It’s finally here. The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles are going after each other this week in a crucial divisional game. A big road win could position the Cowboys to take the division lead if they also win the following week against the New York Giants. A loss, and we’re once again doubting just how far this team can go. What should we expect in this one? Here are five things to be mindful of when the Cowboys take on Philly.
PHILLY’S PASS DEFENSE IS SUSCEPTIBLE
The Eagles have a good defense on paper. They landed some sneaky steals in the draft with all the Georgia guys in Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Nolan Smith, and Nakobe Dean. They have some big-name free agent/trade guys in the secondary like Darius Slay, James Bradberry, and now Kevin Byard. But on the field, they aren’t as stout. They rank 19th in points allowed. And while they are tough to run against, they are vulnerable against the pass. They just gave up 388 yards in the air to a Sam Howell-led Washington team. In comparison, the Cowboys' defense hasn’t allowed a team to have that many receiving yards in five years. Even the 2020 Mike Nolan defense never had a week that bad. The Cowboys need to attack the Eagles secondary. That means skipping the dead runs and full-throttle that passing attack.
A DEFINING GAME FOR DAK
For the passing game to work, it means they need another strong game from Dak Prescott. He looked sharp last week, but can he do it again? We’ve been listening to the media outlets lift up Jalen Hurts while they criticize Prescott, so this would be a great opportunity to quiet the critics. Last year, these two quarterbacks didn’t face each other as they each missed a game, and this is the first time that they’ll meet up with both of them being good. Which one of these guys will step up and perform in this big divisional game?
GOTTA BE MONEY ON THE MONEY DOWN
The Eagles' offense is the best in the league on third down with a 50% success rate. The Cowboys are third-best at 48%. Both teams are good on third down. The Cowboys' defense is ranked seventh on third down, whereas the Eagles defense is only 25th. Which one of these teams will have the most success getting off the field? The Cowboys offense needs to stay out of third and long and the defense needs to stay out of third and short because of the brotherly shove. Early down success will be important, but so will making clutch plays on these money downs.
LET’S WRAP THIS THING UP
To keep the Eagles from moving the chains, the Cowboys' defense is going to have to do a good job tackling. The Eagles have big playmakers like A.J. Brown, but they also have a slew of guys who get the short stuff like Kenneth Gainwell or Dallas Goedert. Whether it’s D’Andre Swift in the backfield, DeVonta Smith down the sideline, and even Julio Jones down by the schoolyard. The weapons are plentiful. While none of them make you shake in your boots, they’re effective. The Eagles will look for weaknesses and test them often. The Cowboys’ defense will need to be ready and win their single-coverage matchups and bring their A-game when tackling.
HOW GOOD IS THIS DALLAS TEAM?
Some weeks the Cowboys play remarkably well, others they look dreadful. Which version will we see on Sunday? It’s really hard to predict as neither would surprise us. Going into a hostile Lincoln Financial Field and delivering a stellar performance would certainly have a different feel than another letdown against an NFC powerhouse. This is another litmus test for this Cowboys team and what they put out there on display will go a long way in setting expectations for how things might play out down the stretch.