Key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Cowboys

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Philadelphia Eagles’ A.J. Brown speaks with Dallas Cowboys’ Trevon Diggs during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

While the football world will continue to focus on the fact that Eagles QB Jalen Hurts will not be playing in the week 16 matchup against the Cowboys, the big picture is that the Eagles still have to go out and play on Christmas Eve.

Sure, it sucks that they’re missing their biggest weapon but they still have plenty riding on this game. For the first time since 2017 the Philadelphia Eagles can lock up the number one seed in the NFC with a victory in Dallas and they can also clinch a division title. But to do so they will have to take advantage of these five matchups:

Miles Sanders Vs Cowboys’ run defense 

The Cowboys’ run defense is just as poor as the Eagles but the mainstream media folks won’t dare to mention that. On the season, Dan Quinn’s unit is allowing opponents to average 4.6 yards per carry. In total yards, they’re ranked 25th in the league but they have only allowed seven rushing touchdowns this year which is the second-fewest.

Miles Sanders is having a career year and is running behind the best offensive line in the league. The Eagles were once the best rushing team in the league and while they’ve become pass-heavy at times, they can still grind it out with the best of them. 

I would expect to see a heavy dosage of Miles Sanders on Saturday after the coaching staff forgot about him last week against the Bears. Sanders is averaging 5.2 yards per carry and ran for 71 yards and a rushing touchdown in his last matchup against the Cowboys.

Gardner Minshew Vs Cowboys’ Pass Defense

One thing we know is that Gardner Minshew doesn’t turn the ball over often which is a huge plus entering the biggest game of his career. The last time that the Cowboys saw Minshew was last season in the final game of the year. Minshew completed 58% of his passes and threw for only 186 yards on 33 attempts. 

He also threw two touchdowns and one interception in a blowout loss against the Cowboys. This time around should be different. The coaching staff has shown that they can win with Garnder and now he has a more potent pass attack. With A.J. Brown taking all of the attention away from the likes of Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith, I would expect to see a lot of quick passes to Smitty to help Minshew early on.

The key ingredient for Minshew to have a successful game will be the play-action pass. If the run game is moving the chains then I would expect the Eagles to run this often in hopes of getting the ball downfield to Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith, or A.J. Brown.

A.J. Brown vs Trevon Diggs

This is it. This is the matchup I want to see. With Jalen Hurts out of the game, I wonder how often will Gardner target Brown. In his first matchup against Dallas, Brown caught five passes for 67 yards and one touchdown. He averaged 13 yards per reception which would be huge for the Eagles this time around.

If Brown can have his way with Diggs then the Eagles’ pass attack will be able to breathe. This is why Howie Roseman traded for A.J. Brown and then invested $100 million in him for the next four years. Diggs has had a quiet year with only three interceptions and we all know he’s a risky defender. He has allowed 67% of the passes thrown his way to be completed. He’s also allowing 11.7 yards per completion with a passer rating of 86.9.

AP Photo/Chris Szagola