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Week 16 Preview: Philadelphia Eagles (4-9-1) at Dallas Cowboys (5-9)

By Matt Szczypiorski, Sports Talk Philly Contributing Writer

The Eagles head south for a date with the hated Dallas Cowboys in Jerry World on Sunday afternoon. This game is a prime instance of a, “Throw the records out the window,” game. Both teams have been barely watchable this season, which is something that neither franchise has been overly accustomed to in the 21st century.

Even with both teams being objectively awful, this game still carries significance. Both teams are still technically in the NFC East hunt, though the Eagles have an “easier” route to the division title than Dallas does.

If the Eagles were to win, coupled with a Washington loss to Carolina on Sunday evening, the Birds matchup with the Football Team next week would decide the division.

If Dallas beats the Eagles this week and the Giants next week, and Washington loses both of their remaining games, Dallas would get the NFC East “crown.”

Though the records are disgusting and the teams have been hard to watch all season long, this game has the potential to hold a lot of weight in the final standings.

Or, if the team without a real name wins, it could mean nothing.

Either way, it’s Eagles-Cowboys. If nothing else, this game is for pride and bragging rights.


Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

If Jalen Hurts hasn’t impressed you in the two and a half games he’s played thus far, then I’m not entirely sure you’re watching the same games that I’m watching.

Hurts has been consistently accurate while showing exquisite poise in the pocket. He has shown his great instinctual ability to run when things break down. He has undeniably brought an energy to this offense that was so desperately needed.

Perhaps the most exciting detail is that Hurts has made the Eagles not only bearable to watch, but dare I say, fun to watch.

Has Hurts been perfect? Sweet heavens no. The sacks he took on back-to-back plays with the game on the line last week likely cost the Eagles a chance at tying the game. Hurts has a big time fumbling problem, as he fumbled three times last week, though none were recovered by Arizona. He has had this problem all season, even dating back to his first game action in week three against Cincinnati.

Nonetheless, Hurts has given Eagles fans a reason to be cautiously optimistic about the quarterback position for at least the remainder of the season.

For all that is good and holy, if Doug Pederson does not ride the running game on Sunday afternoon, there is a near 100% chance I will be fist fighting my television. The Dallas Cowboys rank 32nd in the league in rushing yards allowed per game.

There are 32 teams in the NFL.

Miles Sanders needs to touch the football 20 times in this game, no exceptions. There is no logical reason that the Eagles shouldn’t ride their tenth ranked rushing attack to victory against this atrocious rush defense.

This is especially true with the extra dynamic that Hurts has added to the rushing game with his great ability to run the football. The Eagles should attempt no less than 25-30 runs on Sunday. If Hurts has anywhere close to the 40 pass attempts he had last week, something has gone horribly wrong.

The Cowboys pass defense has had a bit of a revitalization since Ben DiNucci out-performed Carson Wentz in their first matchup. Dallas is now eighth in the league against the pass, a dramatic improvement from earlier in the season.

This is all the more reason for the Eagles game plan to be run-heavy on Sunday afternoon. Though the Eagles offense saw a ton of success in the passing game last week, the discrepancy between the Cowboys rush and pass defense is so severe that it would be irrational for the Birds to be pass-heavy on Sunday.

With the way Doug Pederson has called games this season, don’t be surprised if he ignores all signs and continues to chuck the pigskin 40 times.

With that being said, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t daydreaming about Jalen Hurts throwing a deep touchdown pass to the recently activated DeSean Jackson.


Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

Even after surrendering 26 first-half points, the Eagles defense didn’t end up having too poor of a performance considering their circumstances. Down their top options in the secondary, the defense did about as good as they could against Arizona’s high octane offense.

The Eagles defense forced three turnovers last weekend, far and away their best performance in that department all season.

Michael Jacquet impressed with his valiant effort against a generational talent in DeAndre Hopkins, and even forced a fumble on his sack of Kyler Murray. Even Marcus Epps of all people found himself in the right spot for the Eagles first interception since week eight.

The Eagles will be getting starting corner Darius Slay back this week after he missed last Sunday’s game with a concussion. Slay has had great success against Cowboys standout receiver Amari Cooper dating back to his days in Detroit, so anticipate a good game out of Slay. Expect for Jacquet to start on the opposite side of Slay this week.

The Birds will be missing defensive end Josh Sweat on Sunday after he exited last week’s game early on with a wrist injury. Sweat had been coming on the last few weeks and had become a key playmaker in the Eagles defensive line rotation.

Lucky for the Eagles, Brandon Graham, fresh off of his first (long overdue) pro bowl nod will headline a ferocious pass rushing unit against a weak Dallas offensive line.

The Cowboys offense has been fairly mediocre in every facet of their offense since Dak Prescott was lost for the season with his ankle injury. Dalton has been mediocre, yet serviceable, as the back-up, which was expected.

However, the shocking development has been how ineffective the Dallas Cowboys have been running the football, particularly with Ezekiel Elliott. The former rushing champion has had an extremely ineffective season and has just five touchdowns to this point.

Elliott has been an Eagle killer throughout his career, so don’t be surprised if he gashes the Eagles defense. As for the rest of the Cowboys offense, don’t count out Andy Dalton having an effective game throwing to his embarrassment of riches at receiver.

Even with Amari Cooper facing his kryptonite in Darius Slay, Michael Gallup and rookie CeeDee Lamb have favorable matchups with Eagles corners. It would be so typical for Lamb to have a big game against the Eagles and be yet another reminder of a receiver the Eagles could have drafted in April.


My Prediction

The Eagles have not had a season sweep of the Cowboys since the 2011 season. With a win on Sunday evening, the Eagles will achieve just that. The pieces for an Eagles victory are certainly in place.

Jalen Hurts continues to play well, as he has another effective day of running the football. He will continue to be accurate and make good decisions with the football. If he has another interception-free day, the Eagles will win this game.

The Cowboys have been aided in their victories over Cincinnati and San Francisco with takeaways. If the Eagles are able to hold on to the football, the Eagles should have no issue going up and down the field against the Cowboys defense.

Though Ben DiNucci is not the Dallas quarterback this Sunday, the Eagles defense will have success against the Dallas offense. If they are able to shut down the run and force Andy Dalton to make plays, the Eagles will be in a good spot.

Hurts and the offense continue to play well, and the rushing attack is extremely effective as Pederson calls for more runs in this game than he has all season. Sanders has over 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Hurts adds two passing touchdowns of his own to Dallas Goedert and Jalen Reagor.

The Cowboys keep the game competitive and close throughout the first half half, but the Eagles pull away in the fourth quarter with their rushing attack wearing down the Dallas defense.

Eagles win, 33-25.


Bonus Prediction: Carolina at Washington

I cannot justify picking the Washington Football Team to win a game with Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, especially with Haskins being stripped of his captain duties after being seen mask-less at a club after a Washington loss last Sunday.

Carolina’s young defense outshines Washington’s young defense, and Teddy Bridgewater guides the Panthers to victory.

The NFC East will come down to a week 17 matchup between the 6-9 Washington Football Team and the 5-9-1 Eagles at the Linc. Gross.


Broadcast Information

Time: 4:25 p.m.

TV: FOX

Radio: 94.1 FM WIP

Online: NFL Gamepass

A reminder that Howie Roseman sucks at drafting.

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