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Eagles-Cowboys: the bottom line on this do-or-die Week 16 NFC East showdown

The numbers aren't promising for the Eagles heading into their must-win game against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field. But that's why they play the game.

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had two fumbles in the Eagles' Week 7 loss to the Cowboys, both of which were converted into points in the 37-20 loss.
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had two fumbles in the Eagles' Week 7 loss to the Cowboys, both of which were converted into points in the 37-20 loss.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

So many reasons to believe the Eagles are going to lose Sunday, and so few to believe they are going to win. A fumble-prone quarterback without his All-Pro right tackle and his top three wideouts. A run defense that has had little luck stopping Ezekiel Elliott. A pass defense that has just two interceptions in the last seven games.

A statistical look at the good, the bad and the ugly heading into today’s do-or-die NFC East battle against the Cowboys at the Linc:

Catching up with Carson

— Carson Wentz has fumbled 14 times this season, including six times in the last three games. He has lost seven of those 14 fumbles, four of which opponents have turned into points, including both of his fumbles in the first game against the Cowboys. His 14 fumbles are the second most in the league, behind Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, who has 15. His seven lost fumbles are second to Jones’ 10. Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen and Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew also have seven lost fumbles.

— Wentz has been much better with aerial ball security. He has the eighth best interception percentage (1.3) in the league. He’s had just seven of 527 attempts picked off. That’s the best interception rate of his career.

— Wentz hasn’t thrown an interception in nine of the Eagles’ 14 games. He has just two multiple-interception games, throwing two in a Week 2 loss to the Falcons and two in a Week 12 loss to Seattle.

— In the Eagles’ last three games, Wentz has thrown eight touchdown passes and just one interception. He has a 99.8 passer rating in those three games, which is the eighth best rating in the league over the last three weeks. His eight TDs the last three weeks are second only to Drew Brees’s 10.

— Wentz has completed 21 of 60 throws of 20 yards or more this season. He was 0-for-3 on 20-plus-yard throws against Washington.

— Wentz has a 104.2 passer rating on throws of 10 yards or less and an 82.4 rating on throws of 11 yards or longer.

— Against Washington last week, 31 of Wentz’s 40 aimed throws (he had three throwaways), or 77.5 percent, were 10 yards or less. Fourteen of his 40 throws traveled one yard or less, including seven behind the line of scrimmage (mostly screens). In the last six games, 71.4 percent of Wentz’s throws traveled 10 yards or less. That’s a slight increase over the first eight games (67.2 percent).

Stopping Zeke and the run

— The Eagles haven’t done a very good job against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott. In five games against him, Elliott has averaged 114.8 rushing yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry. He’s also caught 31 passes (7.8 yards per catch).

— Elliott has four straight 100-yard rushing performances against the Eagles, including 111 on 22 carries in the Cowboys’ lopsided 37-10 Week 7 win.

— Twenty-one of Elliott’s 118 runs against the Eagles have gained 10 or more yards. Only 10 have lost yardage.

— Elliott has averaged 5.6 yards per carry on first down in his career against the Eagles compared to 4.8 v. everybody else in the league.

— Elliott rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries in the Cowboys’ win over the Rams last week. It was his first 100-yard game since Week 9.

— The Eagles are third in the NFL in run defense (90.4 yards per game) and seventh in opponent rush average (4.0). But they struggled last week against Washington and their 34-year-old running back, Adrian Peterson. The Eagles gave up five double-digit-yard runs, including four to Peterson. The Eagles have given up 13 runs of 10 or more yards in their last four games. They gave up just 23 in their first 10. That included a season-high six in their first loss to the Cowboys. They also gave up a season-high 10 rushing first downs in that game.

— The Cowboys rushed for 189 yards on 36 carries in the first game against the Eagles. They had 111 on 18 carries in the first half alone. The Cowboys are one of just three teams that have averaged 4.0 yards per carry or better against the Eagles. The other two: Seattle (6.4) and Buffalo (4.9).

Struggles against the pass

— The Eagles have allowed 23 pass plays of 30 or more yards this season. That’s the sixth most in the league.

— The defense has just two interceptions in the last seven games. Against Washington last week, they had two go right through their hands.

— The Eagles didn’t have a sack or interception against Washington. It’s the first time since 2013 that they’ve managed to win a game without a sack or interception.

— Despite facing a rookie quarterback last week, Jim Schwartz blitzed on just three of 28 pass plays against Washington. The Redskins’ Dwayne Haskins completed two of three passes when the Eagles blitzed, including a short pass to Terry McLaurin that turned into a 75-yard touchdown thanks to a missed tackle by Avonte Maddox and a slow reaction by Ronald Darby.

— Schwartz has kept the blitzing to a minimum against the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, primarily because it hasn’t been very successful. In the last three games v. Prescott, the Eagles have blitzed on just 17 of 127 pass plays, or only 13.4 percent. Prescott was 14-for-17 for 167 yards and two touchdowns v. Eagles blitzes in the last three games.

The third down battle

— The Cowboys are ranked first third-down efficiency (48.6 percent). The Eagles are tied for ninth in third-down defense (35.4).

— Prescott is 11th in third-down passing (96.9). He’s averaging 8.26 yards per attempt on third down. Fifty-nine of his 127 third-down pass attempts (46.4) have resulted in first downs.

— Prescott has been very effective in third-and-long situations. His 120.2 passer rating on third-and-six or more is the best in the league. He has five touchdown passes on third-and-six-plus. That’s the second most in the league.

— Opponents have converted 36 of 120 third downs of six yards or more against the Eagles (30.0 percent). That’s the 12th worst third-and-six-plus defensive success rate in the league.

— Opposing QBs have an 88.2 passer rating against the Eagles on third-and-six-plus. On the plus side, 14 of the defense’s 36 sacks have come on third-and-long.

— Wentz is ninth in third-down passing (98.9). He’s thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception on third down. Five of those 11 third-down TDs have come in the last three games.

— Tight end Zach Ertz leads the Eagles in third-down receptions with 17. He had three last week against Washington.