8:30 PM EST, NBC – Line: Eagles -5.5, Over/Under: 47
Bitter NFC East Rivals clash tonight in Dallas, as the Cowboys, reeling from the suspension of one of their stars, look to make up some ground against the streaking Philadelphia Eagles, at AT&T Stadium. In what was supposed to be the second phase of their Post Chip Kelly Rebuilding Process, the Eagles (8-1, 1st in NFC East) are very much ahead of the curve, racing out to the league’s best record as we delve into the second half of the season. Management was very ambitious in surrounding their young Franchise Quarterback Carson Wentz (60.5%, 251.3 Y/G, 6.8 NY/A, 23 TD, 5 INT) with quality talent, bolstering the Receiving Corps and the Backfield in a major way, allowing for an exelerated development for the Sophomore Signal-Caller. To his credit, The former No. Two Overall Pick has played at an MVP Level, leading the NFL in Touchdown Passes (Twenty-Three), while exhibiting vastly improved decision-making; a year ago, he threw Sixteen Scores in comparison to Fourteen Interceptions, while tossing only Five Picks thus far. You’d be hard-pressed to find another Quarterback playing as well over the past seven games, which have all been Philadelphia victories; Wentz has thrown Nineteen Touchdowns to a mere Three Interceptions in that span, including a seriously impressive Four-Touchdown Performance two weeks ago against the Denver Broncos’ vaunted defense. In a 51-23 thrashing that wasn’t even that close, the Eagles brutally issued a beating to the Broncos, leading 44-9 heading into the Fourth Quarter before the hosts conceded a pair of meaningless scores. When it was all over, Doug Pederson’s charges outgained the visiting side 419 to 226, while absolutely pummeling them on the ground, rushing for a commanding 197 Yards and Three Touchdowns on Thirty-Seven Carries. Making matters even more satisfying to the Philly Faithful was that Jay Ajayi, who was acquired via trade with the Miami Dolphins earlier in the week, looked refreshed with Seventy-Seven Yards and a Touchdown on just Eight Carries. Clearly, the reports out of Miami of the 24-Year Old’s knees Being “shot” were greatly exaggerated. Now, with the benefit of the Bye Week to rejuvenate them further, comes the opportunity to put away the NFC East a week before Thanksgiving, which would involve beating a team that defeated them in their trip to AT&T Stadium in 2016. In an entertaining 29-23 affair that would eventually be decided in Overtime, the Eagles relinquished a 20-10 lead as the Cowboys went on to score Thirteen of the game’s final Sixteen Points in Regulation, before scoring the go-ahead Touchdown on the opening possession of Overtime, which would be the only drive of the extra period. Wentz was solid in defeat, completing 32-of-43 Passes for 202 Yards and a Touchdown, though had to settle far too often for short, checkdowns, which limited the damage his side managed to dole out. That likely won’t be the case this time around, for he’s been airing it out quite a bit in his second season, averaging a healthy 6.8 Net Yards per Attempt, good for Eighth in the NFL.
Meanwhile, things have changed considerably for the Cowboys (5-4, 2nd in NFC East) who must now play five of their remaining seven games without the services of Ezekiel Elliott (191 CAR, 783 YDS, 7 TD), who has now finally begun to serve the Six-Game Suspension that has been hanging over his and the franchise’s head dating all the way back to the Offseason. After weeks and weeks of appeals lobbied in different branches of the court system, the Sophomore Tailback finally relented in his pursuit of overturning the decision altogether, particularly now with half of the campaign in the books, for if this process were to last any longer, it would have ended up costing him potential Playoff Games. While we can debate about the merits of he not accepting the suspension and instead serving the term at the beginning of the year (in which it would’ve been completed by now), it cannot be debated just how important he is to Dallas, on both sides of the ball for that matter; Elliott is the premier piece in the league’s second-most prolific Rushing Attack (143.6 Y/G), racking up 783 Yards and Seven Touchdowns on 191 Carries, while hauling in another Nineteen Passes for 210 Yards and Two more scores. Furthermore, he’d been on fire before the suspension, averaging a whopping 140.5 All-Purpose Yards, with Six Touchdowns over his last Four Games. Without him, the Offense as a whole was a mess in last Sunday’s 27-7 beating at Atlanta, which saw the Falcons relegate them to a meager 223 Total Yards, with 107 Yards coming via the run. Without the balance provided by the Running Game, Dak Prescott (63.3%, 221.6 Y/G, 6.2 NY/A, 16 TD, 4 INT ) and the Passong Attack was a train wreck, with the Sophomore Quarterback getting sacked a staggering eight times for a loss of Fifty Yards, which is how you end up completing 20-of-30 Passes and only picking up 176 Yards. So much of what Jason Garrett’s charges do offensively is built off of their success on the ground, or the threat of the run, which Elliott presents on every down that he’s on the field. Replacements such Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris are little more than retreads at this point of their respective careers performing behind arguably the most formidable Offensive Line in the league. Simply put, Elliott is the difference between this unit being serviceable, and being potentially frightening. Of course, the Eagles know all too well what he’s capable of, and are no doubt relishing the fact that he’ll be in street clothes for tonight’s affair; before sitting out the Regular Season Finale at Philadelphia, the dynamic Tailback accounted for 148 Total Yards on Twenty-Six Touches, including Fifty-Two as a Reciever, hailing in all of Four of Prescott’s Attempts his way. It should be interesting to see how Dallas compensates for his absence, for on that day they reacted to Philadelphia’s loading up the Line of Scrimmage buy utilizing Prescott on a number of Bootlegs and Options, with his versatility clearly unsettling the opposing Defense; on the night, the Offensive Rookie of the Year completed 19-of-39 Attempts for 287 Yards and a pair of Touchdowns, while also rushing for Thirty-Eight Yards and another score on seven timely Carries. Look for him to continue to factor heavily into the ground game, for Prescott has averaged a healthy 7.1 Yards per Carry, while proving effective near the Goal Line, rolling on in for Five Touchdowns thus far.