Top matchups to watch when Eagles and Cowboys battle in week 14

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Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Monday, Nov. 20, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. (C)

Can the Philadelphia Eagles get their first sweep of the Dallas Cowboys since 2011? Can Dallas split the season series and move into first place in the NFC East, for now?

Sunday Night Football in Week 14 brings the marquee matchup of the year and the biggest rivalry in football when the Birds battle the Boys in Arlington, Texas. A win for the Eagles would essentially give them the NFC East crown. The Cowboys need to try and stay alive for the top seed – a chance to have every game played at their home stadium which hasn’t seen a loss in over two years.

As with any game like this, there are several things to watch on the field. Today, we break down the biggest matchups to keep an eye on in this NFC East clash.

The trenches…on both sides

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) sacks San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy (13) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Many analysts and fans have comfortably said that the Eagles have the advantage inside the trenches on both sides of the ball.

That may not entirely be accurate though.

Philadelphia’s offensive line has been putrid running the ball in recent weeks. Their pass-blocking skills, while better, certainly haven’t been up to par with the title “best offensive line in football.” Dallas’ offensive line on the other hand has been a brick wall in recent weeks against some lesser opponents. Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are future first-ballot Hall of Famers just like Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson. That leaves how both handle the opposing defensive lines as a big reason why either team could win.

If Philly can find a way to dictate the pace of play with their run game, it could go a long way to pulling off an upset win in Dallas. If Martin and Smith handle the overwhelming pressure the Eagles can bring, it could be another easy Cowboys home win.

As always, the trenches will decide this matchup.

CeeDee Lamb vs. Bradley Roby

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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb celebrates scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

The Cowboys are favored in this matchup in Arlington for one reason:

No one can stop CeeDee Lamb and Dak Prescott right now.

Lamb has been a thorn in the Eagles’ side now for multiple years (why didn’t Howie trade up for him?). He was also a big reason why Dallas was even in the game at the end the first time the two teams met earlier this season. Lamb went for 11-191 against Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love. The first matchup had the Eagles guarding Lamb with Eli Ricks, Reed Blankenship, and plenty of other young shots in the secondary.

This time, it looks like Bradley Roby will have his chance at the All-Pro. Roby hasn’t been the kind of game-changer Eagle fans have been looking for since Avonte Maddox went down, but he’s been serviceable for the job.

If the Eagles are going to have any chance of winning on the road in that environment, they need to quell the Prescott-Lamb connection.

Sean Desai vs. Dak Prescott

Eagles vs Cowboys vs Commanders
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) passes over Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat (94) during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Speaking of Prescott, it’s hard to argue that he’s playing the best football of his career and an obvious MVP candidate. While a win for Jalen Hurts on Sunday would severely tip the scale toward him, the opposite could be the same for Prescott.

While he hasn’t played many good defenses as of late (including Seattle’s) the Cowboys are still in the position they are due to their quarterback. That leaves any DC trying to stop him under serious pressure.

A lot of people have mixed feelings about the job Sean Desai has done since he took over this season, but it’s pretty clear he has done excellent when you add important context.

Context 1. He lost a good portion of last year’s defense and is growing with his unit. They have gotten better – albeit not as good as many people want them to be.

Context 2. The 2023 schedule was brutal and meant the numbers weren’t going to be kind no matter who was the play-caller.

Context 3. Injuries have left him handicapped at times against some tough matchups.

When adding that context together, holding an offense like the Cowboys to 23, the Chiefs to 17, and the Dolphins to 17 is highly impressive. Desai will need to call the game of his life though on Sunday if Philadelphia is to have a chance.

Dak is just too good right now.

Jalen Hurts vs. Daron Bland

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts runs with the ball during the second half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Daron Bland seems to be getting the Trevon Diggs treatment from 2021.

He leads the league in interceptions but has also been gashed several times over the last few weeks. The touchdown he gave up to DeVonta Smith turned the tide of the context over a month ago, but he’s been easily an All-Pro at the position all year. That leaves Hurts in a bind.

Philadelphia needs to put up points to keep up with Dallas – the Cowboys’ offense is almost unstoppable at home. To put up points, Hurts is going to have to test Bland. That means the All-Pro quarterback needs to pick his spots appropriately and not put the ball in harm’s way.

If the Eagles don’t turn the ball over on Sunday, they’ll have a chance. Otherwise, any turnover this season has led to an avalanche of points for Dallas.

Hurts will need to be very careful this week.

Mike McCarthy vs. Nick Sirianni

Philadelphia Eagles’ Nick Sirianni shouts during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

There are not many coaches who can boast that they have led their teams to back-to-back 10-1 starts. There aren’t many teams that can boast they have posted back-to-back 12-win seasons.

On Sunday, both Sirianni and McCarthy can tout their records all they want – the winner of the game will be decided between them though. As strong as the Cowboys are at home and as dominant as the Eagles have been all year, the head coaches for either team have had their names through the wringer over the last few weeks.

Sirianni’s bravado has come back to bite him at times. Especially after a 42-19 loss to the 49ers. McCarthy’s in-game decisions have led to some close games this year that didn’t need to be.

Whoever wins the game will mean that one of these guys outcoaches the other.

Let the games begin!

AP Photo/Ed Zurga