Eagles

5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

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5 key Eagles matchups vs. Cowboys

The Eagles don't have anything to play for this weekend. They're already the top seed in the NFC, which comes with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But there's still a game Sunday against the Cowboys.

The Eagles will always want to beat the Cowboys. And a win Sunday will give the Birds their first 14-win season in franchise history and just the 30th such season in NFL history.

The real question is about playing time. How much will everyone get? It seems likely the Eagles will play some starters but keep out guys who have injuries. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are expected to play everyone who is healthy.

Here are five matchups to watch:

Nick Foles vs. Cowboys starters
It's a good thing Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett wants to play most of his starters in this game because Foles could certainly use the work.

After a terrible performance that has placed doubt in the minds of a ton of Eagles fans, a few good series against the Cowboys could do wonders for Foles. Not only could it help with the chemistry along the offense, but it could also be good for his confidence going forward.

The Eagles are going to need Foles to play better if they want to win in the playoffs. It's a no-brainer to play him this weekend.

Nate Sudfeld vs. Cowboys defense
Foles should get to start the game and play for a while, but it's also pretty important to get the new backup quarterback into an NFL game for the first time in his career. The Eagles have been high on Sudfeld all season and even protected him when the Colts tried to sign him away from the practice squad. Sudfeld had a good week of practice after getting bumped up to No. 2, but some actual game reps would be nice.

Could the Eagles survive if Foles went down? Probably not, but if Sudfeld plays well against the Cowboys' starting defense, it would give folks a little bit of hope if that scenario ever unfolded.

Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles' run defense
The Eagles gave up a season-high 137 yards on the ground in last week's win over the Raiders but still have the NFL's best rushing defense. They've given up 75.9 yards per game through 15 games. The next closest team is the Vikings, who have given up 87.1.

The Eagles missed Elliott in their first meeting down in Dallas when the Pro Bowl running back was serving his six-game suspension. Elliott has played nine games this season and has gained 80-plus yards in eight of them. The Eagles have had just four guys go for 80-plus on them this season: Todd Gurley, Kareem Hunt, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. They have not allowed a 100-yard rusher all season.

Elliott will try to be the first to put up 100 yards against them this season. No matter who is in there for the Eagles, they'll try to stop him.

Byron Bell vs. Derek Barnett
It seems pretty likely that Tyron Smith (knee) won't play in the regular-season finale, so his backup, Bell, will probably get the start. This would be a good time for Barnett to have a big game heading into the playoffs.

Barnett hasn't had a sack since he picked up half of one in the Seattle game back on Dec. 3. He hasn't had a solo sack since the last Dallas game on Nov. 19. Barnett has five sacks this season, which is seventh in Eagles history for a rookie. If he gets one more, he'd move into a tie for third. If he gets two more, he'd be all alone in third place behind Corey Simon (9½) and Reggie White (13).

Dak Prescott vs. Eagles defense
Prescott had a terrible game the last time these two teams played. He threw for 145 yards with three interceptions and was sacked four times. His 30.4 passer rating was by far the worst of his two-year career.

This game doesn't mean much, but Prescott is going to want to put together a much better performance this time around.

How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

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How Eagles could shut down Vikings' receiving duo

When you think about the best wide receivers in the NFL today, names like Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, and DeAndre Hopkins come to mind and rightfully so, but the Minnesota Vikings have a pair of wideouts who have given opposing secondaries fits.

This season, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs have been the perfect complement to each other. Thielen finished the regular season with 91 receptions (eighth-best in the league), 1276 yards (fifth-best) and his 20 catches for 20 or more yards tied for fifth-best overall. As for Diggs, he finished with 64 receptions for 849 yards.

Together, Thielen and Diggs accounted for 54 percent of the Vikings' receiving yards this season. They also combined for 12 touchdowns. In the Vikes' miraculous playoff win over the New Orleans Saints, they accounted for 66 percent of the passing game. They have been the safety valves for Case Keenum all season long.

Minnesota offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has the rare luxury of lining up either one of them on the inside or outside on any given play. Both are excellent route runners — whether it's doing deep or intermediate routes or crossing routes, and both are excellent blockers.

So how should Jim Schwartz defend against these two? Some believe help over the top on Thielen and playing single coverage on Diggs is the way to go. We may see that concept occasionally in the NFC Championship Game but I have a feeling Schwartz will come up with some variation we have not seen before. The Eagles are not going to completely shut these two down, but their damage can be minimized. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, Patrick Robinson and the other DBs will put in a full day’s work shadowing these two.

Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

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Howie Roseman honored for his tremendous offseason

As the Eagles practiced on Thursday afternoon, just a few days before hosting the NFC Championship Game at Lincoln Financial Field, vice president of football operations Howie Roseman stood next to owner Jeff Lurie and watched the team he created. 

Of the 53 members on the Eagles' roster heading into this championship game, 25 weren't on the active roster last season. Roseman had a very busy offseason, molding the Eagles into a Super Bowl contender. 

For his efforts, the 42-year-old Roseman, who began with the Eagles as an intern in 2000, has been named the NFL Executive of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America. 

Roseman helped turn over a roster that went 7-9 last season into a team that went 13-3, earning the first-overall seed in the NFC. He built the team with enough depth to survive major injuries to Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Jordan Hicks, Chris Maragos and Caleb Sturgis. 

Never afraid to make a trade, Roseman came back from his time away from football operations more aggressive than ever. He claims his year away from GM duties while Chip Kelly took over was both humbling and eye-opening. 

For this season, Roseman traded 25 spots in the third round to bring in veteran defensive tackle Tim Jernigan, traded away Jordan Matthews and a pick to bring in cornerback Ronald Darby and pulled the trigger on a midseason move to bring in Pro Bowl running back Jay Ajayi. 

In free agency, he signed Alshon Jeffery, Chris Long, LeGarrette Blount, Nick Foles, Patrick Robinson and Chance Warmack. He brought in several of those players on one-year prove-it deals, and for the most part, the team has gotten more than their money's worth out of them. 

He also helped hire VP of player personnel Joe Douglas to revamp the scouting department. That hire of a top personnel man was one of the conditions when Lurie reinstated Roseman to power following Kelly's dismissal. 

Roseman and Douglas spearheaded drafting a class that included Derek Barnett in the first round, an injured Sidney Jones in the second and some other contributors in the next five rounds. 

Aside from just bringing players in, Roseman has been able to manipulate the salary cap better than anyone in the league. It's been a strength of his since his arrival in Philly, so that should be no surprise. 

You could actually argue that Roseman's 2016 was more impressive. That's when he laid the groundwork for this playoff season by moving up and drafting Carson Wentz. But 2017 is when it all came together.