October 19, 2019
On Sunday night in Dallas, first place in the NFC East will be up for grabs as the Eagles visit the Cowboys for their second divisional matchup of the season. With both teams at 3-3 through the first six weeks of the season, this game, even though it's still relatively early in the season, is likely going to have big playoff implications come December.
On one side, you have an Eagles team that has been up and down to say the least. They have key injuries on both sides of the ball, and although they're expected to get a pair of corners back against Dallas, that still might not be enough to fix what ails this reeling secondary. On offense, quarterback Carson Wentz has been holding up his end of the bargain for the most part, but he's been getting no help from his skill players on the outside, and it's turned what was supposed to be an explosive, dynamic offense into a slow, methodical one without any real game breakers. That could change when they get DeSean Jackson back from his abdominal injury, but that won't be happening this weekend.
On the other side are the Cowboys, who got out to a hot start against a trio of god-awful teams before crashing back to earth with three straight losses, including last Sunday's loss to the lowly Jets. Earlier in the week, it was looking like Dallas would be just as banged up as the Birds for their Week 7 matchup. But the final injury report on Friday suggested otherwise, with several starters, including Amari Cooper, now expected to take the field on Sunday night. That's not great news for the aforementioned Eagles secondary.
We've already broken down all those injuries, given you some matchups to watch and offered our own predictions for Eagles vs. Cowboys. Now, as we do every week, it's time to take a look around the nation to see how various experts, both local and national, see Sunday night's matchup playing out — with a reminder that many of these picks were made when it was looking like the Cowboys would be without a handful of key players.
• PhillyVoice staff: It was looking like all of our writers were going to pick the Eagles over the Cowboys, then it was revealed that almost all of the injured Dallas players expected to miss Sunday's game would actually be suiting up against the Birds, which caused two of our writers to change course and go with the home team in Week 7. One of the writers who opted to stick with the Birds was sports editor Evan Macy. Here's what he had to say:
I wrote an entire song and dance here prior to the Cowboys injury report coming out Friday afternoon, explaining how the Eagles weak secondary was about to get a break against a Dallas offense without not only its top wide receivers but also two of its top offensive lineman. But then reports came out that Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins were all likely to suit up Sunday night.
That changes things. It'll be a dogfight Sunday, with newly returning Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby more or less the X factors in the Week 7 battle. Without DeSean Jackson yet again, Carson Wentz will need to find a way to make the Eagles dynamic on offense while one of the top rushing defenses in football will have its hands full against Ezekiel Elliott. I still see the Birds as the better team, and I think they'll win by a hair.
• ESPN staff: Just four of their 10 experts are picking the Eagles to beat the Cowboys.
• Tim McManus, ESPN.com: Eagles 27, Cowboys 20
• Todd Archer, ESPN.com: Eagles 31, Cowboys 27
• Gregg Rosenthal, NFL.com: Cowboys 29, Eagles 28
The Cowboys' offense has improved from its 10-point output in Week 4 despite serious injuries, while the Cowboys' defense has fallen all the way to 25th in DVOA despite relative health. Yet, it's the offense that has taken most of the blame for the team's struggles. That's just what life is like when Jason Garrett is the head coach, but I'm encouraged by Dak Prescott's performance in the Meadowlands throwing to Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson. Now it's time for Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones (hamstring permitting) to make some of the big plays they are capable of.
These two teams are tied for first place, but they sure haven't looked like it at times this season. The Cowboys have lost three straight after a fast start. The Eagles' defense is a disaster right now. Dallas will come alive on offense here and get a big-time division victory.
• OddsShark: Eagles fans are going to hope their computer model is wrong, as it's predicting Dallas to win by more than two touchdowns.
• Mike Florio, ProFootballTalk: Cowboys 20, Eagles 24
Doug Pederson says the Eagles are going to win, but he won’t guarantee it. He shouldn’t. Jason Garrett has a history of digging deep when his back is against the wall, and once again it is.
• Michael David Smith, ProFootballTalk: Cowboys 28, Eagles 24
Dak Prescott has taken his share of criticism in recent weeks, but I’m expecting him to come back with a big game that puts the Cowboys on top of the NFC East.
• Bleacher Report, NFL staff: Eagles 27, Cowboys 23
You might want to wait until Sunday to place your bets on the night matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, just because both teams have several big injury questions entering Week 7.
The Eagles still don't know if they'll have DeSean Jackson back*, and now they're without left tackle Jason Peters. On the other side of the ball, Nigel Bradham, Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills remain question marks.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys are hoping to get starting offensive tackles Tyron Smith and La'el Collins back, top wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb are all nursing injuries, and defensive backs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown weren't practicing to start the week.
Still, the Eagles are used to being banged up, and they've managed to win two of their last three games during a stretch in which Dallas has gone winless. The Cowboys have yet to prove they can handle their injuries, or that they can beat non-terrible opponents.
With that in mind, our whole gang is taking points with Philly.
*NOTE: They will not have DeSean back.
• Sheil Kapadia, The Athletic: Former Eagles beat writer Sheil Kapadia is now making picks against the spread for every game over at The Athletic. This week, he's taking the Eagles and the three points they're getting from most oddsmakers.
We are in year five (or is it year seven?) of: Will this be it for Jason Garrett if the Cowboys lose? As The Athletic’s Bob Sturm pointed out, the Cowboys ran on 70% of their first-down plays in the first three quarters last week vs. the Jets, averaging just 3.07 YPC on 14 attempts. There’s no mystery in figuring out how to attack the Eagles’ defense. Passing/play-action on early downs, attack their corners deep, mix in some screens and misdirection runs and get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands quickly. Given that the Cowboys could be without both starting offensive tackles, Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb, I’m not sure they’ll be willing to be aggressive offensively. These are two evenly matched teams, and I don’t expect the NFC East to be decided until the final two weeks of the season. But the Eagles win a close one here.
• SBNation staff: Eight of their 10 writers, one of whom is a dog (literally), are picking the Cowboys to hold off the Eagles at home.
• Bleeding Green Nation staff: All nine of their writers picked the Eagles.
• Inquirer.com: All three of their beat writers picked the Eagles to beat the Cowboys. Here's what Jeff McLane had to say about the big Sunday Night Football matchup:
The NFL is weird. Take the Jets, for instance. They looked like they couldn’t beat Alabama when they lost to the Eagles two weeks ago, but they get Sam Darnold back and stun the Cowboys. The Eagles, meanwhile, went to the Vikings and made Kirk Cousins look like Fran Tarkenton.
I don’t know what the NFL law of averages suggests will happen Sunday. We still don’t know if Amari Cooper or Dallas’ tackles will play. But I got to believe that both the Cowboys and Eagles will bounce back. Of course, that means that both teams can’t win.
But I think Carson Wentz is better than Dak Prescott, and when it doubt, go with the more polished quarterback.
• NJ.com staff: Five of their six writers have the Eagles losing to the Cowboys in this one. The only one picking the Birds to win is beat writer Zack Rosenblatt. And unfortunately, it looks like he, like many of the writers picking the Eagles, was banking on Cooper's injury keeping him out. We now know that's not the case, but here's a look at what he had to say:
Dallas is reeling, even more than the Eagles, coming off an awful loss to the Jets. It’s always difficult to win on the road in the NFC East, but the Cowboys could be without star receiver Amari Cooper, which might be the difference in this game. Ultimately, the Eagles need Carson Wentz to step up and deliver the biggest divisional win of his career. He’s going to do it.
PICK: Eagles 24, Cowboys 17
• Todd Haislop, Sporting News: Cowboys 28, Eagles 24
As SN's Vinnie Iyer writes, neither of these 3-3 teams is in trouble — yet. That will change for the loser of Sunday night's game. Both teams have been derailed by injuries, so the availability of their banged-up players will have an unfortunately big impact on such an important game. Against a stingy Eagles run defense, and with or without Amari Cooper and/or Randall Cobb, the Cowboys can't hesitate to let Dak Prescott loose as a passer in the event Ezekiel Elliott get stuffed early and often. Given the crescendo around his job security, Jason Garrett should oblige.
• Vinny Iyer, Sporting News: Cowboys 24, Eagles 20
The Cowboys should be healthier at offensive tackle this week but may be down top wide receiver Amari Cooper. The Eagles are hoping to get field-stretching wide receiver DeSean Jackson back. Both teams are great at stopping the run, so it comes down to who can deliver more big plays in the passing game, Dak Prescott or Carson Wentz. Look fo Dallas' defense to rebound from getting picked apart by the Jets with more classic bend-but-don't-break at home, while Philadelphia's defense remains too vulnerable to shots off play-action.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports