The Eagles (7-7) will host the Cowboys (7-7) in an important NFC East battle in Week 16 at Lincoln Financial Field.
A quick reminder: If the Cowboys win, they will clinch the division. If the Eagles win, they won’t just yet. They would either need to beat the Giants in the regular season finale or hope the Cowboys lose to Washington.
In recent history, the Cowboys have pretty much owned the Eagles. The Eagles are 2-5 against the Cowboys since Doug Pederson took over in 2016. They have lost the last four games to the Cowboys, dating back to 2017.
Earlier this season, the Eagles lost 37-10 to the Cowboys, which was the biggest margin of victory for any of their opponents against them this year.
To the matchups:
Ezekiel Elliott vs. Eagles’ run defense
The only two times Doug Pederson and Jim Schwartz have beaten the Cowboys in the last four years came when Elliott didn’t play. The All-Pro running back is 5-0 against the Birds in his career. This is such a key we already spent time earlier in the week breaking down this matchup and its importance.
In the previous matchup, Elliott ran everywhere.
Amari Cooper vs. Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills
Aside from Elliott, the other offensive weapon who has killed the Eagles is Cooper. In three games as a Cowboy against the Eagles, he has 21 catches for 398 yards (18.9) and three touchdowns. That also includes the game on Oct. 20, when Cooper had five catches for 106 yards. His biggest game against the Eagles came last December in Dallas when he had 10 catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns against what was left of the Eagles’ secondary. Even earlier this year, Cooper faced the Eagles without Ronald Darby and in Jalen Mills’ first game back from injury.
That’s not to say Mills and Darby have performed well recently. They certainly haven’t. Aside from receiver, the Eagles’ cornerback position is their biggest problem.
This season, the Eagles have allowed an individual 100-yard receiving game 10 times to nine different players (Terry McLaurin twice). Cooper has been banged up this season, but this is a big chance for him to have a day.
Eagles right tackle vs. DeMarcus Lawrence
In the last meeting, Lane Johnson finally gave up his first sack to Lawrence and it was a huge one. On that play, Carson Wentz fumbled and the Cowboys punched in a touchdown two plays later. Coming into this game, Johnson has a high ankle sprain and his status is unknown. If Johnson plays, he won’t be 100 percent. If he can’t play, Halapoulivaati Vaitai will fill in. Big V did a fine job last week against the Redskins but Ryan Kerrigan didn’t play in that game. Facing Lawrence in a must-win game is a much bigger task.
This season, Lawrence’s sack numbers are down. He has just 5.0 sacks in 14 games, but he’s still dangerous.
Xavier Su’a-Filo vs. Tim Jernigan
The Cowboys have a pretty good offensive line but the weak spot is definitely Su’a-Filo at left guard filling in for Connor Williams, who is on Injured Reserve. Su’a-Filo is now in his sixth NFL season and is probably best as a backup. His strength is in the run game; he’ll give up some pressure in pass protection. If Fletcher Cox is dealing with right guard Zack Martin, there’s a chance for Jernigan to get some pressure on Su’a-Filo. Jernigan has never been known as a sack guy, but this season he has just one and it came in the season opener. This would be a good time for him to at least pressure Dak Prescott and if not, at least beat Su’a-Filo and get Zeke to the ground.
Miles Sanders vs. Cowboys run defense
Since the bye week, without Jordan Howard, Sanders has really proven himself to be a feature back. He’s coming off his best game as a pro against Washington; he had 122 rushing yards and 172 yards from scrimmage in that one. He should get a lot of touches in this game, including in the screen game, where the Cowboys are susceptible.
The Cowboys are statistically the 12th-best rushing defense in the league, giving up 103.6 yards per game this season. The Cowboys got a lead against the Rams and then limited them to 22 rushing yards last week. But that broke a streak of seven straight games of the Cowboys’ allowing 100-plus on the ground. You can run on this team if you’re not forced to pass. Doug Pederson just can’t abandon it too early.
We all understand the Eagles don’t have big-play ability and in this game that might be OK. Keep feeding Sanders the rock and try to hold the ball for as long as possible to keep that Dallas offense off the field. That should be the idea in this game.
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