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Eagles at Cowboys Game Preview: 5 Week 16 Enemy Q&A

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the Philadelphia Eagles are on the road for the third straight week to face the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Christmas Eve. In order to preview this great week 16 match, I reached out to our haters at Blog The Boys. the dashing Dave Halprin took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to Dave’s questions about the Eagles, check out BTB.]

Our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook have all the odds for this week’s matches.

1) The Cowboys nearly lost at home to the Texans and then got beaten by the Jaguars (yells Doug Pederson). What’s wrong ? What should the Eagles be looking to exploit?

There have been a few things that have gone wrong recently, some that are new and some that are ongoing issues. On defense, the Cowboys lost two starting cornerbacks, Anthony Brown on the outside and Jordan Lewis in the slot. DaRon Bland has done a good job filling the slot, but the Cowboys just don’t have a competent outside corner for Brown’s spot yet. So teams are definitely looking in that direction for big plays. Additionally, the Cowboys’ pass rush has slowed the past two games, leaving the pass defense even more vulnerable. Teams get the ball out faster because corners aren’t as good at stopping things, leading to a cascading effect. To top it off, Johanthn Hankins’ injury once again opened up the running game for the opposition, just as the Cowboys were beginning to come to grips with the situation.

Offensively, turnovers, mainly interceptions, are the big problem. I will discuss this in more detail for your second question. Additionally, the Cowboys lost right tackle Terence Steele who was a monster at run blocking. The Cowboys offensive line is definitely susceptible to a pass rush, and Dak Prescott has been good at keeping sack count low with quick clearances and mobility. One issue that is becoming more and more of a problem is that Dallas was counting on Michael Gallup to be a viable WR2 for CeeDee Lamb’s WR1. That didn’t really happen as his recovery from last year’s ACL injury seems to be slow. That’s why the Cowboys are chasing guys like TY Hilton (who is slated to debut Saturday) and Odell Beckham Jr. which doesn’t seem to be happening.

In summary, injuries have exposed the Cowboys’ lack of depth in certain positions, and teams are learning to exploit Dallas’ weaknesses. Defense has been the Cowboys’ saving grace whenever they’ve had trouble this season, but that’s faltered of late.

2) To what extent is Dak Prescott responsible for the Cowboys’ struggles? Why is he throwing so many interceptions this season?

This is probably the most burning question of the moment. Let’s eliminate the good. If you take interceptions out of the equation, Prescott is having a great season. Since returning from injury, the Cowboys have been among the league leaders in runs scored and his numbers are near the top in most categories. The Cowboys offense moves and scores, until the turnovers happen. So Prescott is really playing at a high level in a lot of ways, until you add in the interception rate.

So how much of that is on Prescott? It depends on how you analyze it. For example, the pick-six that ended the Jaguars’ overtime last week was a pass that hit its receiver directly in the hands. It was a very basic catch, and Noah Brown just missed it and prompted the interception. That you really have to put the receiver. But there have been other cases where it’s more nuanced. Prescott had moments where a secondary receiver took the wrong route and brought another defender into his target area. So is it on the receiver, or is it on Prescott for following his target only for another defender to step in and intercept the ball? He also had a few interceptions where it appeared CeeDee Lamb pulled up or went behind security, instead of crossing his face as the route required, which led to the turnover. Other times, Prescott was hit by the pass rush on the throw, knocking the ball off the target and into the hands of the opposition.

It’s not like Prescott is just handing out interceptions by throwing directly at defenders. There were a lot of factors that come into play. Obviously, Prescott has some responsibility because he decides where and when to throw, but his high interception rate certainly has factors attributable to the other players on offense. Ultimately, however, it’s up to Prescott to figure that out. He just needs to take better care of the ball.

3) Is it unfair to say that this week is kind of a no-win situation for the Cowboys? If they beat Gardner Minshew, they motivate the Eagles to face their starters in Week 17 to both claim the No. 1. 1 seed and make the Saints’ selection due to Philly more favorable. And it’s not like the Cowboys realistically have a ton of gain since they’re pretty much locked into the No. 1. 5 seed. If they lose to Gardner Minshew, they lose to a back-up QB at home to land Philly the No. 1 seed at AT&T Stadium on Christmas Eve.

Strange to say, but as a Cowboys fan, I would have preferred Jalen Hurts to be healthy and able to play this week. The Cowboys need a statement, a confidence-building win and nothing would have done better than beating the best team in the NFL right now with their starting quarterback. There are still playoff seeding issues to consider for both teams, but more than anything the Cowboys need to get back to where they were a few weeks ago when they felt like they could play. with anyone in the league. That feeling disappeared, but it would have returned if they could have beaten the Eagles and Hurts.

That said, it’s not a hopeless situation for the Cowboys, because if they lose at home to the Eagles with Minshew at quarterback, their confidence will likely be shaken. Dallas almost has to win this game or face the risk of things falling apart even further. The Cowboys might not gain much in the eyes of the rest of the league by beating the Eagles without Hurts, and I wouldn’t blame Eagles fans for rejecting him if that happened. But for the Cowboys, they need this win. It is very important for their psyche.

4) Assuming the Cowboys end up with the No. 5 seed, they will face the winner of a wide-open NFC South in the wilds round. How would you rank the teams in this division from least desirable to most desirable to face and why?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would certainly be the least desirable to play. And yes, for one simple reason, Tom Brady. I know the Bucs aren’t a great team right now and Brady’s season isn’t up to his usual standards, but for one game the old Brady magic might return. He is a quarterback in the league and the best quarterback in this division is Brady, so it would be best to avoid him.

Next come, in the order of least desirable, the saints. They just seem to have more point guards than the other two teams and they have at least one veteran quarterback who’s been in the playoffs and a pace-changing quarterback who can be a weapon.

As for the Panthers and Falcons, it’s almost a draw although the Panthers may be a slightly better overall team.

5) Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Cowboys as 5-point favorites, what’s your score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Cowboys season?

I guess I’ll take the Cowboys even though I don’t have a lot of confidence right now. And that pick is obviously because I don’t think Jalen Hurts is going to play. Still, the Eagles have a very strong roster, and Minshew isn’t the worst quarterback you can throw there. Heck, he’s better than a lot of starting quarterbacks in this league. But taking away whatever Hurts can do will have to hurt some. So I’m going to take the Cowboys in a tight game, maybe something like 27-24.

As for the expectations for the rest of the season, I must say that is to be determined. And it’s not just avoiding the question, it’s for real. The Cowboys have shown that they can be a very good team, capable of beating anyone. They also showed they had issues, especially with depth after some injuries. TY Hilton could be a big addition to the squad if he has anything left in the tank. They could really use someone across from CeeDee Lamb. But the two biggest issues for the Cowboys are finding a competent outside corner somewhere on their roster to play against Trevon Diggs, and getting the interceptions to stop. If they can handle that, they’re back to the elite teams.

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