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Containing the Enemy: Ezekiel Elliott

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

The Eagles have a crucial matchup this week against their top rival, the Dallas Cowboys. This game is crucial in the potential final standings with the NFC East shaping out the way that it has thus far. The Birds are atop the division at 2-4-1, while Dallas is right behind them at 2-5. This matchup favors Philadelphia heavily because right now Dallas' franchise appears to be a dysfunctional mess -- they are down to their 3rd-string quarterback in their rookie 7th round pick Ben DiNucci. With that being said, there is a strong possibility we will see a heavy workload for Ezekiel Elliot this week. To win this game, the Eagles need to be able to stop Zeke from feasting.

Zeke is the star of this offense, even more so with Dak Prescott being out for the remainder of the season. Through seven games this season, Zeke has 113 rush attempts for 458 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and five rushing touchdowns. In the passing game, Zeke has registered 33 receptions on 44 targets for 210 yards and a touchdown.

It is difficult to determine the Cowboys game plan with their rookie draft pick making his first career start, but Zeke will likely be the main weapon used this week. So far this season Zeke has two games with 22+ rushing attempts, and we can expect to see a 3rd 20+ rush attempts game this week. Aside from rushing, there is a chance DiNucci will try to get rid of the ball quickly, which could lead to screens and short dump-off passes to Zeke.

Stopping Zeke will force DiNucci to put up points through the air, which has been a problem for Cowboys quarterbacks since the Prescott injury. Andy Dalton essentially played two full games before his injury, and in that time he only threw one touchdown pass. Dallas will have to change something up this week if they want to stay in this game, and that will likely be the increase in usage of Zeke. Zeke could potentially have 20-25 rushing attempts this week and even lead the team in targets. DiNucci could potentially shock us all and throw down the field the entire game, but I see him being eased into the offense this week rather than trying to perform an air-raid.

The key for the Eagles to win this game is to stop the run along with covering Zeke in the passing game, all while bringing pressure to DiNucci. If the defensive line can put pressure and hits on DiNucci, he won't be able to successfully dump the ball off to Zeke. Jim Schwartz needs to make the rookie uncomfortable and make him try to beat the Birds downfield. Throwing downfield means less Zeke, and less Zeke is how the Eagles will fly over the Cowboys on Sunday night.

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