8:20 PM EST, NBC – Line: Cowboys -3, Over/Under: 49
First Place is on the line tonight in the NFC East, as the erratic Philadelphia Eagles travel to Arlington, Texas, to battle the fading Dallas Cowboys from AT&T Stadium. Branded Super Bowl contenders heading into 2019, the Eagles (3-3, T-1st in NFC East) have been a hard team to get a handle on through the first half of the season, meandering at .500 in a division in which they’ve been fortunate that none of their brethren are currently above that mark. When we last saw them, Philadelphia embarked on a season-long three-game road trip in which they got embarrassed in Minneapolis, 20-38 against the Vikings. Considering their last trip to U.S. Bank Stadium ended in Super Bowl glory, this latest venture was in stark contrast; for the second time this year, Doug Pederson’s charges were eviscerated defensively, yielding 447 Total Yards, including 122 on the ground (the first time they relinquished 100 Rushing Yards in nine outings) and another 333 through the air (the fourth time in six games that they’ve done so). After weeks of being criticized by everyone from the media to his own Receivers, apparently all Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins needed to get back on track was facing the Eagles’ beleaguered Secondary, completing an efficient 22-of-29 Passes for 333 Yards, Four Touchdowns and an Interception, hitting arguably his biggest critic, Pro-Bowler Stefon Diggs on two occasions in the Second Quarter, the first Sixty-Two Yards for a Touchdown followed shortly thereafter Fifty-One Yards for a score. In the end, the Receiver exploded for Seven Receptions for 167 Yards and Three Touchdowns. Though the visitors came up with a pair of Takeaways and were able to get them off the field on Third Down (2-of-10), they simply couldn’t stop the big play from happening, permitting ten different plays of fourteen yards or more. This unit is really hurting on the back end, where Starting Cornerbacks, Avonte Maddox (Neck) and Ronald Darby (Hamstring) missed yet another contest, allowing the host’s Receiving Corps to take full advantage. On the flip side, Philadelphia managed to post 400 Total Yards of their own, but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, committing Three Turnovers, including a bizarre Interception thrown by Place Kicker, Jake Elliott, on a fake Field Goal shortly before Halftime. The visiting side also proved aggressive on Fourth Down, though it was largely to no avail, converting on just one of their four attempts. It was far from an efficient performance from Carson Wentz (61.2%, 1,458 YDS, 6.27 NY/A, 12 TD, 3 INT, 71.3 QBR), who completed just 26-of-40 Passes for 306 Yards, Two Touchdowns and an Interception, while taking Two Sacks along with five other Quarterback Hits. Making matters even worse for the Eagles was the fact that once again, they suffered some rather significant injuries; veteran Left Tackle, Jason Peters, was pulled with an apparent knee injury in the second stanza, returned briefly before being removed for good, while Starting Linebacker, Nigel Bradham (26 TKL, 9 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD) exited with an ankle injury. Linebacker depth will be a problem for tonight’s affair in Dallas, for in addition to Bradham’s injury, the club released fellow ‘Backer, Zac Brown (29 TKL, 2 TFL, 2 PD), following comments that the veteran made in regards to the aforementioned Cousins after the game. And speaking of comments, Pederson made some waves on Monday when he was quoted on the radio predicting that his troops would storm into Dallas and win. While he didn’t outright guarantee the outcome, walking back in comments immediately afterward, he must be feeling rather confident that some of his players will be close to returning from injury. Needless to say, this would provide a significant boost, particularly on Defense where the Pass Defense has been a serious issue throughout he early stages of the term. Maddox and Darby have yet to practice this week, while fellow Defensive Backs Sidney Jones (16 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PD) and Rodney McLeod (35 TKL, 1 INT, 3 PD) have been full participants throughout the week. Through six games, Philly has allowed 280.2 Passing Yards per Game (29th Overall) on 7.0 Net Yards per Attempt (25th Overall), along with Thirteen Touchdowns (27th Overall) in comparison to Seven Interceptions (5th Overall). Offensively, Wentz needs help, plain and simple. Much has been made of the Receiving Corps’ inability to catch the football, and with a cumulative Catch Percentage of just 61.5%, the group ranks towards the bottom of the league. Since exploding for 154 Yards and Two Touchdowns in the Season Opener, veteran speedster, DeSean Jackson (8 REC, 154 YDS, 19.3 Y/R, 2 TD), has missed the past four games with an abdominal strain, while Alshon Jeffery (24 REC, 215 YDS, 9.0 Y/R, 3 TD) has slowly worked his way back following a calf strain. Furthermore, Pass-Catching Tailbacks, Darren Sproles (15 CAR, 59 YDS, 3.9 Y/C, 0 TD) and Corey Coleman have also been out of action, with the latter on Injured Reserve with separated shoulder.
Meanwhile, the situation isn’t much better for the Cowboys (3-3, T-1st in NFC East), who after storming to a 3-0 start have unceremoniously dropped each of their last three games. Simply put, this team looked like a bonafide juggernaut throughout the first three weeks of the campaign, only to invent new ways to collapse over the course of the ensuing three weeks. First, Dallas came up short in a narrow 10-12 loss on the road at New Orleans, in which they didn’t relinquish a single Touchdown. Second, they were pummeled in the trenches in a 24-34 defeat at home to the Green Bay Packers, gashed for 120 Rushing Yards leading to a season-low in Time of Possession (23:17). And then there was this past Sunday, in which things really got weird in a 22-24 affair at the New York Jets. Jason Garrett’s charges will be wondering how the hell they let this one go, as they became the first team in NFL History to win Time of Possession (32:03) and the Turnover Battle (Plus-1), while besting their opponent in Total Yards (398), Rushing Yards (129), First Downs (26), on Third Down (10-of-17), and even Penalties (9-68), and still find a way to lose the contest. With the hosts clearly energized after the long-awaited return of their Sophomore Quarterback, Sam Darnold, who had missed the previous four games due to Mononucleosis, the visiting side was unprepared heading into Halftime trailing 6-21. However, as they did against the Packers, the Cowboys stormed back in the Fourth Quarter, cutting the lead to just two points following Dak Prescott’s (69.7%, 1,883 YDS, 8.39 NY/A, 11 TD, 6 INT, 82.7 QBR) 4-Yard Touchdown Run with just forty-three seconds remaining on the clock. Looking to tie the game, the Quarterback faded back to pass, but was quickly met by a blitzing Jamal Adams, whose pressure caused the potential conversion to fall short of meeting it’s target. Desperate to recover possession, Dallas attempted an On-Side Kick, only for the home side to recover the football, securing their first victory of the season. Garrett’s troops had to work for everything they got, with Prescott completing 28-of-40 Attempts for 277 Yards, while Pro-Bowl Tailback, Ezekiel Elliott (113 CAR, 4921 YDS, 4.3 Y/C, 5 TD) rushing for 105 Yards and a Touchdown, but needed Twenty-Eight Carries to do so, hauling in another Five Passes for Forty-Seven Yards. With that said, the biggest issue coming out of Sunday’s affair was a fresh swath of injuries, which are really starting to mount for the Cowboys; already playing without both Tackles, Tyron Smith (Ankle) and La’ el Collins (Knee), the Defense lost Cornerbacks Byron Jones (20 TKL, 3 PD) and Anthony Brown (17 TKL, 1 TFL, 4 PD) to strained Hamstrings, while Pro-Bowl Receiver, Amari Cooper (33 REC, 515 YDS, 15.6 Y/R, 5 TD), pulled up lame early in the game with an apparent Quadriceps injury. All of these players were at best limited throughout the week in Practice, placing their availability in heavy question for tonight’s outing. Needless to say, pressure is building to considerable levels in Dallas for multiple figures within the organization. For Garrett, the mandate to lead this franchise to it’s first Super Bowl since 1995 has never been greater; one could definitely argue that this is the most talented roster that he’s had under his care during his ten years as Head Coach, and the fact that they’re underachieving despite ranking in the Top-10 in Total Offense (452.6) and Defense (331.8), along with Points Scored (25.5) and Allowed (19.0) doesn’t bode well for the 52-Year Old. And then there’s Prescott, who in the final year of his initial Rookie Contract, is looking to break the bank on his next deal (reportedly $40 million annually), while the club, particularly after handing Elliott his lucrative extension, have been understandably cautious in meeting his demands. While there’s no question that the 26-Year Old Signal-Caller has outplayed his current contract, the sheer volume of money that he’s asking for is typically earmarked for a very select few at his position. Perhaps a meeting with their bitter rival will help them correct course, for Dallas has taken three in a row from Philadelphia, including each of last year’s two meetings, including a thrilling 29-23 Overtime affair from AT&T Stadium. With both teams trading Touchdowns in the Fourth Quarter following a 9-9 stalemate, the hosts made the most of gaining possession first in the extra period, driving Seventy-Five Yards on thirteen plays, culminating in a 15-Yard score from Prescott to Cooper, punctuating a mammoth 10-Catch, 217-Yard, 3-Touchdown performance for the Wideout.