November 16, 2017
It's Dallas Week here in Philly, but apparently, they didn't get that news in Cowboys country. In fact, it seems like they're doing everything they can to avoid talking about a showdown many had circled on the calendar back when the NFL schedule first came out.
Some of that has to do with the fact that the Eagles have been rolling over their competition recently, while the Cowboys are coming off a game in which the Falcons defensive line spent much of the night rolling over Dak Prescott. Dallas will also be without Ezekiel Elliott and Sean Lee Sunday night.
But it's not just about the struggles of the Cowboys, who could fall to 5-5 with a loss. It's also about the dominance of the Eagles, something that has even the greatest Eagles villains willing to admit they're building something special in Philly.
Like, for example, former Cowboy and Hall of Fame wideout Michael Irvin.
“That guy is so talented man,” Irvin said of Wentz on Tuesday’s 94WIP Afternoon Show. “I’m worried about it, but I gotta talk about it because I see it — this is me separating my head from heart. Because my heart says don’t see it, you can’t even speak that kind of pain to yourself. But my head says, you’ve got a job to do, damn it, do it!
“And here’s my job, if we are not careful what goes on in Philadelphia, it could be not just a great year, but the start of something of a great dynasty.” [philadelphia.cbslocal.com]
In Dallas, Irvin might be one of the few willing to voice that opinion out loud, but if you read between the lines, you can see just how worried Cowboys fans are heading into this game.
Here's a look at what Dallas is saying about this week's big NFC East matchup:
As you'll see throughout this post, Dallas doesn't have a lot of faith in the 'Boys this weekend. We'll have a more comprehensive roundup of who is picking who on Friday, but for now, here's a look at how the SportsDay staff sees Sunday night's game playing out (straight up):
One of the biggest matchups of Week 11 will take place in Arlington on Sunday night when the Eagles play the Cowboys.
TIM COWLISHAW: Eagles
BRANDON GEORGE: Eagles
KATE HAIROPOULOS: Eagles
DANA LARSON: Eagles
JON MACHOTA: Eagles
CRAIG MILLER: Eagles
DAVID MOORE: Eagles
NEWY SCRUGGS: Eagles
KEVIN SHERRINGTON: Eagles
For what it's worth, they all also picked the Eagles to cover.
Over at Blogging The Boys, the Dallas version of Bleeding Green Nation, they decided to take a look back at other big Cowboys games of the past, including two against the Eagles (one win and one loss). Anything to avoid focusing on what's going to happen on Sunday, I guess.
Dallas and Philadelphia, both 8-3 at the time and looking to take a lead of the pack, squared off on Thanksgiving Day, and Mark Sanchez put quite a beating on the Cowboys. That one still stings.
Just 17 days later though, the Cowboys marched into Lincoln Financial Field, knowing that a win over the Eagles would set them up for the ability to win the NFC East for the first time in five years, a feat that had never been accomplished with Jason Garrett as the head coach. [bloggingtheboys.com]
Unlike the guys at SportsDay, however, they're somewhat more confident in the Cowboys' chances, with six of their 10 writers picking the underdog in this one.
Of course, the Cowboys haven't had much success in recent years, so maybe the best thing to do is look forward.
We believe the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys will be the Super Bowl champions … in 2019. February 3, 2019 – Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, Georgia to be exact.
That’s likely not the prediction Cowboys fans want to hear in the midst of the 2017 regular season. But the truth is Dallas has a serious depth problem right now. Last week, without running back Ezekiel Elliott (suspension), left tackle Tyron Smith (groin injury), kicker Dan Bailey (groin injury) and linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring injury) on the field, the Cowboys were embarrassingly blown out by the Atlanta Falcons 27-7.
There is simply no “next man up” for missing four Pro Bowlers. And facing the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles this weekend, plus playing a whopping three games in 12 days starting this Sunday, it puts the Cowboys at a severe disadvantage when it comes to their hopes of returning to the playoffs this year. [thelandryhat.com]
Who wants to remind them that the Eagles will still be in their division next season?
It's been a year since Tony Romo officially conceded his starting role to Dak Prescott, which was going to happen anyway, but it's still much of the same in Big D.
But as far as the Cowboys are concerned, they remain an organization forever in the midst of controversy – thanks to owner Jerry Jones’ latest fight with the NFL and running back Ezekiel Elliott’s federal court battle over a six-game suspension – and seemingly stuck in neutral.
The team appears to be headed for another step-back season, which proved to be the norm during Romo’s roller coaster era.
From 2006-2015, the Cowboys never posted back-to-back, double-digit win seasons and only made the playoffs in back-to-back years once. [star-telegram.com]
Still, some are holding out hope that the Cowboys can wrestle control of the NFC East away from the Eagles.
When looking at how the NFC shakes up, there’s several teams in prime position to make the playoffs ahead of the Cowboys and most of them hold the all-important tiebreaker. Because of that, the Cowboys can’t afford to give up on the division and must battle the Eagles to the very end.
The good thing is the Eagles are only three games up on the Cowboys with two of them still to be played against the Cowboys. It may look bad now but the Eagles aren’t actually that far ahead of the Cowboys and they still face games against the Seahawks, Raiders and Rams. If the Cowboys can handle their business at home, there is certainly a good chance that at least one of those aforementioned teams hands the Eagles another loss, thus potentially creating a showdown in Week 17 for the NFC East. [cowboyswire.usatoday.com]
And now, for some actual talk about Sunday's game. Let's start with the Cowboys struggling offensive line.
Drive-killers will ruin your team. We consider "drive-killers" anything that brings your effort to a grinding halt. The most egregious of these will always be the sack -- you lose your down and you get your quarterback hit -- with holding being a slightly less penal version of it. With holding, you at least repeat the down and generally spare your quarterback the violence. But both effectively end the drive at a better-than-80-percent clip.
What makes the Cowboys' offense so impressive is that it avoids these as well as any offense in the sport. Through the first eight games, the Cowboys' offense had 85 drives, and of those 85, only four suffered actual drive-killers (all from sacks). They had given up other sacks and other holds, but to their credit had been able to survive them each time.
But Sunday was a different deal altogether. They suffered eight drive-killers in one game -- on only 10 drives! So, Games 1-8: 85 drives, four killed. Game 9: 10 drives, eight killed by sacks and/or penalties (pretty much all sacks). [sportsday.dallasnews.com]
After playing the poorly against the Falcons, it can't get much worse. However, Jerry Jones is going the opposite way, saying that Tyron Smith's absence could actually help his offensive line.
The Eagles surely are excited about the prospect of facing Cowboys left tackle Chaz Green, if starter Tyron Smith‘s back injury keeps him from facing the Eagles on Sunday night. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones vows improvement, if Tyron Smith can’t play.
“I’d like to hope that Tyron is back,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday. “But I’ll assure you that we will have that, if Tyron is not back, we will personnel-wise as well as technique wise, we will do better.” [profootballtalk.nbcsports.com]
That being said, the Cowboys will have to take on a dominant Eagles' front that features, among others, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.
Eagles d-line watching Cowboys-Falcons: pic.twitter.com/DOGswyfQ39— Matt Mullin (@matt_mullin) November 13, 2017
Over at the Cowboys official website, scout Bryan Broaddus took a look at his matchup against Zach Martin.
Where Cox is at his best is when he's on the move. He is not going to stay in one spot and let Martin get his hands on him. Cox is going to line up in the gap, attack Martin's shoulder and make him have to work his body in front to cut him off. Martin has the movement skill and upper body strength to prevent this from happening, but he's going to need some help from his teammates running the ball. These backs have to be ready to cut the ball back behind his block.
This is where Martin will miss Elliott, because he knows when to cut the ball and lunge forward to grab those two or three extra yards. The more that Morris, Smith or McFadden try to string things out, the harder it will be for Martin to secure that block. There is no way that Martin will play Cox perfectly in this game, because he is just too talented and he will make a play or two. [dallascowboys.com]
What about the Eagles' offense? Here's a look at one of the three ways Allan Uy thinks Doug Pederson will attack Dallas:
This past Sunday, Atlanta created a little bit of havoc for the Cowboys by using the bootleg pass. It’s a standard part of every team’s playbook, and the Eagles rely on it as much as anyone. Watch for Doug Pederson to call up this concept from multiple tight end sets.
Quarterback Carson Wentz executes a hard play fake and rolls outside the pocket. In this example, all three of his tight ends are attached to the line of scrimmage and run over routes across the field at different depths. [cowboyswire.usatoday.com]
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