With just a few hours to go until the first Cowboys-Eagles matchup of 2016, here are all of the things swirling around in this fan’s head. My prediction for the game is at the end.
Prescott vs Wentz: Chapter One
I can only echo the point that so many have already made this week about the two rookie quarterbacks. It really does feel like the beginning of a new personal rivalry.
While the intensity of the Cowboys-Eagles relationship certainly adds flavor, Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz could have this with just about any teams. The story of the fourth-round pick who has outshined the top two in his draft class works anywhere in the NFL. But being in the same conference, let alone division, will give these two so many opportunities to add new chapters to that narrative.
The irony here is that, almost any other year, Prescott and Wentz would be in a two-horse race for the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. That would also be a great piece of the story. However, at least through seven weeks, another guy playing tonight has left both in his dust.
The Dez Effect
Leave it to Skip Bayless to say asinine things, which he’s done plenty of the last few weeks in relation to Dez Bryant. The shock jerk Bayless, along with his “UNDISPUTED” co-host Mr. Ed, have been talking up the notion that Dez is a negative influence on the Cowboys and should be traded before he poisons the young team.
While Dez has never been the perfect soldier, he’s never been anything like the kind of Terrell Owens/Chad Johnson pariah that these clowns would have you believe. That is clearly evident by the warmth that his teammates and head coach exude when they discuss Dez or are seen interacting with him.
Believe me, I’ve questioned Dez’s “leadership” more than once. I think his unbridled passion isn’t always the best method for each situation or teammate, but I’ve never seen him do anything that I’d consider subversive or harmful.
Dez Bryant returns to the field tonight and there is no question that he will bring something positive for the Cowboys offense. Led by Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the offense has risen to new heights since Dez got injured in week 3. If he’s healthy enough to be a superstar, Bryant could potentially take things to an even higher level.
No Sympathy for Eagles Injuries
Philadelphia will be without starting defensive tackle Bennie Logan, their best run defender, as they go up against Elliott and the Cowboys’ top rushing attack. They will also be missing slot corner Ron Brooks, who just went to Injured Reserve, as they face one of the league’s best slot receivers in Cole Beasley.
While these ready-made excuses will no doubt be all over the tongues and keyboards of Eagles fans after tonight, there is no team in the NFL who I have less sympathy for. Ever since the day I had to hear classless Eagles fans cheer while Michael Irvin got carted off the field in Philadelphia, I’ve smirked at every misfortune they’ve ever faced.
But even that personal touch aside, injuries are part of NFL life. The Cowboys have had plenty of losses where one or two changes to the injury report could have changed the outcome. There are no asterisks to wins in the NFL (unless you’re the Patriots) and you take whatever help you can get at every possible point.
Dak Prescott’s Last Game of 2016?
It’s possible that this is the last we’ll see of Prescott this season. Tony Romo could come back as soon as next week when the Cowboys head to Cleveland. A soft opponent like the Browns would certainly be desirable to help Tony knock the rust off, if he’s healthy enough to go.
The decision between Romo and Prescott should be made with no regard for tonight’s outcome. You’ve seen enough to know what Dak is. It’s all a matter of what you believe Tony Romo can still offer, and if that projection merits the risk of making the big switch at quarterback.
The only difference tonight’s game should make is if the Cowboys are truly torn down the middle about the decision. It’s possible that they see Dak’s mobility and potential as equal to Romo’s experience and proven talent. If so, then that big word “momentum” is about the only tiebreaker you have.
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As promised, my prediction for tonight is that the two teams will continue their current trends. The Eagles won last week at home but before that lost back-to-back road games. Their only road win so far in 2016 was in Chicago, and we know firsthand how weak they are.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have just dispatched their two “toughest opponents to date” in the Bengals and Packers. Neither game was close; Dallas won by 14 in each contest and had firm control in the fourth quarter.
Despite last week’s win against the Vikings, Carson Wentz has started to come back to rookie Earth. He’s posted his two lowest passer ratings in the last two games. Meanwhile, Dak Prescott continues to hit new milestones each week.
The Cowboys have more momentum and will keep in rolling to a 6-1 record. Get your “Victory Monday” polos ready!