Date & Time: November 1st – 8:20 P.M.
Location: Philadelphia, PA – Lincoln Financial Field
Philadelphia: Alshon Jeffery (OUT), Miles Sanders (OUT), Jack Driscoll (OUT), Cre’Von Leblanc (OUT), Craig James (OUT) – Nate Gerry and Genard Avery have been placed on IR
Dallas: Andy Dalton (DOUBTFUL)
The Philadelphia Eagles come into this game off a comeback victory over the New York Giants. The Cowboys come into this game off an embarrassing 25-3 loss at the hands of the Washington Football Team. This heated rivalry game will be one that is different from most.
The Cowboys look like a team reeling. Media leaks, bad play, injuries, and Tabasco sauce in the eyes of their defensive coordinator during a press conference, is a recipe for disaster and the Cowboys season has been just that: a disaster. Without two improbable comeback victories, this team could very well be 0-7.
For the Eagles, it’s been a bumpy start to the season. Injuries have once again been the achilles heel of this football team, but this week they get some reinforcements back. Let’s get into the preview of the matchup for the Eagles.
I don’t think any game in professional sports can be classified as “easy” however, if there ever was one, for the Philadelphia Eagles offense, this is it. The Dallas defense is the 32nd ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys defensive unit ranks last against the run and 18th against the pass. Simply put, this is not a good defensive unit.
For the Eagles offense, this is a game where they need to get off to a fast start. The expected returns of Dallas Goedert and rookie, Jalen Reagor should allow them to do so. In this game, there needs to be manufactured touches for Reagor. He should be used all over the offensive formation, in order to get the undisciplined Dallas defense thinking. Reagor will draw either Jourdan Lewis or possible a returning Chidobe Awuzie, who Dallas Head Coach, Mike McCarthy expects to play.
Along the offensive line, the Eagles also get a boost. Jason Peters is expected to be back in starting lineup on Sunday night. Jordan Mialata has filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle, but Peters is back. The only question is, where will he (Mialata) lineup?
Signs point toward Lane Johnson being able to suit up. Of course, Johnson will line up at his usual right tackle spot but, the questions come in when you factor in the fact that Johnson has been in and out of the line up all season as he deals with a lingering ankle injury. Jordan Mialata has filled in for Jason Peters at left tackle, but Peters is back.
The return of Peters may leave Mialata as the odd-man out. Doug Pederson may want to have Mialata on standby in-case Johnson or Peters goes down during the game. That’s understandable when you look at the Eagles other options at tackle: Brett Toth and Matt Pryor (assuming Pryor doesn’t start at guard).
Whoever starts at both tackle positions will have their hands full. DE DeMarcus Lawrence can wreck games. Lawrence can line up on either side of the defensive formation. Of course, this season, like the entire Cowboys roster, he’s struggled to get going. Lawrence has just 2 sacks and 6 pressures on the season. For comparison, Brandon Graham has 6 sacks and 14 pressures on the season. The Eagles cannot afford to let this be the game where the two-time Pro-Bowler turns it around.
Elsewhere for the Eagles offense, Carson Wentz’s play has greatly improved over the last few weeks. Since week 4, Wentz has 7 touchdowns, just 4 interceptions, an 83.2 QB rating and has thrown for over 1000 yards. Wentz’s Pro Football Focus grade has also risen from 31st through the first 3 weeks to 9th from week 4 to now. The Dallas secondary has the 4th fewest passes defensed in the league and they are tied for last in the league in interceptions with 1.
A big reason for Wentz’s emergence over the last few weeks: competence at the wide receiver position. Of course I’m talking about Travis Fulgham, who last week, once again delivered a stellar performance as the Eagles number one wideout with 5 catches for 73 yards. The Eagles continued to move Fulgham all over the formation and whether he’s been in the slot, at X or at Z, Fulgham has been effective. Fulgham will likely draw Trevon Diggs in coverage. Fulgham has a 2 inch height advantage and a 7 inch wingspan advantage on Diggs.
But the biggest area where the Eagles can take over this game, is on the ground. As stated, the Cowboys are dead last in rushing defense, giving up a league worst 178.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per carry. Without Miles Sanders, Boston Scott should have a day against this run defense. Before last week Washington running back, Antonio Gibson had a career high of 55 rushing yards and a yards per carry high of 5.44 yards. Against Dallas, Gibson had 128 yards on 6.4 ypc. Boston Scott should feast on this defense.
For the Eagles defense, they are facing an offense that is without its starting QB, backup QB, starting left tackle and starting right tackle. 7th round rookie, Ben DiNucci will be under center for Dallas and this Eagles defense should tee off on him.
Jim Schwartz has a 5-1-1 record against rookie QBs since joining the Philadelphia Eagles staff as defensive coordinator. Schwartz doesn’t blitz often but he does turn up the heat against inexperienced QBs. An example of this can be seen in the Eagles 2019 matchup with the New York Jets, in which the Eagles blitzed Luke Falk, who was making his 2nd career start, on over 50% of his snaps.
The defense will be without Nate Gerry, but the unit will get T.J. Edwards back this week. Edwards’ return will be huge in the run game as the Cowboys will likely lean on Ezekiel Elliott to generate offense. Alex Singleton’s play has improved greatly since he was inserted into the starting lineup against the Baltimore Ravens. Singleton is playing more instinctually and with more confidence. Singleton has graded out with a 71.7 grade via PFF, which is the highest among Eagles linebackers. The weakside linebacker spot will be decided between Duke Riley and Shaun Bradley.
As for the secondary, Darius Slay will likely draw Amari Cooper, Avonte Maddox will either draw rookie CeeDee Lamb or Michael Gallup and Jim Schwartz has confidence in his 3rd year corner.
“He’s our starting corner outside when he is healthy,” Schwartz told reporters on Tuesday.
The 5’9 Maddox will be tasked with covering either the 6’2 Lamb or the 6’1 Gallup. Nickell Robey-Coleman, who is 5’8, will take whichever receiver that isn’t lined up outside. If the Eagles defensive line can’t get to Ben DiNucci, it could be tough game for corners not named Slay.
The Eagles defensive tackle rotation will also get some help back, in the form of Malik Jackson, who missed last week The trio of Fletcher Cox, Malik Jackson, and Javon Hargrave have combined for 21 pressures and 10 QB hurries. Dallas will get back center, Joe Looney and guard Zach Martin this week.
Elsewhere, on the Cowboys offensive line, they are struggling. Starting LG Connor Williams has allowed a sack and has graded out with a 64.4 mark according to PFF. Starting LT Cameron Erving has a 61.8 PFF grade, and Terence Steele has allowed 4 sacks and has even been benched in this season. This should be a big Brandon Graham game.
The Eagles defense should make it a point to eliminate the run early on and make the Cowboys offense one dimensional, which will place the ball in DiNucci’s hands. That is where the Eagles can tee off on the Cowboys 7th rounder.
For Doug Pederson, he has to attack the Cowboys weaknesses defensively. Those being, downfield passing, running the ball, and making their linebackers think. We should see a lot of Hurts packages in this game. Another area where Pederson can make life easier for his offense: rolling Carson Wentz out. With the uncertainty of the two tackles spots and the talent the Cowboys have at defensive end, rolling Wentz out and buying him time should be a staple for Pederson in this game.
Another key for Pederson is to start fast and bury the Cowboys early on. This is a team that scored just 3 points a week ago. Score early and often, meaning call plays that go downfield for the Eagles offense. For Jim Schwartz, the key is to keep pressure coming on DiNucci all night long and don’t let Zeke Elliott get off. And even if you don’t want to blitz DiNucci, crowd the box to take away the run and make him beat you with his arm.
As for Mike McCarthy, he should hope this Cowboys team at least puts up a fight, something they didn’t do last week. And with a rookie 7th round pick at QB, the task is even harder.
Judging off the last few weeks, the Cowboys may get obliterated in this one. All the momentum is in the Eagles corner. They’re getting healthy and figuring things out. The most important position in the sport is the quarterback. The Cowboys QB is a 7th round rookie from James Madison named BEN DINUCCI. Things may get ugly if Dallas can’t run the ball.
Bold Prediction: Jalen Hurts throws and runs for a touchdown
Pick: Eagles 28, Cowboys 14
Stats via Pro Football Reference