. He has only thrown four touchdown passes so far and has been picked off twice. That last thing is a positive thing for Dallas. They have closed out two wins with late game interceptions, and it would be nice to do that again.
What about the rest of the run defense?
It’s not just Hurts that is a problem in stopping the run against the Eagles. They are fourth overall in running. That is not a good matchup for the Cowboys, who rank in the bottom third of the league stopping the run and have shown some vulnerability in general.
They cannot allow Miles Sanders to gouge them, and that is just what he has been doing to teams this year. Just as Philadelphia is fourth overall running the ball, Sanders is the fourth leading rusher. With Hurts in the backfield, option runs are particularly dangerous. While Micah Parsons is superb, he has been more impactful rushing the passer. Otherwise, the linebacking corps has not done a great job stopping the run. Having Kearse back is hopefully going to help. Still, this has to be a priority as well. And too many priorities is not a great thing.
Can they limit the Eagles’ scoring?
Philadelphia is fifth in the league in points. Given how hard it has been for the Cowboys to score this year, that is a concern.
However, the Eagles have an odd pattern in their scoring. 91 of their 135 points this season have come in the second quarter. They start slow and then are quiet in the second half. If Dallas can slow things down leading up to halftime, their defense could keep things well in hand.
A key to this will be limiting the big plays. Against the Rams, they really only allowed two plays to hurt them, the two long passes they gave up on back-to-back scoring drives. Those were the only points for L.A. all game. Keep those under control and the chances of a win go up significantly. Teams have had a very hard time sustaining long drives against this defense, and as we see, the Eagles have only done that consistently in the second period.
Meanwhile, can the Cowboys put more points up?
Early reports do not offer much hope that Dak Prescott is going to be ready for this game. That puts the onus on Cooper Rush once more. Against all odds he has led the team to four consecutive wins. There is no question that he is being carried by the highly effective effort of the defense. That may not be enough this week as the Eagles look to be the best offense Dallas has faced, by a good margin.
Kellen Moore has to find a way to get more out of the offense with Rush. The Eagles have also been good defensively, ranking tenth in yards surrendered to the run and fifth versus the pass. The argument that they haven’t played very good offenses just shows that they are going to make it hard for the struggling Cowboys to move the ball. Not only is it a challenge for Rush, it is not going to be easy to get Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on track.
One thing that really needs to improve for Dallas is the number of receivers involved. Last game, only the three starting wide receivers caught any passes. With Dalton Schultz hobbled, tight end was a nonfactor, and obviously Elliott and Pollard were not involved in the passing game outside of the former’s efforts protecting the quarterback.
Another element of this is that the Cowboys must protect the ball. The Eagles are tied for the league lead in takeaways with eleven. At first glance, Dallas seems to be in good shape since Rush has not turned the ball over since becoming the starter. That is deceptive, however, since two interceptions were wiped out by penalties against the Washington Commanders and he was saved on two fumbles against the Rams by his teammates getting on top of the ball. This is a dangerous matchup for them.
So far, the Cowboys have done more than just tread water the way we feared they would. The win streak is impressive under the conditions. This is the biggest challenge they have faced since the first week, and it isn’t really close. They have to find answers for these questions, or they will be looking at an Eagles team that has a two game cushion and not much in the way of worrisome games ahead of them.