Eagles-Cowboys thoughts: A chance to bury desperate Dallas

Eagles-Cowboys thoughts: A chance to bury desperate Dallas

8:30 p.m. on NBC
Eagles favored by 3 

The Eagles will need to come out of their bye week with guns blazing as they prepare to duel the NFC East rival Cowboys in Dallas at AT&T Stadium on Sunday Night Football.

This is a pivotal game for the Cowboys, who, at 5-4, are currently out of the playoff picture. A defeat would all but erase their already long odds of winning the division, and possibly put them as many as two games back of a wild-card spot. That would be a tough hole to climb out of.

Win or lose, the Eagles are in good shape as they come in with the best record in the NFL at 8-1. However, they don’t need to give the Cowboys hope. Plus, the attention will soon turn to playoff seeding, with the prospect of another bye, possibly even home-field advantage throughout.

There’s a lot on the line for both teams already in Week 11. But it’s Eagles-Cowboys, so would you want things any other way?

Not the same ol’ Cowboys
So what did happen to the Cowboys? This team looked like a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2014 and 2016, and the break in between can be chalked up to an injury under center. Seeing as the quarterback is fine, why exactly is Dallas struggling to stay above .500?

The answer is simple: The offensive line’s performance has fallen off dramatically, which in retrospect, was actually predictable.

The Cowboys' playoff squads of recent years were built around the O-line. It’s no coincidence Dallas had the NFL’s leading rusher in both 2014 (DeMarco Murray) and 2016 (Ezekiel Elliott). The offense leaned on the ground attack and asked less of the quarterback — mostly don’t turn the ball over — using a ball-control style to cover up deficiencies elsewhere.

Of course, the O-line largely remained the same and intact for those two years. Not the case in 2017.

Right tackle Doug Free retired and was replaced by La’el Collins. Left guard Ronald Leary departed as a free agent, his place taken by Chaz Green, then Jonathan Cooper when he wasn’t cutting it. The unit’s core is still in place in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin, but the departures also hurt depth. With Smith hurt (back/groin), the Cowboys are down to Byron Bell at left tackle.

It’s a mess, and the Cowboys are one injury away from falling into complete chaos up front. So much of success in the NFL is predicated on strong offensive line play, and Dallas has not had its finest year there.

Facing the Eagles’ front four and No. 1 run defense Sunday, the Cowboys aren’t likely to turn it around overnight.

Cry the Eagles a river
The Cowboys will be without their All-Pro left tackle Sunday night. They will be without their starting middle linebacker and the heart and soul of their defense, Sean Lee (hamstring). They’re even going to be without their Pro Bowl kicker, Dan Bailey.

Sound familiar? It should. The Eagles have gone through more or less the exact same situation in 2017.

There’s no denying Dallas is in a precarious state due in large part to all the absences. That’s also no excuse. The Eagles lost left tackle Jason Peters, and so far they’ve kept on ticking. They lost middle linebacker Jordan Hicks, and there’s been little to no drop-off whatsoever. They lost kicker Caleb Sturgis, then went out and found Jake Elliott.

And as for the suspension to Cowboys running back and reigning rushing champion Elliott, his behavior was bound to catch up with him eventually. Another parallel, regardless, as the Eagles are without running back and return specialist Darren Sproles, too.

If Dallas can’t withstand the losses, the team probably wasn’t good enough in the first place. After all, you don’t hear the Eagles complaining.

On Carson Wentz vs. Dak Prescott
There’s been a great deal of debate over the past two seasons about whether Wentz or Prescott is better, and in all likelihood, it’s a discussion we will continue to have for years to come. It’s also a pointless conversation because one number and one number alone will eventually become the decisive factor... wins.

Specifically, Super Bowl wins, assuming either player ever has the privilege. Look no further than their first two seasons in the league for evidence.

Last season, when the Cowboys finished 13-3 and went to the playoffs, the team was riding high, and Prescott received a lot of the credit and attention for that. Meanwhile, the Eagles slogged through a 7-9 campaign, and Wentz faced many doubts leading up to this year.

Now it’s 2017, the Eagles are 8-1 thanks in part to an infusion of talent, and Wentz is widely considered the frontrunner to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player. On the flipside, Dallas is struggling for various reasons, so this time Prescott looks like a work in progress.

See how this works?

To look at the quarterback comparison from a historical context, take Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. Manning was almost always the more prolific of the future Hall of Fame signal callers, but Brady often bested him head to head on the field and is running away with the competition in terms the Super Bowl rings — five, and counting, to two.

That’s what it’s going to boil down to for Wentz and Prescott — head-to-head wins, NFC East supremacy, Super Bowls. Only a year-and-a-half into their careers, there’s little use trying to make a case either way, as their stories are yet to be written.

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

Thank Carson Wentz (and 1 other thing) for landing Mike Wallace

During the 2016 season, Mike Wallace thought his Baltimore Ravens were going to steamroll the Eagles, who had a first-year head coach and first-year quarterback. 

He was wrong. 

Sure, the Ravens were able to sneak away with a 27-26 win back on Dec. 18, 2016, but Wallace watched up close as the gutsy Carson Wentz had the Eagles one two-point conversion at the end of the game away from walking out of Baltimore with a win. 

A year and a half later, when Wallace was testing free agency, the veteran receiver thought back to that game and thought to himself, “I want to play with that guy.” 

So how responsible is Wentz for Wallace’s landing in Philly? 

“Ninety-nine percent. Ninety-nine,” Wallace said at his introductory press conference on Friday afternoon after signing a one-year contract. “The other percent was the rest of the team. I’m impressed by the way he plays football, the way he moves in the pocket, the way he throws the football and his competitiveness. You can see it.”

Wallace, 31, continued to watch Wentz during the 2017 season, when the second-year quarterback was seemingly on his way to an MVP award before a serious knee injury landed him on injured reserve.  

Having been through changing teams before, Wallace said the most difficult part for him is learning the new quarterback. He hopes this process won’t take exceedingly long, but he and Wentz might be at a disadvantage. Wentz is still recovering from a torn ACL and LCL and might not be ready until the season opener, if that. 

“You can just work on that watching film and things like that, but until he gets out there, there’s no real way to simulate it,” Wallace said. “I think he’s a great young quarterback who’s fired up. Whatever extra reps we need to try to get up to speed, I’m all for it.”

Wentz is, of course, a part of the big reason Wallace decided to join the Eagles. Wallace has played nine seasons in the NFL with four different teams. He’s made money, but he hasn’t been able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That’s what he wants. 

On Friday, Wallace said he turned down more money to join the Eagles. 

“I had options but I just wanted the best chance,” Wallace said. “I feel like this is my best opportunity to make a run. This is my 10th year. Can’t play this game forever. You don’t want to come out feeling empty. I want to get a ring.”

Wallace had been a free agent twice before this offseason and he admitted, that when he was younger, free agency was about money. He signed a five-year, $60 million deal in 2013 to join the Dolphins. 

But now, Wallace said, his family is secure. He’s made a lot of money in the NFL to make sure those close to him are well off. Now, he’s allowing himself to make a decision that benefits him. 

“I didn’t try to come into this game to leave empty-handed,” he said. “I had to secure the bag and I did that. Now it’s time to secure a ring.”

Warrant issued for Michael Bennett's arrest

Warrant issued for Michael Bennett's arrest

Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett has been indicted for a felony charge in Harris County, Texas, the Harris County district attorney's office announced on Friday afternoon.

Because of the indictment, a warrant has been issued for Bennett's arrest. According to the release, prosecutors are working with Bennett's lawyers to coordinate a surrender.

Bennett is being charged with "injury to the elderly, included intentionally and knowingly, causing bodily injury to a person 65 years or older." The penalty for the charge is up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The felony charge is for injuring a 66-year-old paraplegic woman who was working at NRG Stadium last year during Super Bowl LI, when Bennett was there to watch his brother Martellus play in the game. The Patriots played the Falcons in Super Bowl LI in Houston on Feb. 5, 2017.  

Bennett, 32, allegedly "shoved his way on to the field" during the postgame celebration, when the elderly worker told him to use a different way for field access. Instead, the district attorney's office said, Bennett pushed through workers, including the elderly disabled woman.

Neither the Eagles nor the Seahawks knew about the incident, a league source told NBC Sports Philadelphia's Derrick Gunn. Bennett has been an Eagle officially for just over a week.

During a news conference on Friday afternoon, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo asked Bennett to turn himself in as quickly as possible, calling Bennett "morally bankrupt" and entitled. Acevedo said there is no video of the incident, but there is a police officer eye-witness.

Acevedo said Bennett forcibly opened locked doors to get onto the field and then pushed his way past three workers. One was a male, one was a 28-year-old female and one was a 66-year-old female, who sustained a sprained shoulder. The 66-year-old female is a paraplegic and the force of being pushed back in her motorized wheelchair is what injured her. Acevedo said the woman needed medication prescribed to her because of the alleged assault.

According to Acevedo, Bennett said, "Ya'll must know who I am, and I could own this motherf-----. I'm going on the field whether you like it or not," as he pushed past the women.

A police officer, called "Officer Morgan" by Acevedo, the same one who saw the alleged incident, then tried to stop Bennett, but Bennett disregarded him, saying "f--- you." The officer then decided to tend to the woman instead of pursuing the suspect, as he thought Bennett no longer posed a threat.

The extended time between the incident and the indictment was explained by Acevedo as a lack of resources. He said the department decided to handle cases that put citizens in danger. This was pushed to the back burner. He also said it was exceedingly difficult to get in touch with Bennett.

"Mr. Bennett may think because he's an NFL player and because some time passed he may have thought rules don't apply to him," Acevedo said. "No. 2 he doesn't have to respect the dignity of a paraplegic woman trying to earn a living. He may believe he doesn't have to answer to a police officer trying to detain him, but I'm here to say I'm very proud of the fact our department took this case as seriously as we should have."

The Eagles released the following statement on Friday afternoon:

"We are aware of the situation involving Michael Bennett and are in the process of gathering more information. Because this is an ongoing legal matter, we will have no further comment at this time."

The Eagles officially traded for Bennett on March 14. They sent receiver Marcus Johnson and a fifth-round pick to Seattle for Bennett and a seventh-rounder.