By Bailey Montgomery
Dallas Cowboys (7-5) vs Philadelphia Eagles (6-6)
It seems like forever ago. A desperate 3-5 Dallas Cowboys team, with a loss the previous week against Tennessee, came in with zero momentum. This Cowboys team, with their backs against the wall, came into Lincoln Financial Field and found a way to beat the defending Super Bowl champs. This win seemed to turn this season around, as the Cowboys turned around and won 4 straight, the most impressive coming in Week 13 against the then one-loss Saints. While last week’s win was a statement win, there is no bigger game than this week’s, where a win will put the Cowboys in the driver’s seat in the division.
There is certainly no lacking of story this week, as Kamu Grugier-Hill, an Eagles linebacker, was very vocal in the media this week.
“I mean, you look at Dallas' history, they always choke. So we'll go down there and make them choke.”
Grugier-Hill later apologized for his comments, saying that he “didn't mean to disrespect this organization or Coach Pederson.” These comments come from an Eagles team with some confidence, as they have won their last two games, bringing them back to 6-6 on the year. With a win on Sunday, they would be tied atop the NFC East, giving them obvious life. A loss would drop them to 6-7, where the Cowboys swept the season series, significantly hurting their playoff chances.
This Cowboys team was well aware of the comments, and quarterback Dak Prescott replied to reporters when asked about Grugier-Hill’s comments.
“Coach Garrett has a great saying, and I don't know where he got it from, but, 'Winners worry about winning and losers worry about winners. We're focused on ourselves in this locker room, about what we need to do to get better in each and every phase of this game to be ready for this week. We're not worried about he say, she say.”
In year’s past, I would say that this is a game where I feel like the Cowboys would come out and find a way to lose. But for some reason, I feel different about this team. I feel that this team is a completely different team than the team that lost to Washington and Tennessee in back-to-back games earlier in the season, and they certainly have shown that. The defense is flying around, playing at an elite level that this franchise has not possessed in a long time. The offense, with the addition of Amari Cooper, has new-found life. Dak Prescott has stepped up his play over the 4 game winning-streak, limiting interceptions and raising his completion percentage significantly. And last but certainly not least, Ezekiel Elliott has shown why he is one of the best running backs in the NFL, where he has rushed for 470 yards and 3 touchdowns to go with 197 receiving yards and another pair of touchdowns. The addition of Cooper has seemingly opened up the offense for both Prescott and Elliott, which has proved to be a key component during this winning streak.
While this team has been gaining momentum, it is impossible not to look at the glaring weakness amongst this offense, which is the protection of Dak Prescott. Dak has been sacked more than any quarterback in the league, stalling drives and scoring opportunities for this offense. Hopefully, the likely addition of Tyron Smith to this starting offensive line will help this issue.
Prediction: Dallas 31, Philadelphia 21
Like I said earlier, in past years, I think I would have been more skeptical. While Philadelphia is certainly a desperate team in a situation similar to when Dallas came into Philadelphia, I still think Dallas has kept the “backs against the wall” mindset. This mindset has turned this season around, and this chip on the shoulder must continue for a playoff appearance, and a possible deep run in the playoffs. This defense is playing fast, and the secondary, led by Byron Jones, showed that they can defend at an elite level as well.
I think the key to this game is the passing game for Dallas. This Philadelphia defense’s weakness is in the secondary, and it is on Dak to exploit this. If Dak can get going early, I believe it will open up the run for Zeke as well. I think this offense gets going early, and I think this defense will continue to play at a high-level. While Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz present a clear problem for this offense (the tandem had 14 completions in the first game between the two this season), I believe that this defense will find a way to make a play or two that changes the game. I predict a big game from Dak, throwing for something like 275 and a couple touchdowns. I think this will open things up for Zeke, who will have an efficient game, running for 120 yards and a touchdown. I also think that Michael Gallup will find the end zone in this one as well for the Cowboys offense. I’ll take Dallas, something like 31 to 21 in this divisional matchup.
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