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September 25, 2021

Week 3 NFL picks: Rounding up the experts' predictions for Eagles vs. Cowboys

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Eagles_Cowboys_Fletcher_Cox_sack_Week8_Kate_Frese_11022040.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

After a 1-1 start to the season under new head coach Nick Sirianni, the Eagles are headed out on the road this week for their first division matchup of the season. And it will be against the team many predicted prior to the season would be the eventual NFC East winner, the Dallas Cowboys.

The Eagles may have to make do without starting left tackle Jordan Mailata, who suffered a knee sprain this week and whose status will be better known when Saturday afternoon's final injury report is released. Beyond that, the Eagles will also be without two stalwarts along their lines, as defensive end Brandon Graham was lost for the season in Week 2's loss to the 49ers and right tackle Brandon Brooks suffered a pec strain that will keep him out for some considerable time as well. 

But, as it seems to be every week, the story for the Eagles is under center, with Jalen Hurts looking to regain his form from that Week 1 blowout of the Falcons following a step back against the albeit more talented 49ers.

It's also Sirianni's first taste of Dallas Week, and this one is actually going to bleed into next week with these two teams not facing off until Monday Night Football. So, let's hope this one is worth the wait. The oddsmakers certainly seem to think it will be, with most sportsbooks having the line for Eagles vs. Cowboys somewhere around DAL -3.5 or 4 points. That's not bad for a road team, especially considering it's about the same odds the Birds were facing in their home opener a week ago. 

As we do every week,  let's take a look at how do the experts — both locally and nationally — see this game playing out on the field... 

• PhillyVoice staff: As always, let's start with a look at our own staff picks. And after more 50-50 splits (or as close as you can get with seven people picking) the last two weeks, we're much more one-sided in this one, with six of our writers picking Dallas, while just one is going with the Birds. That would be sports editor Evan Macy, who sees a 34-31 win for the Birds (and also a way to game our season-long standings that could backfire spectacularly and leave him alone in last place). 

Having the liberty of editing this story — written well as always by my colleague Matt — I feel the urge to be contrarian. With everyone else (as you'll see) picking Dallas, I could pick up a game in our in-staff standings if I pick the Eagles here. Which I will do.

But I do not pick them blindly, or with the motives of a "homer." Instead, I pick them because I think there was enough good in their loss to the 49ers a week ago to be a little bit confident as the Birds head to Texas this weekend. Their defense was pretty solid and came close to creating a few turnovers. Their offense stalled due to stupid mistakes and due to bad play-calling by Nick Sirianni. 

It will be really interesting to see what kind of adjustments the Eagles make after their first loss of the Sirianni era. The Cowboys defense is injured and malleable and keeping up with them will be the key in this one, as the Eagles have the ability to win at both lines of scrimmage. If they can handle the run game, and keep CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper in front of them the Birds have a real shot here. 

• Two of their three Eagles beat writers are picking the Cowboys in this one, including Jeff McLane, who is taking Dallas, 31-30...

The Cowboys are banged up. They could be without as many as six starters if receiver Amari Cooper is unable to play through a rib injury. The Eagles have injury issues, as well, with Brandon Graham and Brandon Brooks out. And tight end Zach Ertz is questionable after being placed on the COVID-19 list Monday, although it’s not like he’s been a huge part of the offense (just four targets through two games).

Still, the Eagles should have an advantage up front, particularly on offense, assuming rookie Landon Dickerson is able to settle in at right guard. The line will have to be on the alert for rookie linebacker Micah Parsons. He has a team-high 11 pressures in just 40 pass rush attempts and will come from multiple spots. There’s a strong chance Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will also have the Penn State product shadow Jalen Hurts. [...]

Quarterback should be where Dallas has a distinct advantage. Prescott and Hurts aren’t facing off, per se, but this should be the most proficient offense — I almost forget to mention running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard — Jonathan Gannon’s defense will face in the first three weeks. The Eagles should have opportunities to throw downfield as long as Hurts has time, but I like the Cowboys in a home shootout. All six football writers are picking the Cowboys to win on Monday night, including Eagles beat writer Mike Kaye. But at least he's got them covering the spread with a 27-24 final. 

While the Eagles are good enough to contend in the lowly NFC East, the Cowboys clearly have more talent on offense, which should cause issues for the Philly defense, especially with Brandon Graham (Achilles) out of the fold. Sirianni took last week’s loss personally, so he should have his troops amped up for Monday Night Football. But the vibe going into this one is that the Cowboys have the home-field advantage and momentum on their side. This game will be another tight one for Dallas, especially with Hurts putting up some impressive stats, but the home team will come out with the W.

• Bleeding Green Nation staff: Five of their seven writers are picking the Eagles to beat Dallas.

• Gregg Rosenthal, Eagles 28, Cowboys 27

Are the Eagles the team I keep taking to win upsets straight up, which ruins my picks record this season? Tune in Monday night! Even without injured DE Brandon Graham, the Eagles have the defensive line, led by early All-Pro candidate Javon Hargrave, to bother Dak Prescott. More importantly, the Eagles are built offensively to grind the Cowboys' admittedly energetic and improved defense down to dust.

MORE: Eagles vs. Cowboys: Predictions, odds and more

• ESPN staff: It's a clean sweep, with all 11 of their NFL experts taking the Cowboys.

• Tim McManus, Cowboys 28, Eagles 26

• Todd Archer, Cowboys 31, Eagles 23

 Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Cowboys 25, Eagles 17

The Cowboys will be playing their home opener in this one after winning last week against the Chargers. The Cowboys played well on defense in that game, despite missing some key defensive players. Jalen Hurts will present a different challenge with his ability to get outside and run, but I think they will be ready to handle it. Dak Prescott will lead the Cowboys to their second win in a row. 

• CBS Sports staff: Just two of their eight experts are picking the Eagles to upset the Cowboys. 

• Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Cowboys 28, Eagles 20

Dallas is hitting an early-season groove. The Eagles will be hitting an early-season wall.

• Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Cowboys 31, Eagles 28

Dak Prescott makes one more big play than Jalen Hurts in what should be an exciting NFC East rivalry game.

USA TODAY Sports staff: Another clean sweep, with all seven of their experts going with Dallas.

MORE: All of Jimmy Kempski's Week 3 NFL picks

• Bleacher Report, NFL staff: Cowboys 27, Eagles 24

We wrap up the week with a deadlocked panel on what feels like another unpredictable and potentially wacky prime-time NFC East matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys in Texas. 

[Brad] Gagnon on Philly: "I want nothing to do with that hook. The Eagles have played stout defense, Jalen Hurts has performed like a top-10 quarterback and Philadelphia actually has a much stronger DVOA (ranking eighth) than Dallas (14th). Both teams have several problematic injuries in the trenches, but I don't see either getting an edge as a result. This is a field goal game one way or another."

[Brent] Sobleski on the Cowboys: "Hurts has been impressive in his first year as a full-time NFL starter. However, the Eagles don't have enough firepower to match the Cowboys' explosive offense. Dallas currently features the league's fourth-ranked offense. Dak Prescott may not be 100 percent his old self, but that hasn't stopped him from throwing for 640 yards in his first two games. The Cowboys have a new weapon in Tony Pollard to go along with Ezekiel Elliott and their exciting trio of wide receivers. It's difficult to see Philadelphia keeping pace."

You might want to wait to see if one of those receivers, Amari Cooper, can play despite a rib injury. Or you might want to watch this one for the inevitable NFC East fireworks without sweating a bet with so many questions surrounding both teams. 

• The Athletic staff: All eight of their experts* are picking the Cowboys. (*This does not include their two Eagles beat writers, Zach Berman and Bo Wulf. Their picks are not up as of this writing.)

Sheil Kapadia, The Athletic: Sheil picks games against the spread every week, and this week he thinks Dallas is not only good enough to win, but to cover the 3.5-point spread as well.

The Eagles failed to capitalize on a number of opportunities against San Francisco last week. They had a field goal blocked and came away with no points on another possession that stalled at the 49ers’ 1.

Their zone-heavy scheme under coordinator Jonathan Gannon forces opponents to methodically move the ball downfield. But that’s something Dallas has shown it can do — whether it’s a pass-heavy attack like in Week 1 or a run-gashing attack like in Week 2. It’s possible that Jalen Hurts puts together a nice game against a Cowboys defense that has outperformed its talent so far. But ultimately, I believe in the Cowboys’ offense and think they’ll be able to put up points.

• Bill Bender, Sporting News: Eagles 27, Cowboys 24

The Cowboys have played two thrillers in two weeks, so Week 3 should be no different. The Eagles have lost their last three road games at Jerry World, but Jalen Hurts will flip the script in a back-and-forth battle with Dak Prescott. Always expect the unexpected with these two.

• Vinny Iyer, Sporting News: Cowboys 31, Eagles 28

The Eagles looked dominant against the Falcons and then couldn't score on the 49ers. Jalen Hurts has played well, but their offense has been otherwise inconsistent with defense being the early strength. The Cowboys have shown plenty of diverse offense with Dak Prescott in two games and their defense is making up for big issues with well-timed takeaways and stops. Prescott and Hurts will duel well, with Dallas getting the key last possession at home. The Cowboys will be position to run well again and their experience edge at receiver over the Eagles pays off in a familiar NFC East marquee shootout.

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MORE: Eagles at Cowboys: Five matchups to watch

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