5 key matchups to watch when the Eagles battle the Cowboys

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) runs in to score a touchdown against the Washington Commanders during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

There’s no rivalry like the Birds and the Boys. The Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles will meet on Sunday for another edition of a classic NFC East rivalry with the winner coming away with an edge in the NFC East race.

The Cowboys may have won four of the last five matchups, but it’s the Eagles who carry the 7-1 mark into their home crowd on Sunday. With any game like this, matchups are extremely important.

Today, we break down the biggest ones to watch here.

Micah Parsons vs. Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata

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Los Angeles Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford, bottom, loses the ball after being sacked by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Two main battles will decide who wins and loses in Philadelphia on Sunday evening. The largest could be along the offensive line. DeMarcus Lawrence and the rest of the Cowboys D-Line have been a tough matchup for Philadelphia over the last few seasons.

Throw in Micah Parsons and the Eagles offensive line needs to have their best game on Sunday. Parsons is considered one of the best defensive players of the age today. His speed and athleticism make him a matchup nightmare for every team on the field.

Now, he has to go up against the top Eagles tackles in Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata. If the Eagles can quell Dallas’ relentless pass rush, the Birds should be able to have a ton of success on Sunday. Anything less and it can be a long game for the home team.

Dak Prescott vs. Sean Desai

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 22: Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Dak Prescott (4) looks to pass in the second half during the game between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles on December 22, 2019 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

Whether Eagle fans agree or not, Dak Prescott has been a thorn in the team’s side over the last decade. His 8-3 record against the Eagles not withstanding, how the Eagles defense gameplans against him will be incredibly important to winning or losing on Sunday.

Prescott has torn apart middling defenses this year against zone coverage. He’s targeted CeeDee Lamb at a high rate and it’s worked to perfection. When it comes to the Eagles’ defense, a week after shutting down a high-powered group like Miami, they were Swiss cheese against a bad Commander’s offense.

How Desai handles both Prescott and the Cowboys offense will decide Sunday.

Jalen Hurts vs. Pain Tolerance

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) is chased out of bounds by Washington Commanders defensive end Casey Toohill (95) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

We have never seen a matchup where the Eagles and Cowboys were at full strength when Jalen Hurts and Dak Prescott were at quarterback. Dallas fans will argue about the 2021 loss in Week 2, but people so eloquently forget how bad the Eagles were early in the season that year – it’s not a fair judgment.

When the two teams meet on Sunday, we still won’t have both franchise quarterbacks at 100%. Hurts’ knee injury won’t hold him out in the contest, but it will greatly affect his ability to run and make plays out of the pocket.

Hurts’ pocket awareness has improved each year he’s been in the NFL, but his pain tolerance will be put to the test against this dominant Dallas defense. If the Cowboys can’t get to Hurts, and the quarterback has time to pick the secondary apart, the Eagles should be feeling very good.

CeeDee Lamb vs. Eagles Zone

LANDOVER, MD – JANUARY 02: Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (2) waits for the game to start during the Philadelphia Eagles versus Washington Football Team National Football League game at FedEx Field on January 2, 2022 in Landover, MD. (Photo by Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire)

We mentioned Philadelphia’s zone already with how they intend to guard CeeDee Lamb. The former first-round pick has haunted the Eagles so far in his career as a slot demon and expects to be much of the same on Sunday.

If Philadelphia tries to press the Pro Bowler, Lamb has the quickness to make any defender pay. If the team plays off and in the zone, Lamb could dominate just as well as he did against the Jets in Week 2 (a predominant zone-style defense).

Desai has his hands full no matter what this week.

AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith vs. Stephon Gilmore and DaRon Bland

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) celebrating his touchdown with teammate wide receiver DeVonta Smith (6) during the first half of an NFL football game against Washington Commanders, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trevon Diggs being lost for the year has not discredited the Cowboys’ secondary thanks to the efforts of both Gilmore and Bland. Bland has recorded four picks and multiple pick-sixes this year while Gilmore is turning back the clock on his Hall-of-Fame career.

Countering this loaded secondary though is a vaunted duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Brown has already made history this year but is well on his way to a historical Eagles season. Smith’s numbers should expect to increase the more they are both on the field at this time.

Both receivers are projected for over 1,000 yards. Both corners are Pro Bowlers. This will be a fun 1v1 battle to watch.

AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough