By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer
This is a classic “throw the records out the window” game. Eagles vs. Cowboys. The most intense, bitter, hatred-filled rivalry in the city of Philadelphia.
Most players and coaches will dismiss any rivalry game as “just another game on the schedule.” Not the Eagles. Say what you will about the performance of the team this year, but they understand the importance of this matchup. Even the new guy, cornerback Darius Slay, knew the significance behind this game pretty quickly.
🔥🔥 Eagles CB Darius Slay is learning very quickly #Eagles vs Cowboys is NOT a normal game— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) October 29, 2020
“This Like Super Bowl or Die! Oh my goodness, y’all serious about this! Ok, let’s turn it up then!”@6abc @bigplay24slay #Eagles #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/AnZTwB6dHJ
Yes, both these teams have severely underwhelmed this season, and quite frankly are not good football teams. Yes, it’s increasingly probable that the Cowboys will be down to their third string quarterback on Sunday night. Yes, there will only be about 6000 fans in Lincoln Financial Field to witness the game.
It doesn’t matter. This game is still so much more than a game. When these two teams get together, they are playing for the history of the rivalry. They are playing for their cities. They are playing for everyone that came before them. They are playing for bragging rights.
In Philly, the Eagles could go 2-14, but if those two wins are against the Dallas Cowboys, those two wins feel like a whole lot more than two wins. The hatred spans from the cities, to the fan bases, to the two organizations.
So when outsiders are confused why we, as fans, get so invested in this game even though both teams objectively stink, it’s simple. This game just means more than any other game on the schedule. It always has, and always will.
Related Reading To Embrace The Nostalgia
The Top Ten Eagles-Cowboys Moments Of All-Time (as of December 20, 2019)
Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
Last Thursday night against the Giants, the Eagles offense had a great first drive of the game and a great final five minutes. Everything in between? Piping hot garbage.
If you look at the box score, you will argue that quarterback Carson Wentz had his best game of the season. 359 passing yards and two touchdowns isn’t anything to sneeze at. Those last two offensive possessions for the Birds was a level of play Wentz consistently reached in 2017 but has been few and far between since then. He delivered when it mattered most.
With that being said, you could also argue that the Eagles would not have needed those heroics from #11 if he and the rest of the offense were able to lodge their craniums out of their rectums in the 45 minutes of game time that preceded those final two possessions.
Against a truly terrible Cowboys defense, I am begging Wentz to build off of the momentum he created at the end of last Thursday’s game. I want to see that again, but across the entirety of the game. It would also be a great opportunity for Wentz to have his first game without a turnover in 2020. Please.
With Miles Sanders out for Sunday night’s contest, expect another heavy dosage of New York Giant-killer Boston Scott. Scott didn’t do much last week on the ground, albeit on limited carries (run the ball Doug!), but made the clutch game-winning touchdown grab to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. Pederson needs to get Scott get more touches than the measly 15 he had last week.
Tight end Dallas Goedert’s status is up in the air after missing the last few weeks with an ankle fracture. If he is able to give it a go this weekend, that will be a huge boost for this Eagles offense even though back-up Richard Rodgers has been magnificent in his place. Rodgers will still see plenty of action even if Goedert plays because of how often the Eagles run two tight-end sets.
As for another injured Eagle, receiver Jalen Reagor will be good to go and play in his first game since week three after being sidelined with a tear in his thumb. I am quite excited to see him play alongside Greg Ward and Travis Fulgham. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t be mad about that trio being the receivers of the future for this offense.
The Eagles offensive line has been a mystery all week. Jason Peters has recovered from his injury, and it looks like Lane Johnson is going to try to continue to tough out his ankle injury and start at right tackle. It appears as though Peters will start at left tackle over Jordan Mailiata, which is ludicrous to me considering how well Mailiata has played the last three weeks.
Don’t lose your marbles quite yet though, because I can almost guarantee that Peters or Johnson will be hurt at some point during the game. Mailata will be back before long.
Putting Jordan Mailata back on the bench is flat out ridiculous.— Brenden Deeg (@eaglestalk_) October 30, 2020
The 2020 Dallas Cowboys defense is the worst defense I’ve ever seen a Cowboys team have. It is glorious.
Dallas leads the league in rushing yards allowed, and they have allowed the fourth most passing touchdowns in the league while also mustering up just one interception. Big name players Demarcus Lawerence, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch have been dormant. Smith in particular looks like a completely different player than the pro-bowler he was a season ago.
If the Eagles offense doesn’t beast and feast against this horrid Cowboys defensive unit, Doug Pederson’s head might be on a stake by the wee hours of Monday morning.
Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense
The Eagles defense was uncharacteristic last Thursday night, as they struggled to stop a running game that hasn’t gotten off the ground all year. Daniel Jones would have had an 80+ yard touchdown run if he knew how to run like a professional athlete. Wayne Gallman nearly didn’t allow the Eagles to get the football back at the end of the game.
That will need to be tightened up on Sunday against Ezekiel Elliott. The Eagles pass defense was extremely mediocre, as it was Nickell Robey-Coleman's turn to be the biggest disappointment of the week.
I am looking forward to watching Darius Slay’s matchup with Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper. Slay notoriously had Cooper’s number while he was with the Lions. The Eagles have been looking for a cornerback to lock up Cooper for two years, and it appears they’ve finally gotten it. Slay has also allowed just 39 yards per game this season.
Darius Slay has been the— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) October 28, 2020
Darius 2 games vs Amari Cooper
Gotta be one of the reasons Howie Roseman traded for
Big Play Slay pic.twitter.com/JSbCY7JdKo
Yesterday afternoon the Eagles announced that defensive end Genard Avery and linebacker Nathan Gerry would be put on injured reserve. Obviously you never wish for someone to be injured, but Nqte Gerry being forced off the field is good news for not only the Eagles defense, but the sanity of Eagles fans everywhere. Play the young guys, Jim!
Defensive end Brandon Graham is having a renaissance, as he may be having his best year as an Eagle. Graham has six sacks and nine tackles for loss. He is the only player in the league with those stats. Look for him to continue to make an impact against a banged up Dallas offensive line.
Speaking of banged up Cowboys, back-up turned starting quarterback Andy Dalton is looking increasingly doubtful to suit up on Sunday night. He wasn’t playing well anyway, but this is still a tough blow to a Dallas team that will likely be starting their third string quarterback out of JMU.
Ben DiNucci didn’t do much once he came into the game for Dalton last week, as he threw for just 39 yards and had only three passing attempts. I have a hunch he’ll have more than that this week.
Eagles fans I warn you not to already look at this game as a win with DiNucci starting. I don’t want to have to remind everyone of the horror that was Joe Webb on a Tuesday night in December of 2010, but I must. Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.
The last NFL game played on a Tuesday Night was December 28th of 2010 between the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.— National Football Post (@FootballPost) October 13, 2020
The Joe Webb vs Michael Vick game. pic.twitter.com/ORzO8X11K4
In all seriousness, DiNucci will have no shortage of weapons around him. Running back Ezekiel Elliott, though he has struggled, is still an elite back. The receiver trio of Cooper, Micahel Gallup, and (sigh) CeeDee Lamb is as talented as it gets. All DiNucci has to do is get the ball in their hands and stay out of the way. Seems like a simple task, but Andy Dalton made it look pretty complicated.
Look for the Eagles to try to create a lot of pressure on the young quarterback making his first NFL start. Jim Schwartz, not known for blitzing all that much, should dial up more blitzes than usual. The more uncomfortable DiNucci is, the better this game will go for the Eagles.
The more I think about this game the more I realize the disparity in the risk-reward for the Eagles this weekend. If they win, that’s great, but they are expected to do so. If they win in similar fashion to last week, hammer whatever is left of the panic button. If they lose, this game will be known as the “Ben DiNucci Game” forever and I can fully envision a scenario in which that happens.
Maybe I am really overcomplicating this. The Eagles are a much better team than the Cowboys are right now. The Eagles are double-digit favorites in this game for a reason. Ghosts of Eagles past remind me to not have too much confidence.
With that being said, I think Wentz builds off of last week’s momentum and has an efficient game against a lackluster Dallas defense. I will be speaking a 50-yard touchdown from Jalen Reagor into existence. Wentz will also connect with Travis Fulgham and Greg Ward for touchdowns.
The Birds defense suffocates a Dallas offense that hasn’t looked good at all since Dak Prescott’s gruesome injury. DiNucci will be flustered, and will be sacked at least five times to go along with two interceptions. Dallas keeps the game close for the first half, but the Eagles soar away in the second half.
Eagles win, 28-10. I could still totally see this game being a disaster.
dallas week. pic.twitter.com/fl10vJ10cR— Jeff McDevitt (@JeffMcDev) October 26, 2020
(How is this game still on Sunday night?)
Time: 8:20 p.m.
Radio: 94.1 FM WIP
Online: NFL Gamepass