The Cowboys return from their bye this Sunday to take on the 4-2 Philadelphia Eagles with first place in the NFC East on the line.
As the leaders in both the NFC and NFC East at 5-1, it is easy for us Cowboys fans to get overconfident. Especially when a rookie quarterback who isn’t Dak Prescott will be under center for our next opponent.
These pivotal games against the Eagles are almost always a dog-fight however, so it is important to understand who these Eagles are.
Two-Faced In The Red Zone
The strength of this Eagles team is unquestionably their defense, particularly their front seven. Fletcher Cox and company do a great job of rushing the passer, tallying up 20.0 sacks through 6 games.
In the red zone, this stingy defense gets even better. Sitting at 5th in the league in red zone defense, they are only allowing touchdowns on 45% of their opponents opportunities. On the other hand the Cowboys are 14th in red zone defense, allowing touchdowns 52% of the time.
The story is completely different for the Eagles offense, however. When their offense finds a way to get inside the 20, they are only converting for touchdowns 50% of the time. While Philadelphia has struggled mightily in terms of red zone offense, the Cowboys have found their rhythm, scoring on 65.22% of their trips.
Takeaways and Special Teams
Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz may have been given all of the glory of the Eagles early success, but it has truly been their ability to take the ball away and create big plays on Special Teams which has led to their winning ways.
Philadelphia is currently 5th in the league in turnover differential at +6 and 8th in the league in defensive points per game at 1.5.
In the return game, Josh Huff and Wendell Smallwood have each returned a kick for a touchdown in the past two weeks. Darren Sproles remains a serious threat as well, and has a few long returns on the year. As a unit the Eagles are 2nd in the NFL in Special Teams points per game at 2.3, behind only the Minnesota Vikings.
This does mean the Eagles are nearly dead last in football in terms of offensive point share percentage at only 85.3%, though. Only the Chiefs and Vikings have worse percentages.
The Eagles are banged up
While their defense has been the strong point so far, two important contributors to this unit will be missing on Sunday.
Defensive tackle Bennie Logan will in all likelihood miss his 2nd straight game this week, forcing Beau Allen into a starting role. Allen played 51 snaps last week and made just 2 tackles.
In the secondary, starting slot cornerback Ron Brooks is out for the season with a ruptured right quad. Trying to guard Cole Beasley has been hard enough this season, so it is hard to imagine a backup corner being able to get that job done.
His absence forces the Eagles to slide Safety Malcolm Jenkins down into the slot. While Jenkins is in all probability their best defensive back, moving up to corner takes away the Eagles ball-hawking ability in the back-end of their defense. With a healthy Dez Bryant looming, the Eagles have to be worried about how their secondary matches up with the Cowboys prolific offense.
So, how’s it going to go?
I really like the Cowboys in this game. Of course, I won’t make my official pick until Sunday, but when I examine who the Eagles are and why they have been so successful, they don’t fear me as much as other Eagles’ teams in the past have.
The Cowboys match up well with Philadelphia, and should be able to continue to control the ball and the line of scrimmage on offense this week.
If the Cowboys can eliminate Wendell Smallwood, Josh Huff, and Darren Sproles in the return game, continue to not make mistakes with the ball, and force Carson Wentz to beat them, they should come out of this game with a “W.”