This is shaping up to be a big week for Cowboys football. After all of the hype around that 49ers game, and then the crushing lows during and after that loss, the team has responded well. They pulled out a close win over the Chargers before heading into the bye week, and then they dominated a sneaky good Rams team this past week.
Both games offered room for positivity in Dallas. The Chargers win wasn’t pretty, but it was a much-needed course correction after a tough loss. The Rams win looked great from every angle, though it’s fair to wonder how much of that was due to the talent disparity between the two teams.
Well, here come the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only is this one of the more heated rivalries in the NFL, both historically and right now, but this is a really good team hosting the Cowboys. And if that wasn’t enough to entice you, this game represents the first of two clashes between the two leading contenders for the NFC East title. This is the biggest game the Cowboys will play since San Francisco, and the performance needs to be very different.
Philadelphia enters this game with a 7-1 record, best in the NFL, but they’ve looked uneven in most of their games. Five games have been decided within a score, and their one loss came against a Jets team that was a touchdown underdog.
Some of the shakiness for the Eagles has come on offense, where Jalen Hurts has slightly regressed from his sharp 2022 season. Only Jimmy Garoppolo has thrown more interceptions this year, and Hurts has declined in touchdown pass rate, yards per attempt, yards per carry, QBR, and EPA/play. He’s still playing well overall, but Hurts hasn’t looked like the human highlight reel he was for most of last year.
The Eagles have also struggled on defense, an area that’s long been a calling card for them. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai inherited a really talented defense. However, he lost both starting linebackers and both starting safeties, and the remaining roster was made up of players well past 30 years old and very young players with limited experience in the NFL.
The result so far has been mixed. Through eight weeks, the Eagles rank 17th in yards per play, 19th in points per game, 25th in third down conversion rate, 26th in red zone touchdown rate, 18th in defensive DVOA, and 17th in EPA/play allowed. They surrendered 31 points in both games against Sam Howell and the Commanders, but limited the explosive Dolphins offense to just 17 points.
This defense hasn’t been terrible, but it certainly hasn’t lived up to the standards of the last few years. And while Hurts is still playing well, he’s not been as efficient as he was last year during the Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl.
Similarly, it’s been a mixed bag for the Cowboys thus far. They’ve looked utterly dominant in four games, sloppy and undisciplined in two of them, and downright bad in one game. The defense has generally been the most consistent part of the team, and special teams has been buoyed by great play from Brandon Aubrey and KaVontae Turpin.
The offense, though, has been the biggest point of contention. Things looked great for Mike McCarthy last week, delivering an offensive gameplan that pretty much checked off every box of things fans were wanting to see coming out of the bye. And at the center of it all was Dak Prescott.
Dak Prescott has been dominant vs the Eagles throughout his career— FOX Sports: NFL (@NFLonFOX) November 1, 2023
Predict his stat line in the Cowboys' matchup with Philly this weekend ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/rApId0YjrG
In his 11 career games against the Eagles, Prescott is 8-3. He’s 3-0 against Nick Sirianni’s Eagles, though only one of those games featured Hurts under center as well. Still, in his career Prescott has completed 67.5% of his passes and is averaging 250 yards per game while throwing 19 touchdowns to just eight interceptions against the Eagles.
Prescott has rarely had much trouble with the Eagles in spite of their general dominance of late. Now, he’s coming off his best game of the year and facing one of the worst defenses the Eagles have fielded in some time. Could this be setting up for another big game from Prescott, or will the spirit of the rivalry see the Eagles kick it up a notch? Time will tell, but the magnitude of this game - for both sides - cannot be overstated.