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Eagles vs. Cowboys prediction: Grab the points with Minshew, Philadelphia

Even with starting QB Hurts out, expect the Eagles to be competitive against inconsistent Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew throws a pass over Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence during last year's regular season finale. Minshew will make his third start for the Eagles on Saturday in Dallas. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew throws a pass over Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence during last year's regular season finale. Minshew will make his third start for the Eagles on Saturday in Dallas. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)Read moreMitchell Leff / Getty Images

Just how much is quarterback Jalen Hurts responsible for the Philadelphia Eagles’ league-best 13-1 record? The team’s players, fans and the entire NFL betting community are about to find out.

Hurts (shoulder sprain) has been ruled out for Saturday’s NFC East showdown at the Dallas Cowboys. That leaves the offense in the hands of backup quarterback Gardner Minshew.

A four-year pro from Washington State, Minshew will be making his 23rd NFL start and first since last year’s regular-season finale against Dallas. That one ended with Philadelphia on the short end of a 56-21 final at home.

However, that was a meaningless game for the Eagles, who had already locked up a playoff spot. This time? Much is on the line, as Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East and wrap up the No. 1 overall seed (and a bye) with a victory.

Can Minshew deliver it? Oddsmakers don’t believe so. We don’t necessarily agree.

Here’s our Eagles vs. Cowboys prediction for the marquee matchup on the NFL’s Christmas Eve schedule.

Odds updated as of 4 p.m. ET on Dec. 22.

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Eagles vs. Cowboys Prediction

  1. Eagles +5 (at Caesars Sportsbook)

Eagles vs. Cowboys Prediction: Analysis

Might as well start with the obvious: The Eagles (13-1, 8-6 ATS) absolutely are going to miss Hurts — just as any team would miss a quarterback who ended last week favored to win the NFL MVP.

Hurts hits the sidelines with 3,472 passing yards, 747 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns (22 passing, 13 rushing), as well as a 104.6 quarterback rating (fourth best in the league).

That kind of production is simply irreplaceable (so, too, is Hurts’ leadership).

Thing is, though, Minshew doesn’t need to be Hurts for Philadelphia to compete with — and potentially defeat — a flawed Cowboys team.

» READ MORE: Data shows Eagles fans like betting at Lincoln Financial Field and around stadium complex

Here’s what we mean by flawed: Two weeks ago, Dallas trailed the still-one-win Houston Texans for most of four quarters and needed a 98-yard drive capped by a touchdown with 41 seconds remaining to escape with a 27-23 victory.

At home. As a 17-point favorite.

Then last week, the Cowboys went to Jacksonville as a 4-point chalk. They took a 27-10 lead with about 20 minutes to play, blew it all and lost 40-34 in overtime when quarterback Dak Prescott’s tipped pass was returned for a touchdown.

And that’s just the last two games. Looking at the entire season, Dallas (10-4, 8-6 ATS) has just four convincing victories over playoff contenders.

The Cowboys swept the Giants 23-16 on the road in Week 3 and 28-20 at home in Week 12; they crushed Washington 25-10 at home in Week 4; and they annihilated the Vikings (speaking of flawed) 40-3 on the road in Week 11.

And by the way, Prescott was on the field for just two of those wins (Minnesota and the second Giants game on Thanksgiving).

So we don’t have any doubt that the Eagles — who defeated the Prescott-less Cowboys 26-17 in Week 5 — can hang in this game.

That faith is mostly rooted in head coach Nick Sirianni, whom we’d wager big money could coach circles around Dallas’ Mike McCarthy — while blindfolded.

» READ MORE: Full sports betting coverage from The Philadelphia Inquirer

We trust Sirianni to devise a game plan that will maximize Minshew’s strengths and take advantage of the Cowboys’ weaknesses.

Speaking specifically to the latter: Dallas struggles big time against the run, allowing 133 ground yards per game (eighth most in the league).

What do the Eagles do exceptionally well? Run the ball. They rank fourth in the NFL at 158.6 rushing yards per game.

Of course, Hurts did a lot of that damage, averaging 53.4 rushing yards per contest. But tailback Miles Sanders is in the midst of his first 1,000-yard rushing season (he’s up to 1,110, to be exact).

Sanders had 71 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Week 5 home win over Dallas. He’ll need to do better than that Saturday for Philadelphia to win, but we’re confident he can.

We’re also confident in Minshew. Yes, he took the ‘L’ against the Cowboys in Week 17 last year. But he wasn’t terrible, completing 19 of 33 passes for 186 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Minshew was even better in his only other start since joining the Eagles prior to last season: A month before the Dallas game, he went 20-for-25 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 33-18 win at the Jets.

Also, Minshew’s career numbers show he’s hardly a slouch. In 30 career games (22 starts), he’s completed 63.2% of his passes for an average of 200 yards with 41 touchdowns and just 12 interceptions.

Yes, his record is just 8-14, but Minshew made 20 of his starts with the then-dreadful Jaguars.

Also, while he’s not exactly as fleet-of-foot as Hurts, Minshew can move. He has 516 career rushing yards and averages 4.8 yards per carry. That mobility will be important against a very good Dallas pass rush.

Bottom line: Hurts is the turbo engine that drives the Eagles’ car. But that car isn’t a ‘78 Pinto. As has been displayed all season, Philadelphia has loads of talent on both sides of the ball.

We expect that talent to show up in a big way in Jerry World, as the Eagles’ players not only raise their game another level for Minshew but prove to the entire league that they’re much more than a one-man band.

So grab the points with Philly at Caesars Sportsbook — and don’t be shocked if you see an outright upset.

Eagles vs. Cowboys Odds: (via Caesars Sportsbook)

  1. Point spread: Eagles (+5) @ Cowboys (-5)

  2. Moneyline: Eagles (+192) @ Cowboys (-235)

  3. Total: 46.5 points

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