Week 8 Matchup: Eagles vs. Cowboys
What an interesting time in the NFC East. The worst team in the NFC West is 4-3, the best team in the NFC East (which are the Eagles) currently sits at 2-4-1. The Birds are coming off a win by the skin of their teeth against the New York Giants, but I guess instead of “Hungry Dogs Run Faster” this season's slogan will be “A Win is a Win”. This week isn’t any normal football week in Philadelphia -- it’s Dallas Week. No matter how badly both teams could be, the rivalry tends to hype both sides up each year. These two teams were coming into the season with Super Bowl aspirations, but that has pretty much gone away and the division has become a joke in the NFL. The Eagles have been bad (there I said it), but the Dallas Cowboys have been playing much worse, and will be without their starting quarterback the rest of the season.
The Cowboys were coming into the season as an actual threat to the division. But like the Eagles, they have been stricken with a bunch of injuries, and unfortunately for them, two of their quarterbacks are on that list. Dak Prescott suffered a brutal ankle injury to the Giants back in early October, and Andy Dalton took a cheap hit last week which resulted in a concussion. With both of them out for Sunday's game, the Cowboys have to rely on 7th-round rookie quarterback Ben DiNucci. His limited performance actually wasn't too bad in their loss against Washington (minus a bad pass on his first play). DiNucci ended his debut 2-for-3 for 39 passing yards while being sacked three times.
One player Dallas uses heavily on offense is wide receiver Amari Cooper. The Eagles have had trouble with preventing Amari Cooper from embarrassing their defense in the past. In four games against the Eagles as a Cowboy, Cooper has amassed 25 catches for 422 yards and three touchdowns. They have other weapons in the passing game as well with CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Lamb operates in the slot while Gallup is the other outside receiver spot opposite Cooper. So far this season Gallup has recorded 19 catches for 371 yards (19.5 YPC) and one touchdown, while Lamb has 36 catches for 497 yards (13.8 YPC) and two touchdowns.
Ezekiel Elliott always seems to bring his "A-game" against the Eagles. He seems to be their good luck charm since the Cowboys are 5-1 against the Birds when he is in the lineup. So far in his career against the Eagles, Elliott has averaged 103.5 rushing yards per game. He’s in a bit of a slump of late, as has only rushed for 94 yards on 24 carries in their last two games and has fumbled the ball five times. The Eagles might be catching him at the perfect time to continue to limit his productivity.
The Eagles are coming off a close win, and they have benefited with an extra couple of days of rest heading into this game. Let’s start with breaking down the defense.
With Ben DiNucci more than likely starting for Dallas, the defense should feel pretty confident heading into this game. They are tied for third in total team sacks, and Brandon Graham is establishing himself as one of the league's premier edge rushers. The team has also done a great job in stopping opposing running backs by holding them to 3.3 yards per carry. Even with those positives in their pocket, they have still managed to give up a ton of big plays on the ground to quarterbacks, tight ends, and wide receivers. The Eagles might catch a break this Sunday night though because the Cowboys do not use a lot of those misdirection type plays the Eagles have seen all season against their opponents.
As previously mentioned, since his arrival in Dallas Amari Cooper has been dominant in his matchups against Philadelphia. But unlike those previous years, the Eagles now have a great cornerback in Darius Slay. Slay will likely be tasked with shadowing Cooper on Sunday night in hopes of shutting him down. In their previous matchup when Slay was in Detroit, Cooper had been targeted six times against Slay and caught only two of those ball for just 33 yards.
Switching over to the offensive side of the ball, if Doug Pederson is reading this I'd tell him to rely on their run game against Dallas. They have not been able to stop the run all season long and currently have the worst-ranked rush defense in the NFL. Even with Miles Sanders likely out, they should still give Boston Scott, Corey Clement, or Jason Huntley a chance to take off down the field.
Carson Wentz struggled a lot early on in the season, but he has been able to find his rhythm in the past few weeks. He was able to carry the team to a comeback win last week and looks to carry that momentum in a matchup against a UDFA QB starting in his first game. Wentz finished the game with 359 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, one interception, and three sacks taken.
The Eagles are going to see a lot of their star players return and one of which is the rookie receiver, Jalen Reagor. He had shown some promise before his injury, and will once again be a great addition to their offensive depth. Perhaps this means the team can return to their originally designed playbooks even with their top-two tight ends still out. In the absence of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers has been able to produce just fine and should continue to produce on Sunday night.
Tune in and find out Sunday night at 8:20. Remember, there are three things in life that are certain: Death, Taxes, and Dallas Sucks.