Well, well, well... we've certainly got a treat tonight. The Dallas Cowboys host long-time divisional foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, tonight at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX, and it's quite a matchup from start to finish. The biggest story of the night is undoubtedly the rookies at work in this one, and thanks to them, I think we can safely save the tricks for Halloween tomorrow night.
Dak Prescott has looked good, real good, in 2016. Not only is he a rookie QB playing like a good second or third year vet, but he's a fourth round pick, the eight QB selected in the 2016 NFL draft, and he's making millions of fans -- not to mention the Cowboys front office -- actually consider if he should start, or if it should be Tony Romo.
All the petty arguing and trolling aside, just let that sink in for a moment.
Let it sink in that all the experts said 2016 was a weak class for QBs, that while there were several good QBs, nothing spectacular would come out of this class at that position. Paxton Lynch and Jared Goff may be experiencing rather typical rookie struggles, but Dak Prescott certainly isn't.
And neither is Carson Wentz.
Granted, Wentz may have come down a level or two the last coupe of weeks, but he's been keeping step with Prescott for the rookie QB battle to watch in the NFL. Tonight he's going to step onto one of the biggest stages in the world with his team and try to, at the very least, keep momentum going.
Wentz and the Eagles maybe didn't look so hot last week, but it was a rough game all around. And lest we forget, they did play, and defeat, the unbeaten Minnesota Vikings. Ugly or not, a win is a win.
That's something to remind ourselves for this contest; a win is a win. It doesn't actually matter if the 'Boys knock off the who-care's like the Bengals or a hated rival like the Eagles, a win is a win. It's all another number at the end of the season, and the number we're shooting for tonight is an NFC East best 6-1.
Enough pontificating. It's time to get to the staff's picks.
Brian Martin | @Bmart0204
Division games are always tough to predict because the two teams know each other so well, but I believe the Dallas Cowboys continue their hot streak this week against the Philadelphia Eagles. I think this game will ultimately be decided by whoever wins in the trenches. If the Cowboys offensive line dominates the Eagles front-seven, Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott will take care of the rest.
Cowboys 24 – Eagles 17
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Kevin Brady | @Kevinbrady88
Flat out, I think the Cowboys are better than the Eagles. At home, coming off of a bye, and riding this five-game win streak, I see no reason why the Cowboys shouldn't come out on top this week.
Sure, the Eagles present some problems with their front-seven and can create big plays on Special Teams, but the Cowboys rushing attack will be too much. Dallas plays another week of (almost) mistake free football, and improves to 6-1.
Cowboys 31 – Eagles 21
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RJ Ochoa | @RJOchoa
The Cowboys Coaching Staff is en fuego this season.
You give those guys an extra week of preparation (and some historical knowledge from Scott Linehan) and this thing is over. Cowboys are going to run right at Philly.
Cowboys 27 – Eagles 17
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Sean Martin | @ShoreSportsNJ
Can you really pick against this Cowboys team right now? Fresh off of a bye week and looking for their sixth straight win, I'll take Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott to do just enough offensively - with Dez Bryant finding the end zone twice. Carson Wentz throws an interception on the Eagles final drive to increase Dallas' lead in the division for good.
Cowboys 21 – Eagles 14
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Ian Koplowitz | @BleedingTheStar
I think the Cowboys are looking at this game as their chance to assert themselves as the team to beat in the division. They liked their chances before, but learning that Bennie Logan will be out of the lineup certainly bodes well.
I believe there's enough tape on Carson Wentz at this point for Rod and this defense to scheme up a nice game plan, especially coming off the bye. Divisional games are never easy, but I think we start to win games at home with the crowd excitement being generated by our fantastic rookie class.
Cowboys 31 – Eagles 23
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Jess Haynie | @CowboysAddicts
The Eagles will be without two key defensive players (DT Bennie Logan, CB Ron Brooks) while the Cowboys are getting Dez Bryant back. Carson Wentz is the Eagles' best chance to win, but he's cooled off lately.
Cowboys 30 – Eagles 23
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John Williams | @John9williams
This game is being billed as a matchup of rookie quarterbacks, but to me it's a matchup that will be won or lost by the guys playing in the trenches.
I expect the Cowboys to continue to make good opposing defensive lines look average as they open up holes for Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris to run, and provide enough protection for Dak Prescott to get the ball to his plethora of play-making wide receivers. Dallas' defensive line should be able to make plays against the Philadelphia Eagles average offensive line.
Cowboys 30 – Eagles 14
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Justin Grohowski | @Grohowknowhow
Dallas faces yet another test Sunday night against a strong defensive unit. But the Eagles haven't faced an offensive line of this elite level yet and that will be the difference here.
Both rookies continue to shine as the running game dominates. Dez Bryant has a big game as well. He typically owns the Eagles and that continues here. Dallas gets a big cushion in the NFC East.
Cowboys 27 – Eagles 20
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Bryson Treece | @BrysonTreece
The Eagles are just off an upset against the Vikings, so even if Carson Wentz wasn't so pristine at the end of it, don't count them out just yet. Plus, division rivals tend to surprise with a deep knowledge of the team and that extra fire motivating players.
It's gonna be tough; no doubt about that. The Eagles are going to come into our house and do what they do, leaving the Cowboys to stop them if they want to win. I won't lie, I'm not convinced. This Cowboys defense has holes that can be exploited, we'll just have to see if they continue to upset opposing offences enough for Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to make things happen.
Cowboys 30 – Eagles 23
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Tonight is the 115th meeting between the Cowboys and Eagles, and you know it's going to be a game worth talking about afterward. These teams rarely face-off without some excitement, some controversy, someone upset.
So, as always, be safe, be happy, and if you're at AT&T Stadium tonight... MAKE SOME NOISE!!!
Cowboys Wishlist: Snap Julio Jones’ Hot Streak
The Dallas Cowboys will try to get their second road win of the season against another inconsistent Atlanta Falcons team. As both try to get back to .500, this game will be filled with interesting matchups and implications. After upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles 27-20 last Sunday, the Cowboys need to get another upset win to keep being relevant in the league this year.
Here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist! I hope you enjoy and I encourage you to let me know what your wishes are in the comments section below or tweet me @MauNFL!
Wish #1: Stop Julio Jones' 100-Yard Game Streak
With the Atlanta Falcons sitting at 4-5, many have overlooked Wide Receiver Julio Jones' hot streak. In each of his last four games, Jones has accounted for more than 100 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Totaling 476 yards in his last four games, Jones is ready to face Cowboys' Cornerback Byron Jones.
Byron has certainly been a pleasant surprise in 2018, playing at a great level right now. He has faced Odell Beckham and DeAndre Hopkins this year and made a good job of defending these "Tier 1" pass-catchers. It's worth noting the Cowboys are not making him "travel" with these players but rather keep him on a specific side of the field. That shouldn't change against the Falcons.
Wish #2: Contain WR Calvin Ridley
Back in April, Cowboys Nation eyed Calvin Ridley as a prospect who could end up wearing the Star on Sundays. However, Dallas passed on him and the Alabama product fell right unto the Falcons' lap. He's had a pretty good season and despite sharing the field with Julio Jones, he's done a great job as a rookie averaging 14 yards per reception.
The Cowboys need to contain him. While Dallas should feel comfortable with Byron doing his job, the truth is Chidobe Awuzie has struggled at times. Not that he's suddenly a bad player, but he needs to step up his game. Lining up against Ridley today will be a great test and one I wouldn't expect him to pass easily.
Wish #3: Score 28+ Points
The Cowboys have the huge advantage of going against a defense that ranks 29th in scoring defense. They did a nice job on Philadelphia last week and should continue to build on that success to do something they haven't done much this year: score a lot of points.
Scott Linehan's unit needs to do a better, more consistent, job. They've shown us they're capable of scoring, but they've also shown us their remarkable ability to seemingly forget how to do so. Blame it on play-calling, QB play, poor offensive line or whatever you prefer, it's a flawed unit.
They need to capitalize versus a poor defense like the Falcons' to find a steady rhythm.
Wish #4: Dak Makes This Falcons' Game a Turning Point
Last year, when Dak Prescott was sacked six times in Atlanta (five times by Adrian Clayborn) something changed for the Cowboys' young quarterback. Missing RB Ezekiel Elliott and LT Tyron Smith that day, Prescott had one of the worse days in his career. It was a turning point for him as a QB and the public eye.
Now he has a chance at redemption. A shot at putting the Cowboys at .500 and reviving playoff hopes, as unlikely as it sounds.
I wish that's the case for the Cowboys young passer in Atlanta. As flawed as he is, I'm a fan of his. The kid leaves it all on the field.
Cowboys, Falcons Week 11 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons are both 4-5 and playing to keep their seasons alive. It's a mutual must-win game, and both will have to try to win it without some key players. Once again, we look at this week's injury reports.
Let's begin with your Cowboys, whose report is getting longer as the season wears on:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- DE Taco Charlton (shoulder) - OUT
- DT David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- DT Daniel Ross (calf) - OUT
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - OUT
- DT Antwaun Woods (concussion) - Doubtful
- G Zack Martin (knee) - Questionable
- G Connor Williams (knee) - Questionable
- DT Maliek Collins (knee) - Questionable
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - Questionable
The biggest news is the guy who won't miss tomorrow's game; All-Pro guard Zack Martin is expected to play despite his knee injury from last Sunday night. The Cowboys, already dealing with Travis Frederick's absence and now health issues at left guard, could ill afford to go without Martin in such a pivotal game.
Even if he was healthy, rookie Connor Williams might have a hard time getting in the game. Backup Xavier Su'a-Filo looked like an experienced former second-round pick last week, and he may be the better player for now.
The defensive line has been hit hard, particularly in the middle. With Irving and Ross out, Woods doubtful, and Collins uncertain, Dallas called up DT Christian Ringo from the practice squad. They will also be without Taco Charlton, who could play inside some. Veteran Caraun Reid will be seeing a lot of playing time.
Sean Lee's ongoing absence has become almost an afterthought now with the stellar play of Leighton Vander Esch. We've seen in the past when missing Lee meant disaster on defense, but Dallas' first-round rookie has helped mitigate the damage.
- LB Deion Jones (foot) - OUT
It's a short list for Atlanta, but the one name on it is a big one. Arguably the team's best defensive player, Deion Jones will miss the game with a foot injury.
The Falcons' injury issues have been more in players suffering season-ending injuries. Both starting guards, Andy Levitre and Brandon Fusco, are on injured reserve. Star running back Devonta Freeman is also there, and those losses help explain Atlanta's 30th-ranked rushing offense.
Both starting safeties are also on IR; Ricardo Allen and Keanu Neal. Atlanta has one of the league's worst passing defense this year without them, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 28th in opponent passer rating.
So yes, the Falcons injury report compared to the Cowboys' may raise some eyebrows. But in terms of who has most of their key guys, Dallas is arguably still better off.
Cowboys Have Already Corrected Biggest Mistake From 2017 Loss in Atlanta
The Dallas Cowboys play their next three games in 13 days, all critical to their hopes of winning the NFC East despite alternating wins and losses since week one. For the Cowboys to earn consecutive road wins, their first coming on Sunday night at the Eagles, they'll have to come out of Atlanta in much better shape than they did just a year ago.
As expected in the NFL, a lot has changed in this year. The Cowboys 27-7 loss at the Falcons in their first game without Running Back Ezekiel Elliott was the beginning of the end on a season that forced a multitude of coaching changes in Dallas.
The Cowboys stubbornness in allowing Falcons DE Adrian Clayborn to sack Dak Prescott six times by beating Chaz Green and Byron Bell is something they hoped to move past when new positional coaches were brought in at OL, TE, QB, and WR.
It took the team admitting that these moves below Offensive Coordinator Scot Linehan were not all correct two weeks ago for the Cowboys to see any real progress, but with their win last week there's hope that the Cowboys are the improved team expected weeks ago - arrived just in time for Thanksgiving.
Firing Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander was the first move, as the Cowboys named Marc Colombo OL Coach and Hudson Houck his assistant. Colombo told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas this week that he has injured Center Travis Frederick on a headset during games as well.
Colombo, Houck, and Frederick have the Cowboys offensive line confident in their ability to play to their strengths, rewarded with a renewed faith in the zone blocking scheme that was forgotten under Alexander.
If the Cowboys offensive line was their first problem in last year's Falcons loss (it was), it's becoming their biggest strength at the right time in the season.
The Cowboys necessary changes didn't stop here though.
In desperate need of a play maker on the outside, the Cowboys are seeing their investment into Wide Receiver Amari Cooper pay off so far. Cooper is averaging 3.2 yards of separation on his routes this season, ahead of Cole Beasley's 2.6 yards as the next closest pass catcher.
Cooper's presence was a big part of Ezekiel Elliott's 151 yard rushing performance at the Eagles. A player that can win on the outside with ease and dictate coverage has benefited Prescott and the Cowboys game plan on offense enough to send away a first round pick.
It will be up to this "rebuilt" Cowboys offense to match the Falcons on Sunday. Atlanta is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, but a much more dangerous 32.2 at home. After a 1-4 start, the 4-5 Falcons are playing in front of their home fans for the first time in two weeks, losing at the Browns in week ten.
The Cowboys felt they'd be prepared for games like this after their offseason moves, instead needing to show the type of in-season urgency that's been rare for Jason Garrett's team. The same can be said about a Falcons team that's experienced playing with their backs to the wall much sooner than the Cowboys have this season, setting up a big NFC match up in the early slot Sunday.
Dak Prescott will be thankful that Chaz Green nor Byron Bell are protecting him, wanting nothing more than to deliver another win for the Cowboys to take into Thanksgiving against the division-leading Washington Redskins. Not all of the coaches responsible for the lack of adjustment in last year's game are gone. What the Cowboys do have are tangible new ideas from coaches that understand they need more than a win at the defending Super Bowl champions to call this Cowboys season a success.
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