On paper, everything lines up nicely.
The Eagles are 8-1, rested, and coming off a bye.
The Cowboys are missing their best offensive player, their best defensive player, and surely their starting left tackle.
Jerry Jones is locked in a nasty feud with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
What could possibly go wrong?
That’s what concerns me here. It almost feels like there’s too much shifting in the Birds’ favor right now.
But I don’t know if you can call this one a “trap game.” I highly doubt the Eagles are looking ahead on the schedule or taking Dallas lightly. This doesn’t seem like a team that loses focus or forgets the task at hand, and they’ve had two weeks to prepare anyway.
So it’s not a “trap game,” not to me, but I’m still.. I don’t think “nervous” is the right word, but “anxious” might be appropriate. I’m anxious because it’s a divisional road game and Eagles fans are smart enough to know that you can’t take these for granted.
Look no further than Week 3, when the Birds needed a 61 yard field goal to dispatch the winless Giants at home after blowing a 14 point fourth quarter lead. How about Week 7, which started with an atrocious first quarter performance against the .500 Redskins?
These games are never smooth and always seem close, even when the Eagles are clearly the better team and favored to win.
As a starting point, the last two Dallas trips were settled in overtime. The two home games prior were disappointing losses.
(Throw out January’s Tony Romo farewell game, since the Cowboys rested their starters for the postseason.)
When you go down the list of Dallas games dating back to 2012, the margins of victory and defeat are pretty small, with only one true “blowout,” circled in yellow:
average margin of victory or loss – 10.6 points
Remove that Romo game and the Eagles are 3-6 against the Cowboys dating back to 2012.
As for the Giants, the last four games have been incredibly close, but there are a few outliers.
average margin of victory or loss: 12.5 points
That 12/30/2012 game was the Andy Reid lame duck tour, when the Birds got absolutely clobbered in the Meadowlands. Chip Kelly had an easy win in his second year, but you see a lot of 3 and 5 point games in there.
The 1/3/16 matchup featured Pat Shurmur at the helm, after Kelly was fired following a Week 16 loss to the Redskins. Tom Coughlin was coaching his final game in New York. There are more asterisks in the Eagles/Giants series for whatever reason.
As for the Redskins, the Eagles finally snapped that five-game skid and ripped off a pair of wins this season.
average margin of victory or loss: 9.8 points
For comparison, here are the same margins against every non-divisional opponent dating back to 2012:
- 2017: 15.3 points
- 2016: 13.0 points
- 2015: 13.5 points
- 2014: 13.1 points
- 2013: 17.7 points
- 2012: 8.5 points
Only in 2012 did the Eagles play tighter games against non-divisional foes. They won four games during Andy Reid’s final season by a margin of six total points. They also had losses of two, three, and five points. I think people forget about those early games. They should have been 4-2 going into the bye, if not 5-1.
Anyhow, from 2013 to 2017, the margins in each game were less than the margins against New York, Dallas, and Washington. The last 400 words were just a roundabout way of saying, “yea, divisional games are competitive.”
Doug Pederson, in his short tenure, is 5-4 against the NFC East. Take away the Romo game to make it 4-4.
The Birds are 18-16 against the NFC East over the past five years, so it’s been split almost right down the middle.
By the way, the Eagles are also missing their starting left tackle and middle linebacker, so that’s something else to consider. It’s not like the Birds haven’t had their share of injury issues as well. The Zeke Elliott suspension is one thing, but “next man up” at the other positions has worked much better for Philly than Dallas so far. That defense just isn’t the same without Sean Lee and the offensive line obviously looks much different without Tyron Smith.
For your consideration:
Cowboy fans are gonna blame Zeke's suspension for when they start losing games
Darren Sproles – IR
Jason Peters – IR
Jordan Hicks – IR
Caleb Sturgis – IR
Ronald Darby – 8 games
Fletcher Cox – 1 game
Zach Ertz – 1 game
Good teams don't make excuses
— MASE (@Maybach_Millz) November 9, 2017
I’d add Chris Maragos, the Eagles’ best special teams player (sans Elliott), to the list. I’m not sure the average national NFL pundit or fan is aware of the breadth of the Birds’ 2017 injury situation.
So I guess the article is really just a cautionary tale. Let’s not jinx ourselves with overconfidence. These games are always competitive. I think the Eagles get it done on the road, but I’ve got a gut feeling that it’s gonna be a little rough out of the gates before Carson Wentz finds his rhythm and gets the job done.
Prediction: Eagles 21, Cowboys 13