The Eagles enter the spotlight after a win against the Minnesota Vikings, traveling to Dallas to take on their bitter rivals in Sunday Night Football. As things stand, the Cowboys head the NFC East with five wins, while the Eagles are hot on their tale with 4. The matchup promises to be one of the most exciting games we’ve seen so far, but even though Wentz and Prescott will attract the most attention..it’s the trenches where the battle will be won.
For Dallas, the operation is simple..keep the explosive Eagles pass rush at bay and establish a run game against a stout run Defense. Averaging a monster 5.1 yards per carry on 137 rushing attempts, rookie Ezekiel Elliott has been tearing the league apart behind the Dallas Offensive Line. The Cowboys running back has had four consecutive games of 130 rushing yards or more, scoring three touchdowns in that period.
The success of Elliott is hardly surprising and doesn’t need a lot of justifying to the Eagles Defense..they know exactly what kind of damage he is capable of doing and are no strangers to the impressive Cowboys O-Line. But the Eagles run Defense has been dominant for most of the year..with the exception of a rampant Redskins assault.
The Cowboys rely heavily on Elliott to move the chains and the Eagles rely heavily on their Run Defense to force one dimensional Offenses..shaping up for a war in the trenches. One of the best front four’s in the league will standoff against perhaps the most consistent O-Line in the league at the moment..knowing that a win could well hang in the balance.
As important as the Run Defense is for the Eagles, their pass-rush has to remain a focus. After throwing Sam Bradford around like a ragdoll and sacking him six times, the Defense is coming into Dallas red hot.
Prescott has only been sacked nine times in six weeks..and four of those came against the Redskins…who also caused problems for Wentz. The Cowboys have had two games this season where they haven’t allowed a single sack on the rookie quarterback, protecting him as if their lives depended on it..but their line isn’t invincible. When pressure does occasionally leak through, it can pour.
A third quarter sack against the Bengals saw Prescott fumble the football, while against the Packers, the errors began to surface more frequently. Agains the Blitz, Dak has completed 54.8% of his passes..and given how dominant the Eagles blitzes were against the Vikings, there’s a huge possibility that he could be subjected to more of the same pressure.
Marginalizing Elliott is an incredibly tough task..and so is getting in behind the Dallas O-Line. But if it can be done, the Eagles will have a serious advantage..and the Cowboys will be more than aware of that.
Then there’s the other side of things. Carson Wentz has cooled down in recent weeks, throwing high and making mental mistakes more often which has led to turning the ball over in sticky situations. With Johnson out of the picture, rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai has been holding the fort aid performed much better against the Vikings than he did against the Redskins, but he will need more of the same on Sunday Night.
The Eagles simply need to give Wentz more time in the pocket to relax and cycle through his reads. The run game is yet to take off under Doug Pederson as fumbles and a lack of committee snaps have hurt the team’s ability to move the chains..and some of that falls on the Offensive Line.
But finally, there’s the penalties. Jason Kelce has been penalized more times than games he’s played this season and Peters isn’t far behind. The Eagles continue to hurt themselves in key situations..and it’s something that the Cowboys Defense will look to exploit, especially with inexperience on the edge.
Be it Offense or Defense, Eagles or Cowboys..this bitter rivalry matchup won’t be decided by the quarterbacks or the receivers, it will be decided in the trenches. A top Defense coming up against a top Offensive Line on one side of the ball..and a recovering Defense looking to upset the apple cart on the other, it will be a grueling yet furiously exciting contest.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports