December 22, 2022
So here we are at the biggest game of the season so far.
An always-heated NFC East rivalry where an Eagles win can clinch the division, the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, and complete a season sweep of Dallas.
If they're going to do it though, it will have to be without their MVP candidate Jalen Hurts. He sprained his shoulder in last week's win over the Bears and won't be ready in time.
So the responsibility falls to backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, who will try and bring it all home and buy the first-stringers some precious rest time with his first start of the season.
Hey, backup QBs around here have done wilder things before.
Here's what our writers thinking...
TV: FOX (Kevin Burkhardt, Greg Olsen, Erin Andrews, Tom Rinaldi)
RADIO: 94.1 WIP (Merrill Reese, Mike Quick)
|Book||Spread||Money Line||Total (O/U)|
|DraftKings||DAL -5|| PHI +180|
|FanDuel||DAL -5.5||PHI +188|
|BetMGM||DAL -5.5||PHI +200|
|UniBet||DAL -5.5||PHI +195|
|PointsBet||DAL -5.5|| PHI +185|
The Eagles are an objectively better football team than the Cowboys. They have arguably the best offensive line in the NFL, a top three group of receivers, an extremely deep and talented pass rush that leads the NFL in sacks, and they have both the best turnover differential and point differential in the NFL. They are sending eight players to the Pro Bowl, and the reality is that they probably could have sent 10 or 11. It is an absolutely loaded roster without any glaring holes.
The Cowboys' roster has star power (Micah Parsons, etc.), but it also has its share of concern areas, notably at offensive tackle, off-ball linebacker, cornerback, and wide receiver (CeeDee Lamb aside). There's little question that the Eagles' roster, quarterbacks aside, is better than the Cowboys' roster.
Of course, the Eagles are five-point underdogs in this matchup because they are very likely to start backup Gardner Minshew while Jalen Hurts' sprained shoulder heals up. One thing that Minshew has proven over his career is that he doesn't put the ball in harm's way. He has a career 41 TDs vs. 12 INTs, and he only has two career games in which he threw two INTs. Dak Prescott has thrown two INTs in four of his last six games.
I trust Minshew to make smart decisions and allow the elite roster around him to make enough plays to win this game.
Usually I struggle here with how much to pick the Eagles by. This is the first time I am genuinely conflicted on which team to pick to win. Which I suppose is a testament to how good the Eagles have been this season. Without the MVP, they are really an even match with Dallas in my opinion. I am interested to see how Gardner Minshew will fare against one of the better defenses in the game, after riding the bench for 15 weeks.
I think the Cowboys show up for this one and make things interesting the last few weeks. I'm taking Dallas by a nose, with the Eagles clinching the following week in Jalen Hurts' return.
I'm operating under the assumption that it'll be Gardner Minshew at QB for the Birds. I'll say he channels those 2006 Jeff Garcia vibes with the holiday win down in Texas. Two passing TDs from Minshew, 125 rushing yards from Miles Sanders, and an ungodly number of Christmas cookies for me are all in the cards for Saturday.
I hope we can live in a world where Gardner Minshew plays inspired football, paying tribute to his former college coach Mike Leach, and leads the Eagles to a dramatic win over the Cowboys on Christmas Eve. My head tells me that Dallas has more to play for, is at home on a short week, and that the Eagles are missing their MVP candidate QB. A lot to overcome for the Eagles, who still have plenty of time to wrap up home field for the NFC playoffs.
Before Jalen Hurts' injury, my gut feeling was the Eagles were going to go right into Dallas and just blow the doors off the Cowboys. It'll be a much closer game now because Gardner Minshew just isn't Jalen Hurts BUT he can more than get the job done. Dallas Goedert coming back is a huge gain for this kind of scenario and Minshew will also be working with two of the best route runners on either side of the field in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.
Just keep the offensive gameplan simple. Rely on Miles Sanders and the run game to dictate the tempo, let the defense do their thing, and the Eagles should leave with the division crown and the NFC's No. 1 seed.
Dallas will keep up, but its offensive line won't be able to keep Dak Prescott protected long enough from that defensive front the Eagles have rolling right now. They'll make him rush throws and when that happens, Darius Slay and James Bradberry will be there to grab them.
Look, to this point, the Eagles have been the best team in the NFL this entire time, and even without Hurts for a week, I don't see how that changes now.
The Cowboys...Well, I wonder what the excuses will be come Monday if they lose.
Get ready for Minshew Mania. The harsh reality in Big D is their QB isn’t that much better than the Eagles' backup. That’s because the Eagles' backup is better than half of the starting QBs currently in the NFL. Gardner Minshew is at least as good as the slop that battled it out between the Rams and the Packers – yes, that was Aaron Rodgers. The best part about this game is we have already seen this scenario play out, and so has Dallas.
There is zero doubt that losing Jalen Hurts means the Eagles are down the most valuable player in the NFL. But that’s a different definition than what we get in the NBA or NHL. We saw in 2017 how a talented team with solid coaching can rally around a talented and poised backup. Basically, a guy who can start in a rather large group of mediocre QBs. Dak Prescott falls in that category. He's just a guy, one of the better ones in the NFL, but he struggles like the majority at that position.
He forces throws, makes mistakes, and relies heavily on the run game and suffocating defense to bail him out. Sound familiar? It’s the same game plan the Niners are running with Brock Purdy. Yes, the Eagles are without the most dynamic player in the NFL, but nothing around that position will change. Nothing with that position will change outside of the name on the jersey and the lack of emphatic slam with Hurts.
To be clear: There is NO replacing Hurts. The difference between this game with and without Hurts is a small Eagles victory versus a Dallas burial.
It's pretty clear that Jalen Hurts will miss the Christmas Eve game at Dallas with the sprained right shoulder he suffered in Chicago. Had this game been necessary for the Eagles you do get the feeling that Hurts would have been allowed to at least give it a go, but with Philadelphia's magic number down to one for both the NFC East and the conference's No. 1 seed with three weeks to go, pushing the envelope seems specious so it's time to crank up Minshew Mania.
Gardner Minshew is a very solid backup with extensive starting experience and played very well when needed against the Jets last season. The guess here is that Minshew plays well again and in some ways, maybe the Eagles show a little bit more on offense because he's in the game. After all, with a potential third matchup between these two teams more than a possibility in the postseason, perhaps Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen would have wanted to keep some things close to their vests with QB1 out there. With Minshew, they can give the Cowboys 60 minutes of film and say knock yourselves out.
From talking with sources in Dallas, the Cowboys just want to get right, particularly defensively where they have been leaking oil, culminating with a blown 17-point lead in Jacksonville that had some cheesesteaks earmarked for Doug Pederson and staff as a thank you.
Getting Dallas Goedert back in the lineup should be big for Minshew because the intermediate game becomes more important. It will be interesting to see what the former Jags starter can do with such a superlative supporting cast on offense.
The thought here is that the Eagles make this a competitive game but ultimately the Cowboys win "Starter vs. Backup: The Sequel" after Jalen Hurts bested the Cooper Rush-led Cowboys back in Week 6 and the highly-anticipated Hurts vs. Dak Prescott duel pushed back into January if Dallas can carry its part of the equation.
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