Eagles week ends today, Cowboys Nation. Anticipation for the Dallas Cowboys getting their first shot at the Philadelphia Eagles has only built up with each Eagles win – as they fly into AT&T Stadium off of their bye week, winners of seven straight at 8-1 atop the NFC East.
Perhaps unfortunately, the Cowboys are coming off of a demoralizing loss that sends them into their second game without Ezekiel Elliott, Tyron Smith, and Sean Lee at 5-4. What this should create on Sunday Night Football tonight is a desperate home team, which can lead to exciting football.
We have only been treated to one true match up between Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz on their young careers, and Cowboys fans should have confidence in Prescott keeping Dallas competitive tonight – perhaps with the help of some unexpected contributors.
Here is who I see as the Cowboys' X-factors on both sides of the ball if they hope to remain alive in the NFC East race by beating the Eagles.
Dallas Cowboys Offense: WR Ryan Switzer
With just two catches for nine yards on the season, it is safe to say that rookie WR Ryan Switzer has not made the immediate impact that many have hoped for – although rarely given opportunities to do so on offense.
A lot of eyes will be on Scott Linehan and the adjustments he makes in this game to deal with the loss of Tyron Smith and find ways to move the ball against a stout Eagles defensive line.
A quick passing game that failed to execute in Atlanta could again be the game plan for the Cowboys, going up against an Eagles secondary that will concede some underneath throws with run after the catch potential.
While Cole Beasley would be the first receiver Dak Prescott turns to in finding these “hidden yards”, Cole has not been featured as much in this year's offense, and Switzer is the more dynamic down-the-field threat.
Add in the ability Switzer has in the return game tonight, and a few splash plays with the ball in his hands on offense could easily make the Cowboys' fourth round pick an X-factor.
Dallas Cowboys Defense: DE Taco Charlton
Going with a rookie on both sides of the ball enforces the fact that it is far from time to panic at The Star. A young team still coming together, the Cowboys have to be encouraged by the signs Taco Charlton has shown recently – helping him out considerably by finally lining him up at his best position of left defensive end.
The Cowboys defensive line needs to make game-changing plays tonight, winning the battle of field position by getting to Carson Wentz in some critical moments. With Eagles' LT Jason Peters not playing, Rod Marinelli may try to scheme most of his pressure off of that right edge.
If this means situational snaps for DeMarcus Lawrence at right defensive end, Taco Charlton needs to take advantage on the left side. Philadelphia also will lean heavily on RBs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, two physical backs that will attack a Dallas front seven playing without Sean Lee.
This is yet another area that Taco Charlton can prove his value as a first round pick, holding the point of attack in run defense as he looks for pass rush snaps.
Regardless of who steps up tonight for the Cowboys, I believe we are in for a thrilling game that will take both passionate fan bases through enough twists and turns to carry into Monday morning.
If it is going to be a Victory Monday in Cowboys Nation once again, the desperate Cowboys need everybody on the field to elevate their game just a little bit more – particularly these two X-factors.
I hope reading this helped in even the smallest way towards getting you to tonight's kickoff, as writing it certainly did just a little bit. It is Eagles week.