5 Things to Watch in Eagles – Cowboys
One can make an argument that no game at this stage of the season is a make-or-break game. However, when it comes to the Philadelphia Eagles and their upcoming contest against the Dallas Cowboys, it may be the one that will either keep the Eagles in contention or the one that sends them to another disappointing season and early draft analysis.
At 3-3, the Eagles have a chance to take sole possession of first place in the NFC east, they would also be 3-0 on the division and 4-0 in the conference, with a win, it sets up a real good chance to make a playoff push. Of course, they're home on Sunday against the Cowboys (3-3), that's followed up with a home game against New York (0-6) and then a road contest with the Oakland Raiders (2-4).
The upcoming showdown is perhaps the most difficult game of the three, if the Eagles don't claim a victory in this one, they will sit behind the banged-up Cowboys in the NFC east.
How might it all shake out on Sunday? Here are some things to look for throughout the contest:
1) Pass rush of utmost importance
- To say the Eagles pass rush has struggled would be very kind. Simply put, the Eagles have had a very tough time getting to opposing quarterbacks, their 13 sacks is tied for 24th in the NFL. If the Eagles want to potentially come away with the victory, their pass rushers are going to have to force the issue in Dallas's pocket. Their best chance for this will be Trent Cole and Connor Barwin providing pressure off the edge, and the Cowboys have been much better this season protecting Tony Romo, giving up just 14 sacks this season. Over the past two weeks, the Eagles have done a better job getting pressure, forcing Eli Manning into three intentional grounding calls and bringing down Mike Glennon a pair of times last week .
2) No Ware to find him....
- The Eagles will most likely catch a break this week, with Dallas pass rush extrordiaire DeMarcus Ware, who did travel with the team to Philadelphia but has declared himself a game-time decision. Ware generally gives opposing teams fits, but without him, coupled with the fact the the Dallas line has been extremely beat-up in recent weeks, Philadelphia's starting offensive line could be a big factor in this game. This is undoubtedly the big matchup to watch when the they're are on offense, and if the Eagles can limit the Dallas defensive lines effectiveness, they stand a much better chance at a victory.
3) Keeping the Cowboys one dimensional
- While the Eagles enter the game as the second best team in the NFL in the rushing department, the Cowboys are at the back of the pack, ranked 24th in the league. Injuries have led to Dallas basically abandoning their running game. If they stand a chance in establishing that part of their game, it will need to be rookie Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner that keys the efforts. Randle will make his first career start this week, he did rush 11 times for 17 yards and a touchdown in last Sunday's win over the Redskins. He added two catches for 15 yards. If the Eagles can slow him up early, then it turns to Tony Romo to lead Dallas to the victory as it has for most the year. All in all, their ineffective running game has put a lot of pressure on Romo, who can be brilliant or brutal at times. They are 24th in the league in rushing, Romo is constantly facing pressure in the backfield and because of it, big play threat Dez Bryant has been a big factor in the Cowboys offense thus far. The Eagles will have the chance to keep the Dallas rushing woes going at least, and then try to make the unpredictable Romo beat them.
4) Foles has options
- Nick Foles will be starting his second straight game as Philadelphia's quarterback, and he'll have the top pass catcher in the NFL in the contest. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is tops among all wideouts with 589 yards, only tight end Jimmy Graham has more yards in the league. Without Jackson, Philadelphia's passing offense -- most notably wideout Riley Cooper -- Cooper caught four passes for 120 yards with one touchdown in Sunday's week six win at Tampa. Jackson, Cooper along with tight end Zach Ertz give Foles targets against the Dallas defense that ranks 30th against the pass this season. Ertz is now listed as a co-starter with Brent Celek on the Eagles official depth chart. The second-round rookie played on a season-high 42 snaps against the Bucs and saw six targets.
5) Heightened workload for McCoy?
- Last week, people wondered how the running game would look with Foles at the helm. LeSean McCoy, the leagues top rusher, ran 25 times for 116 yards and caught two passes for 55 yards in Sunday's win at Tampa. With the Cowboys banged up and lacking depth on the defensive line, the Eagles could hand the ball to McCoy a ton today. Coupled with the fact that back-up running back Chris Polk will miss the game, McCoy and Bryce Brown could be busy today. DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Edgar Jones, Ben Bass and more Cowboys defensive line members are all expected to miss the game.
Prediction: Eagles over Cowboys
- It's going to be a tough act for the Eagles to end their eight-game home losing streak by upending a banged-up Cowboys team that is coming off a big win over Washington. The struggles at home for Philadelphia have been well-recorded, with them not having a victory at Lincoln Financial Field since September 30, 2012 against the Giants. It's a hurdle to clear and a very important step for Philadelphia as they try to progress as a young team under Chip Kelly and gain an important step towards the playoffs. It will likely be a close contest that will come down to which quarterback can make a big play and which defense can make a key stop. Most people look at a shootout, and I think that will be the case, but even in a shootout, the defense can make a key stop that helps a team to victory. For today, I think the Eagles can run and pass, while the Cowboys seem to be very one-dimensional and hopefully Billy Davis is aware of that.
The Pick: Eagles 38, Dallas 33