Another week, another MUST-WIN game for the Eagles. The Birds will be flying into Dallas with the momentum of two straight wins on their wings. In inarguably their biggest game of the season, the Eagles can be tied for first place in the NFC East if they are able to defeat the red-hot Cowboys on the road. In Week 10, the Cowboys came into Lincoln Financial Field and handed the Eagles a shocking upset loss. Not only were the Eagles favorited by 7 points in that game, many in the sports world were predicting a blowout win for the Birds. The Eagles had just acquired WR Golden Tate from Detroit, were coming off of a bye week, and were riding the momentum of a big-win in London against the Jaguars. However, the Cowboys were by far the better football team that night, and won the game 27-20. This time around, the Eagles will look to be the underdog victor’s as they head into AT&T Stadium with the Cowboys as -3.5 point favorites. Let’s take an in-depth look at the matchup and my 5 things to watch for heading into Week 14.
In The Air:
Eagles: I said it last time around, and I’ll say it again now, the Dallas Cowboys defense is NO JOKE. The Eagles will bring their 12th ranked passing attack, averaging 257.5 yards per game through the air, into Dallas to face the Cowboys 7th ranked passing defense, who give up an average of 226.9 passing yards per game. In Week 10’s loss, Carson Wentz and the Eagles passing attack racked up 360 yards and 2 TD’s, including an absolutely monstrous game by Zach Ertz. Ertz caught 14 passes for 145 yards and both of Wentz’s touchdowns that game. Unfortunately, Wentz threw a pretty bad interception right over the middle to Leighton Vander-Esch in the first quarter and it took the Eagles until the second half to get momentum back rolling which by then was too late. The Eagles can’t afford to make ANY mistakes this time around if they want to win this game.
Cowboys: Dak Prescott and the Cowboys 27th ranked passing offense average just 200.3 yards per game. This is the type of matchup the even the injury plagued Eagles secondary should be expected to handle. The Eagles passing defense is ranked near the bottom at 26th in the NFL, giving up an average of 264.3 yards per game through the air. The Eagles secondary may have their hands full in dealing with Cowboys WR Amari Cooper this week, whose been on fire as of late. In his last 2 games, Cooper went for 180 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Redskins, and 76 yards against New Orleans.
On The Ground:
Eagles: Although the Eagles seem to have finally committed to the run game as of late after the emergence of rookie RB Josh Adams, the Birds still rank near the bottom at 23rd in the NFL with an average of 103.2 yards per game gained on the ground. However, we’ll see just how committed to the run the coaching staff is this week as they are slated to go against the incredible Dallas rush defense. The Cowboys have the 4th ranked rush defense in the NFL, and give up an average of just 91.2 yards per game. It will be very interesting to see how/if the Eagles will stray away from the run game and run a pass-heavy offense this week.
Cowboys: Newsflash, Ezekiel Elliott is VERY good at football. As Eagles fans, we should all know that after the molly-whopping he handed us in Week 10. Last time around, Elliott rushed for 151 yards and a touchdown on just 19 carries. He also had another 36 yards and a touchdown in the passing game. All in all, Zeke gave the Eagles 187 scrimmage yards and 2 touchdowns in their last meeting. Obviously, they can’t allow that to happen again. The Eagles and their 10th ranked rush defense, who give up an average of 103.7 yards per game on the ground, will need to find a way to contain Elliott and the Cowboys’ 6th ranked rushing offense, who average 131.5 yards per game.
5 Things To Watch For:
1.) Have The Eagles finally found life in the offense? :The Eagles set season highs with 436 total yards and 28 first downs against the Redskins. Carson Wentz completed 27 out of 39 of his passes for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns. However, he also made a good amount of mistakes. Besides the obvious interception in the red zone, he also had instances in which he missed a wide open receiver, missed an easy check-down, or the could-have-been touchdown to Agholor in which the ball was just a bit too low. However, over the last two weeks we’ve seen a commitment by the coaching staff to the run game and the Eagles have thrived off of it. Let’s hope Carson can clean up on his mistakes, and that the run game can continue to roll.
2) Has Golden Tate finally arrived? :Golden Tate had the best game of his Eagles career on Monday and was key in the Birds victory. He caught all seven of his targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on an impromptu extended play route in which Wentz rolled out to the right after his first reads weren’t there, and Tate followed and was able to get himself open in the corner of the end zone. Tate also caught a huge 2-point conversion attempt that helped put the game away. This is what we have been waiting for from Tate. Let’s hope the Eagles can continue to utilize him.
3.) Can the Eagles run defense contain Ezekiel Elliott?As I mentioned in the “On The Ground” portion of this article, Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys ran wild over the Eagles the last time they met. The Eagles can’t allow him to get hot again this time around and must put the ball in Dak Prescott’s hands. Last week, the Eagles run defense came to play. Besides a busted play in which Adrian Peterson was able to run for a 90-yard touchdown, the Eagles defense held AP to just 8 yards for the rest of the game. Jim Schwartz, who is considered by some to be on the hot seat, will need to find a way to stop or at least contain Zeke if the Eagles want to win this game.
4.) Can Zach Ertz continue his historic pace? If you haven’t read my piece on the historic season Zach Ertz is having, click here to read it.
In Week 10, Ertz caught 14 passes for 145 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Cowboys. Another performance like that would be extremely beneficial to the Eagles. Going forward, Ertz will need just 18 receptions in the remaining 4 games to break former Cowboys TE Jason Witten’s NFL record for receptions by a tight end in a season. Ertz is also on pace for 125 receptions on the season, which would rank him in an absolutely monumental category. If he can achieve this, it would be the 5th most receptions in a season of all time. This would put him among the names of current/future hall of famers such as Marvin Harrison, Antonio Brown, and Julio Jones.
5.) Will Alshon Jeffery finally break out of his slump?: WR Alshon Jeffery is not putting up the type of numbers we were used to seeing out of him last year. Is he not being implemented into the game-plan? Are defenses figuring out how to neutralize him? When asked about his lack of production before the Redskins game, Jeffery said the following:
In Monday’s game, Jeffery had 3 receptions for 31 yards. In his last 5 games, he is averaging just 37.2 yards per game. If the Eagles want to make a legitimate run for the playoffs, they will need to figure out a way to get the #1 WR to produce at the rate we saw last season.
Prediction: The Eagles will have their most nail-biting game of the season. I expect Ezekiel Elliott to have his standard 85-100 yards on the ground, 30 or so receiving yards, and a few touchdowns. I think the Cowboys will start out strong and gain a sizable lead on the Eagles. However, I am confident that the Eagles will show up big-time for this game. After the jitters start to ease, the Eagles will play some of their best football of the season, and will beat the Cowboys by the skin of their teeth late in the game. I think Alshon Jeffery will be able to produce a 7-8 receptions, 75ish yards game, Zach Ertz will have his usual great game, and that the Eagles will stay persistent with the run game and be able to move the ball, put together long drives, and take time off of the clock. Wentz will have an average game but will bring home the W. Final Score: Eagles 24, Cowboys 23.