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Position battleground (offense): Cowboys vs. Eagles head-to-head breakdown

Sunday is going to tell us a lot about the top of the NFC East.

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Here it is Cowboys Nation, one of the biggest games of the season. This weekend the Dallas Cowboys face divisional rival, and current NFC East leaders, the Philadelphia Eagles. Whichever team wins this one will set the tone for the rest of the season in the NFC East and be a major factor in which team is crowned NFC East champion at the end of year. Let’s look at both teams offenses and find out which side is best based on each position.

QUARTERBACK
Dak Prescott
vs.
Jalen Hurts

The most valuable player race heats up this week with odd-makers putting Dak Prescott, Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy all on a pedestal as the top runners for the award. This weekend will help separate two of those players as Prescott and Hurts square up in AT&T Stadium, with the victor staking a higher claim for the award. The good news going in Dak’s favor is the fact the Cowboys have not lost a game at home to the Philadelphia Eagles since 2017. Dak truly is on form currently and last weeks game against the Seattle Seahawks only proved again how dialed in with the offense he is. In years past, this Cowboys offense would have struggled to come away with that sort of win against Seattle, but this season things look different. The last five weeks have seen Dak lead the league with a 68.9 completion rate, 1,597 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 1 INT and 120.4 passer rating. What’s crazier is in the last five weeks, Dak has made 83 first downs, which leads the league (the second-most is C.J Stroud with 70).

Jalen Hurts left last weeks game momentarily when he took a hard hit on a play. He came back in after being evaluated for a concussion, but he’s definitely taken his knocks this year. As a passer, Hurts is without a doubt less effective than Dak, and last week is a great example of that. He only threw one touchdown and finished the game with with a 57% completion rate. His ten interceptions are fourth-most in the NFL, which is concerning when facing this Cowboys defensive back corps. But even more worrying for Hurts is he’s been sacked 32 times this year, fifth-most in the NFL. Now he’s about to face a Cowboys defense which has created the fifth-most sacks this year, with 38 total sacks.

Conclusion:
The Eagles defense is allowing the third-most passing yards this year and second-most passing touchdowns. The Cowboys defense on the other hand is allowing the fifth-fewest passing yards and registered the third-most interceptions this year. This was a close contest the last time we did this evaluation between these two quarterbacks, but the way things are shaping up now, the tide has turned in Dallas’ favor.
Win: Cowboys

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

RUNNING BACK
Tony Pollard/Rico Dowdle
vs.
D’Andre Swift/Kenneth Gainwell

The Cowboys running game still isn’t perfect, but it’s getting better and has looked more effective than it did at the start of the season. Pollard is on 737 rushing yards this season, which is eighth-most in the league. He’s also scored five rushing touchdowns, which is eighth-most among running backs. The improvement for Pollard the last few weeks has been noticeable and he has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in that time. For the season, Pollard is averaging 4.1 yards per carry which shows his level of improvement. The run game for Dallas is still not completely reliable, but the improved efficiency is a positive takeaway.

When talking about the Eagles running backs, you have to include Hurts in the conversation since he has the most rushing touchdowns on the team (second-most rushing touchdowns in the NFL). His dual-threat abilities is what makes Hurts unique. For the purpose of the position battle though, let’s look at pure running backs. D’Andre Swift ranks fifth in the league in rushing yards and his 4.7 yards per carry is fifth-most among starting running backs. Swift enjoys extra levels of efficiency since opposing defense’s have to account for Hurts. But let’s not disparage Swift’s abilities, he’s a solid running back. His only issue will be the 13 yards he put up against the San Francisco 49ers last week, which had something to do with game script. Keep an eye on Swift on this week’s injury report. He left the game before it ended with an undisclosed injury. If he can’t play then Kenneth Gainwell will take the lead role this week. He scored a touchdown against Dallas during their last meeting.

Conclusion:
The Cowboys defense allowed only 72 rush yards last week but did allow two rushing touchdowns. The Eagles defense allowed 146 yards against the 49ers. Sure context matters and 49ers are a better running team than the Seahawks, but it shows the Eagles defense can beaten on the ground. Looking at both defense’s against the run though for the season, the Eagles are more effective, although in the last three games these two teams are not that far apart.
Win: Eagles

NFL: DEC 03 49ers at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

WIDE RECEIVERS
CeeDee Lamb/Brandin Cooks/Michael Gallup
vs.
A.J. Brown/DeVonta Smith/Quez Watkins

Let’s start with CeeDee Lambs stat line from last week - 17 targets, 12 receptions, 116 yards and a touchdown. That’s insane levels of production. Lamb is third in the league in receptions, second in receiving yards, fifth in receiving touchdowns and second in first downs among this years wide receivers. Last time the Cowboys and Eagles squared up the talk was all on how good A.J. Brown was playing, now the narrative flips to Lamb. One of the major x-factors to the Cowboys offense is Brandin Cooks suddenly finding his role on the team. The first four weeks of the season saw Cooks combine for 73 yards and zero touchdowns. The last four weeks, Cooks has totaled 332 yards and three touchdowns. With his skill set being utilized, he has helped expand the offense and open the rest of the field for the remaining wide receivers.

A.J. Brown is the Eagles biggest threat. He managed to haul in one touchdown against the Cowboys earlier in the season. But even in the big loss against the 49ers last week, Brown managed to stand out. Last week, Brown started the game by going 38 yards off his first reception, the play wound up being his longest of the afternoon for the Eagles. But he’s a big play threat and something the Cowboys needs to account for heavily this week. Staying with last week’s game, DeVonta Smith registered the only receiving touchdown for the Eagles, and came close to a 100-yard game. Smith is a nifty wide receiver that this Cowboys defensive back unit needs to keep under control. His 834 receiving yards is the most among any of the leagues WR2’s, in fact it’s more than 18 teams’ WR1’s.

Conclusion:
Let’s play it this way. Lamb is outscoring Brown, Smith is outscoring Cooks. Both these team’s have very effective weapons at receiver.
Win: Push

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

TIGHT END
Jake Ferguson
vs.
Jack Stoll

Are we calling Jake Ferguson a top-five tight end yet? His tenacity and aggression was on full display last week against Seattle, and he’s shown he’s not a guy to be messed with. Be happy Cowboys fan, it looks like Dallas has found themselves a tight end.

Dallas Goedert is on injured reserve after breaking his forearm the last time Dallas and Philadelphia played each other. In his place, Jack Stoll has taken on the lead role. In the last three weeks he’s made two receptions for 17 yards and has scored zero touchdowns this year.

Conclusion:
Jake Ferguson outscores Stoll in every department, including as a blocker.
Win: Cowboys

Seattle Seahawks v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

OFFENSIVE LINE
The Cowboys offensive line finally gave up a sack after three weeks of staying perfect. In fact, the line let three sacks through against Seattle (Pollard also allowed a sack). Terence Steele led the team in pressures allowed last week, and that was followed by Tyron Smith. They will both have their work cut out again this week as they look to keep Haason Reddick at bay, who leads the Eagles in sacks (9.5), and also slow Josh Sweat down who ranks second on the team in sacks (6.5). The offensive line though should be able to keep this Eagles pass rush back that ranks 13th in total sacks. In the last three weeks, the Eagles pass rush has really slowed down and has the second-fewest sacks in that time.

The Eagles offensive line was once the crown jewel of the team’s offense, but this season has seen its struggles in pass blocking. The offensive line has allowed 32 sacks this year and has allowed 145 pressures, which is ninth-most. Where this line really excels though is in run blocking. The Eagles probably own the best run blocking offensive line in the league, and a lot of the success that Hurts and the running back unit get is in thanks to the blocking up front. And of course there’s the “brotherly shove”.

The Cowboys own the better pass blocking unit, but the Eagles run blocking efficiency far excels what Dallas’ line is doing in the pass game.
Win: Eagles

Poll

Which team has the better offense?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (547 votes)
  • 19%
    Philadelphia Eagles
    (131 votes)
678 votes total Vote Now

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