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Game Notes

3 Keys for the Dallas Cowboys vs the Philadelphia Eagles

John Williams

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Cowboys Headlines - Eagles Player Views Dak Prescott And Ezekiel Elliott As Top 3 NFL Players

With yet another must-win game coming in primetime, the Dallas Cowboys (3-5) will face a Philadelphia Eagles team that looks to be a shell of the Super Bowl team they were a year ago. As each game has been this season, this is a winnable contest for America's Team.

The question is, will they win this game.

There are certainly areas that the Dallas Cowboys need to improve on to make a run to the playoffs. And make no mistake, the playoffs are still within reach this season as they sit only two games back of the NFC East leading Washington Redskins. The Cowboys still have eight games remaining and four games left against divisional foes.

If they want to make hay and keep themselves in the playoff picture, they absolutely have to have this game. If the Dallas Cowboys want to win this game, they'll have to accomplish these 3 keys to the game.

1. Contain Fletcher Cox

Philadelphia Eagles Defensive Tackle Fletcher Cox is one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. Only Aaron Donald would be considered better by most of the NFL.

With the Dallas Cowboys already down Travis Frederick because of his fight with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, the offensive line will now be trying to replace rookie Left Guard Connor Williams. Williams undewent arthoscopic knee surgery this week and will be out this week and likely for several more weeks.

Cox ranks second in total pressures according to Pro Football Focus, which measures pressures as the combination of sacks, hits, and hurries. He has four sacks this season, 25 tackles, including five tackles for loss with 15 quarterback hits.

Fletcher Cox poses a real problem for Joe Looney and Williams replacement, Xavier Su'a-Filo. Su'a-Filo has been a starter in the NFL, playing all 16 games for the Houston Texans each of the last two seasons. Stepping in cold, however, against a front four including Cox is a tough task for a player who the Cowboys signed off the street.

Containing Fletcher Cox is the most important aspect of what the Dallas Cowboys will have to do next...

2. Take Advantage of Ailing Secondary

The Philadelphia Eagles are going to be without Corner backs Jalen Mills and Sydney Jones. They rank second and fourth among Eagles corners in snaps in 2018.

The Dallas Cowboys have attempted to spark their offense with big changes to their wide receiver group in the last few weeks. They traded for Amari Cooper and added Noah Brown and Lance Lenoir to the active roster this week in hopes of trying to help the offense and Quarterback Dak Prescott get going.

The passing game's inefficiency and inconsistency has been one of the main story lines for the Dallas Cowboys this season. How the passing game goes is typically how the offense goes. When the passing game struggles, the offense struggles.

If the Dallas Cowboys can keep Fletcher Cox -- and the rest of the Eagles front seven -- from getting to Dak Prescott, they're going to have opportunities for some big plays on Sunday night. If the debut of Amari Cooper is any indication, the Cowboys will continue to improve in the passing game. The wide receiver depth that the Cowboys will be deploying on Sunday Night Football will be better than anything that the Eagles can put out there to stop them.

The Eagles are hurting in the secondary. The Cowboys, if they want to win, will have to take advantage of them.

3. Don't Allow the Eagles to Fly

The Philadelphia Eagles made a big addition of their own to the passing game by trading for former Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Golden Tate. Tate, who played with the Lions earlier this season, torched the Dallas Cowboys for eight receptions, 132 yards, and two touchdowns in the Cowboys week four win over the Lions.

Tate joins a group of pass catchers including Alshon Jeffrey, Zach Ertz, and Nelson Agohlor that will test the Dallas Cowboys secondary all night long. The Cowboys secondary is fairly healthy, but they haven't played well aside from Corner Backs Byron Jones and Anthony Brown.

The Eagles will likely target Cowboys Corner Chidobe Awuzie on the left side of the defense. Chidobe Awuzie will have to have a better game than he's had this season for the Cowboys to contain the Eagles offense. He's been the week link this season. Not being horrible, but not making many plays or limiting opposing passing games. He's allowed a 128.4 passer rating when targeted, 32 receptions and two touchdowns.

The defensive line is going to be able to get pressure on the Eagles Quarterback Carson Wentz, but the Dallas secondary is going to have to hold up for that pressure to mean something. Wentz has been pressured on 34% of his drop backs, yet his quarterback rating is sixth in the NFL when under pressure at 81.8.

Just as important as anything, the Dallas Cowboys will have to prevent the Eagles from converting on third downs. The Eagles are converting at the 13th best rate in the NFL at 41.3%. The defense was horrible at getting off the field on Monday night against the Tennessee Titans and will have to be better tonight against their division rival.

It's going to be a tough battle in the passing game for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Every game for the Dallas Cowboys from here on out is a must-win game. They don't have any margin for error moving forward. With eight games left in the regular season, the Cowboys are going to have to get on a run to see the season turn around. This game will have ramifications on how the rest of the 2018 season plays out, but could also have a huge impact on the future of the Cowboys organization for years to come.



Dallas Cowboys optimist bringing factual reasonable takes to Cowboys Nation and the NFL Community. I wasn't always a Cowboys fan, but I got here as quick as I could.

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2 Comments
  • Harold Ellerbee

    I got this feeling I can’t explain it feels like the Cowboys might pull this one out…they are due a big win maybe this will be the game…you don’t have to have a great team just a great game every one has to be on the same page…..just got this feeling…this may be the spark the Boys need to start a string of wins…if not Jerry needs to throw in towel…we will still have a shot for good place in next years draft…if you can’t be great you can at least be smart…I hope this is not the year for Dallas to be stuck on stupid.

    • Harold Ellerbee

      Gosh this is fun I seem to have the stage. .why don’t we start going for it on 4th down if we loose this game who knows we might get pretty good by the end of the year but I would rather just get this team to learn to learn to play togather..

Game Notes

Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Less Is More For Sean Lee And Cowboys' LBs?

The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.

We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.

Dallas Cowboys

  • TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
  • G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
  • DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
  • WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
  • WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
  • OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
  • DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable

Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.

Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving.  Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.

Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.

Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.

While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.

Indianapolis Colts

  • G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
  • LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
  • S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
  • WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
  • TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
  • S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable

The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.

Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.

Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.

Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.



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Game Notes

Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

Sean Martin

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Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.

The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.

David Moore on Twitter

Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.

Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.

While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.

Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.

The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.

Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.

The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.

Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.

Tell us what you think about "Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone

Kevin Brady

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Fantasy Football - Fantasy Football Quarterback Rankings - Week 2 2
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.

This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.

In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.

For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.

Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.

Bob Sturm on Twitter

I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.

Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.

Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.



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