Eagles-Cowboys: Our beat writers' predictions for Sunday’s NFC East showdown
The Eagles are underdogs as they head to Dallas this weekend. Will they beat the 'Boys and keep their playoff hopes alive?
Wrestled with this one. Dallas has developed into a good team. Strong, sound defense, Amari Cooper turned a one-trick offense into something more formidable.
But, Jason Garrett.
And I still think that, even with Cooper added, if you control Ezekiel Elliott, make Dak Prescott beat you, you don’t give up that many points. Also, the Eagles have won four of their last five at AT&T, six of eight. No idea why. And the team that won the first meeting of the season has lost the second meeting every year since 2012.
Maybe Darren Sproles makes a big play?
The Eagles are underdogs here on merit. There is a limit to how good the defense is ever going to be this season, without Rodney McLeod, Ronald Darby and Derek Barnett. That’s the reality.
The offense is improving, still hasn’t taken it to the next level.
But what the heck, leap of faith. Or leap of foolishness.
Prediction: Eagles 25, Cowboys 23.
There’s no reason the Eagles can’t go down to Texas and beat the Cowboys Sunday. I just don’t think they will.
The Eagles keep saying the problems with their run defense are fixable. That it’s just a matter of tackling better and staying in their gaps.
But they own the fourth worst opponent rush average – 5.0 yards per carry – in the league. In the last seven games, they’ve allowed a league-worst 6.95 yards per carry on first down.
Now, they’re about to go on the road and try to stop a guy who carved them up for 151 rushing yards a month ago. Fixable? I’m skeptical.
I was one of the people that thought Jerry Jones was nuts for giving up a first-round pick for Amari Cooper. But both Dak Prescott’s passer rating and the Cowboys’ third-down success rate have skyrocketed in the five games he’s been with the team.
The Eagles are going to need to force some turnovers Sunday, which they have been incapable of doing this season. They’re going to have to score in the 30s, which they’ve done once all season.
I just don’t see that happening. But then I’ve seldom been right about this team this season, whether it’s been picking them to win or lose.
Prediction: Cowboys 30, Eagles 24
Four weeks after the first meeting, the Eagles and Cowboys face off again in Texas.
The roles have reversed.
The Eagles are coming off a short week and trying to save their season, while the Cowboys are playing with an extra few days rest and some momentum after winning four straight. Dallas has jumped into the NFC East lead largely behind the strength of their defense. Coordinator Rod Marinelli’s unit has elite talent at all three levels. Demarcus Lawrence is one of the best edge rushers in the NFL. Rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch has more than compensated for the loss of Sean Lee. And Byron Jones has been a lockdown corner.
Marinelli’s scheme isn’t complex. But the Cowboys have speed and do a good job of rallying to the ball. Lawrence was a hell raiser in the first game, but Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson was missing and he’s now as healthy as he’s been in months. Staying balanced, to some degree, has helped the Eagles offense during their current two-game winning streak. But will Josh Adams, Corey Clement and the just-returned Darren Sproles be able to find holes against a Dallas defense that has allowed only 3.7 yards per rush?
Carson Wentz will need to shoulder his share and play with more consistency than he’s shown over the last month. On offense, the Cowboys have increasingly utilized receiver Amari Cooper. He has 16 catches over the last two games and will be a tough matchup for either Sidney Jones or Rasul Douglas at cornerback. Avonte Maddox is unlikely to play, which means another week of Corey Graham and Tre Sullivan at free safety. Expect Dak Prescott to take some chances in the deep post. But if Ezekiel Elliott is getting his on the ground, the Cowboys will be content to take just what is given through the air.
The Eagles’ run defense will need to keep Elliott in check on early downs and force the sometimes-shaky Prescott into deeper drops on third down. Will Jim Schwartz blitz more than he has the last two weeks? It depends on the four-man rush. If Fletcher Cox, Michael Bennett, Brandon Graham and Chris Long can pressure the quarterback, it could be enough for the Eagles to escape from Arlington with a win. If not, it could be a long day.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Eagles 20
When the Eagles last played Dallas, the Cowboys seemed on life support and used that win to jumpstart their season, Now, they’re favorites and can gain two games on the Eagles with a win. But I don’t believe the Eagles are finished yet despite how impressive the Cowboys looked in a victory over New Orleans last week.
You can make a big deal about the Cowboys having extended rest and the Eagles on a short week, although the opposite was true when they last played – the Eagles were coming off a bye and the Cowboys played the previous Monday. The reality is the two teams know each other well, especially in the second meeting.
I see this being a close game. But I think the Eagles have the advantage along the lines of scrimmage – especially if the Eagles offensive line plays as it did during the past two weeks. Lane Johnson is healthier, which is key against DeMarcus Lawrence. But pay attention to Jason Peters’ status.
My guess is the Eagles give Carson Wentz the protection he needs and the Eagles defensive line wins their matchup, like they did in the last game. They’ll still have a hard time stopping Ezekiel Elliott, but they’ll be able to force Dak Prescott into a mistake or two. The Eagles offense need to show up before halftime to win this one, although they did so against a good defense last week. The remaining schedule is unforgiving for the Eagles, so if they don’t win Sunday, the players can book non-refundable tickets to their offseason homes after Week 17.
Prediction: Eagles 23, Cowboys 19
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