Like Uncle Rico in Napoleon Dynamite, the Eagles’ best days may already be behind them. This time last year, Philadelphia had an 8 and 1 record. Their 4 and 4 current record looks downright puny in comparison. You can almost hear the murmurings of “Well, Brady wasn’t on his A game during the Super Bowl” and “This is no dynasty”. Coming into Sunday’s game against the Cowboys, Carson Wentz and his crew have a lot to prove. I’m not optimistic that they can pull it off in what is shaping up to be a pivotal game for both teams.
Firstly, we have to look at the balance between each team’s star offensive players. Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys’ most impressive player by yardage, remains a complete running machine no matter how you look at the numbers. On nearly 150 attempts, he’s posted an impressive 680 rushing yards this season. Four and half to five yards per attempt is dangerous for any defense. On the flip side, the Eagles’ golden boy Zach Ertz has received 644 yards on 61 receptions. An easy ten yards per reception and equally as dangerous.
This balance in offensive player power is bound to be shaken Sunday night, as the Eagles have a new weapon in their locker and his name is Golden Tate. Coming into Sunday’s game, Tate will already have outclassed Nelson Agholor with a respectable 517 yards receiving compared to Agholor’s 372. There’s little doubt that each player has the makings of a quality receiver, but it’s not a stretch of the imagination to think that Agholor may be spending some more time on the bench as Tate fills his spot.
This will most likely be a game decided by the efficacy of each team’s defense. Philly allows roughly 270 passing yards per game compared to Dallas’ 217. But if Dallas is smart, they’ll let Ezekiel Elliot loose early and often to prod the Eagles’ run coverage. This is one factor where Philly has a slight advantage over Dallas; The Eagles defense allows on average 84 rushing yards per game while Dallas lets nearly 100 yards slip through the cracks.
If anything, we could see Wendell Smallwood get some more usage by the Eagles. Smallwood’s best game of the season is still the Eagles’ September matchup against Indianapolis. During that one game, he posted a respectable 5.6 yards per run average. That’s better than Ezekiel Elliot’s current overall season average.
All this being said (and I repeat myself), this will be a game decided by the defense. As such, it may not make for good Sunday prime time football. I foresee Elliot getting a good dozen or so plays in for 70 plus yards. The Eagles will likely scramble to rein him in, and their defense will suffer for it overall.
Prediction: 22 – 12 Cowboys.