Inquirer beat writers’ predictions for Week 16 Eagles-Cowboys game
Can the Eagles keep their heads above water in the NFC East playoff push with a win against the Cowboys? The beat writers are split.
I’m not going to get too deep here. This is a defense Jalen Hurts should be able to put points up on, that Miles Sanders and Hurts certainly should be able to run on; Cowboys opponents are averaging 161.8 yards rushing per game. Offensively, Dallas is much better than it was when Ben DiNucci was quarterbacking in the previous meeting, but the Eagles’ defense, with Darius Slay back, should be able to compete. In particular, the Eagles should be able to add to their total of 44 sacks, chasing 33-year-old Andy Dalton.
Overall, I like the way the Eagles are playing for Doug Pederson as this disappointing season winds down. Don’t quite have the same feel about Dallas and Mike McCarthy, despite wins the past two weeks over the Bengals and the 49ers.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Cowboys 24
The Eagles have been playing better football since Jalen Hurts took over at quarterback, but so, too, have the Cowboys over the last two weeks. Dallas didn’t exactly beat titans in victories over the Bengals and 49ers, but its offense has played with function now that Andy Dalton is back under center.
The Cowboys defense is still pretty dreadful, and I’d imagine Hurts and Miles Sanders will be able to pile up some yards on the ground. But I think the Eagles secondary will be prime pickings for Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and the other Dallas receivers, even with cornerback Darius Slay back from a concussion.
I see a shootout, one that could go either way, but with the experienced Dalton providing the edge down the stretch.
Prediction: Cowboys 31, Eagles 30
The Cowboys have won 2 in a row and 3 of their last 5. Sunday’s game won’t be played in an empty stadium. The House That Jerry Built will have 30,000 very boisterous, socially-undistanced Cowboys fans in it. And the Eagles haven’t swept a season series against Dallas since the year of our Lord 2011.
Those are 3 pretty good reasons to pick the Cowboys to win Sunday. But I don’t think they will.
I think the Eagles are going to win this game.
Why? Well, let’s start with the Cowboys’ run defense. It’s the worst in the league. They’re giving up 161.8 yards per game on the ground. They’ve been gashed for more than 200 yards 4 times. And they’ve struggled against running quarterbacks. If Jalen Hurts and Miles Sanders don’t have a combined 38 rushing attempts, something is wrong.
I’m a little concerned that right tackle Matt Pryor, who is going to be dealing with DeMarcus Lawrence most of the game, is going to get Hurts, well, hurt. But Doug Pederson and his cast-of-thousands offensive staff should be able to come up with a way of giving Pryor some help.
The defense finally seems to be getting the hang of the whole turnover thing. They’ve forced 5 takeaways in the last 2 weeks. And like the Morton’s Salt girl says, when it rains it pours. Getting cornerback Darius Slay back also gives the secondary a shot in the arm.
Andy Dalton will be starting at quarterback for the Cowboys Sunday, not Ben DiNucci. So there’s that. He hasn’t thrown an interception in the last 2 games. But his offensive line is going to be hard-pressed to protect him from the Eagles’ pass-rush.
It’s going to be close. It might even come down to a field goal. But as long as it isn’t under 30 yards, I think Jake Elliott will make it.
Prediction: Eagles 30, Cowboys 27
This will be the easiest defense Hurts has gone up against in his short stint at the Eagles’ starting quarterback. Other than the obvious possibility that he could be in for a regression because of his unsustainable success making plays in desperation situations like third-and-long and fourth-and-impossible situations, there’s no reason to go into this game expecting Hurts to continue making progress.
The Cowboys haven’t fared well against mobile quarterbacks this season. They gave up 94 yards and a rushing touchdown to Lamar Jackson in Week 13 and gave up 74 rushing yards to Kyler Murray earlier this season. Hurts should be able to impact the game both as a runner and a passer.
This offense is much better than the one the Eagles saw in Week 8, and there’s a good chance the Eagles’ defense gives up more than the nine points it surrendered last time. Andy Dalton, now back under center after missing the team’s first meeting, hasn’t been turnover prone in the last two games and might continue to protect the ball, but the Eagles’ defense should be up for the task of containing the Dallas offense.
Weird stuff happens, especially in division games, but I think the Eagles are the better team and they have plenty to play for unless Washington gets out to an early lead against the Panthers.
Prediction: Eagles 27, Cowboys 21