Let’s get it back to the Eagles.
Big game Sunday.
It’s easy to sit here and talk shit about the Cowboys and their fans and whatever, but let’s take a look at the numbers and the film and see what we can learn about this 3-5 team.
They’re a top-five defense and bottom-six offense, so there’s just a lot of imbalance in the squad. Don’t be surprised to see a low-scoring game.
Here are some of those standout defensive marks, and how they rank league-wide:
- 317 yards per game (4th)
- 99.9 rush yards per game (10th)
- 217.1 pass yards per game (5th)
- 18.9 points per game (3rd)
- 8 takeaways (20th)
- 28 sacks (6th)
- 147 first downs allowed (4th)
- 44.4% third down allowance rate (29th)
- 47 penalties (5th)
- 337 penalty yards (2nd)
- 69.2% opponent passes completed (28th)
You see they don’t give up much through the air or on the ground, but they do allow a lot of pass completions and don’t thrive in takeaways, so that might be an area the Eagles can attack with short passes and yards after the catch. Golden Tate had a monstrous game against the Cowboys earlier this season, so he comes in at a perfect time for the Birds.
Sean Lee is out for this game, but Jaylon Smith is damn good and you’ll see him alongside the rookie first round pick, Leighton Vander Esch. The Birds also their hands full up front with DeMarcus Lawrence, who has 6.5 sacks on the year. Tyrone Crawford has 2.5 on the other side. The health of Lane Johnson and Jason Peters is a fairly significant storyline going into this one.
Lawrence has a pretty wide-ranging skill set. He got a strip sack on Monday night with a chop move on Jack Conklin:
He’s one of the better edge rushers across the entire league.
Where the Cowboys defense really struggles is on third down. You saw that 44% number above.
In the Tennessee loss, they allowed Marcus Mariota and company to go 11 for 14 on third downs, which is 78.6%. That’s an incredibly deflating number. That doesn’t help the Cowboys’ bottom-10 time of possession of number, a number that both the offense and defense are responsible for, and it results in the Dallas defense spending a lot of time on the field. The Eagles, for context, are #1 in the NFL in time of possession, according to TeamRankings.com. That’s really an area where Philly thrives and can tip the scales in this game.
Tennessee did a really nice job in the red zone on Monday night. The game-winning touchdown was a nifty RPO/shovel pass that Mariota did incredibly well to sell. He actually finished 9/9 with two touchdowns in passes thrown BEHIND the line of scrimmage, which is fascinating to me:
That shovel pass is one of them. The other touchdown was a screen pass that Dion Lewis took 18 yards to the house.
Tennessee’s fourth touchdown was a Mariota QB run, and he did some nice things with his feet, per the norm. If Carson Wentz can extend some plays here and there, that’s gonna really help on Sunday night.
Otherwise, get the ball out quick, let your skill players do their thing, and take advantage of the Cowboys’ poor 3rd down numbers. That should keep them on the field and help you control the clock, as the Eagles usually do.
It’s not a very good unit.
- 317.1 yards per game (27th)
- 118.4 pass yards per game (29th)
- 128.8 rush yards per game (6th)
- 19.3 points per game (26th)
- 10 giveaways (12th best)
- 33.3% on third down (28th)
- 49 penalties (26th)
- 421 penalty yards (26th)
They’ve been a solid running team ever since Zeke Elliott came on board. They don’t turn the ball over too often and they really don’t commit a lot of penalties. They just really struggle in the passing game, resulting in Amari Cooper trade.
He caught five balls for 58 yards and a touchdown on Monday. Dak Prescott targeted him eight times.
Before his addition, they really didn’t have much on the outside. The top receiver was slot guy Cole Beasley, and Elliott and tight end Geoff Swaim rounded out the top four:
Yeah, the Eagles are banged up in the secondary, but you should feel okay with Ronald Darby and Rasul Douglas working on Cooper while Malcolm Jenkins probably comes down in the slot to handle Beasley. Gallup and Hurns are whatever and Tavon Austin is injured.
There really shouldn’t be any problems there. Yeah, Dak can do some things with his feet, but he’s not Cam Newton or Mariota.
He’s only completing 62% of his passes, which is 26th among quarterbacks. 10 touchdowns to 5 interceptions has him at a 2:1 rate behind guys like Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson.
Dak’s charts are interesting, though. There are spots on the field where he performs way above league averages in QB rating, but other areas where he lags far behind:
That 88.9 passer rating puts him 24th among QBs, right between Alex Smith and Marcus Mariota.
This was a particularly bad pass on Monday night, throwing off his back foot into double coverage and looking for his new target, Cooper:
Kevin Byard gets the interception and poses on the #DallasCowboys star after 🤔🤔🤔
— FanDuel (@FanDuel) November 6, 2018
Forcing that pass right there.
Of course, Dak was excellent in 2016 as a rookie, so who knows if we see some that on Sunday or ever again.
Either way, the Eagles run defense is among the best in the league, so if they limit Zeke on the ground, build a lead, and force Dallas to throw the ball, I find it hard to believe that the Cowboys can get back into the game, not unless Dak and Cooper turn into Steve Young and Jerry Rice in six days.
Should be rather straightforward. If the Eagles find an offensive rhythm and Carson Wentz plays his typical high-efficiency third down game, they’ll get into the end zone. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game is something like 3-3 in the second quarter, then the Birds find a breakthrough before halftime and go on to win by 10-14 points.
We shall see!