One of the NFL’s greatest weeks is here as the Eagles and Cowboys get set for their 119th meeting. The two teams have met on Sunday Night Football 11 times with the Eagles holding the 6-5 edge. However, neither team has won consecutive Sunday Night contests since the Eagles in 2010-2011.
Philadelphia looks to break that cycle after winning last season’s Sunday Night matchup. Lastly, the past three Sunday Night games have been at “Jerry’s World”, with this one finally coming back home. But enough miscellaneous historical data about this rivalry, it’s time for the here and now.
The Birds are fresh off their bye week and with the addition of a new game-breaker in wide receiver Golden Tate; while Cowboys are coming off a terrible loss to the Titans on Monday Night falling to 3-5 on the season. They too added an outside weapon in former Raiders wide receiver Amari Cooper, who scored in his Cowboys’ debut. As ESPN will incessantly remind: you can throw records and standings out of the equation when these teams match up. Expect Dallas’ best effort on Sunday Night.
Dallas Dominant Defense
This Cowboys defense quietly has become a dominant force and a unit the team can depend on almost every game.The secondary and linebackers are a huge factor for that side of the ball’s success so far. Dallas’ defense gives up less than 100 yards rushing per game (10th in NFL) while their pass defense averages just over 217 yards allowed through the air each game (5th in NFL).
Rod Marinelli has a unique coverage scheme given the athleticism and speed of his linebackers and safeties. His cornerbacks typically have one assignment: do not get beat deep on the outside. They don’t have to worry about in-breaking routes because that’s where the playmaking linebackers and safeties roam. Sean Lee unfortunately suffered his yearly injury on Monday Night with a hamstring strain that should keep him out for a few weeks. However, the most impressive player in my opinion on that defense has been Jaylon Smith.
His sideline-to-sideline speed is remarkable for someone coming off the type of injury he suffered back at Notre Dame. Smith seems to be 100% back to the player with the type of hype that might have made him a first-round pick in 2016. With Sean Lee out, Leighton Vander Esch (LVE) will continue to see an increased role alongside Smith during his impressive rookie campaign.
Expect Dougie P to draw up a game plan centered on screens or quick in-breaking routes in order to draw the defense up for shots downfield. And that is going to involved Mr. Tate.
Two former Notre Dame products step into the spotlight
During the bye week, it was reported that the Eagles are giving Tate around 10-12 plays to work with in his first action. His quickness in route-running makes him a difficult receiver to shadow in the open field, especially with space in front of him. Defensive coordinators have to pick and choose their battles of who to key on with Tate now in the mix with Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz.
It’s been proven over the course of this year but the Eagles offense operates at its best when the ball is being distributed to a variety of receivers. When the game plan gets too reliant on Ertz and Jeffrey, defenses tend to focus on those two and even fans can see the offense stall late in games.
But the Eagles offensive woes don’t start and end with Carson Wentz not spreading the ball around. The run game has not made a true impact this season with no bell-cow type back emerging from the committee. However when looking rookie Josh Adams’ production with limited touches, it’s hard to ignore what he can bring to this offense.
Despite lacking incredible lateral quickness and elusiveness, Adams is a fundamentally sound runner. He’s patient at the line of scrimmage, waiting for alleys to open for him to explode through. While he’s not the fastest back, the 6-2, 225 pound runner is tough to bring down in the open field and can drag piles forward for extra yardage.
*By the way, the clip below is just Josh Adams dragging the best linebacker in football for an extra five yards after contact…*
Last year after the Jay Ajayi trade, I preached to anyone and everyone that would listen about how he and Blount would become defensive nightmares come wintertime. In frigid Philadelphia, tackling big backs when they’re coming at you full speed is not a fun task for a defensive back.
Most Important Player
And that is exactly why Adams is the most important player for this week. With the addition of Tate, the Eagles have finally given Wentz a playmaker that can turn one of those bubble screens, which normally results in a loss, into a potential game-breaking play. That also means defensive coordinators will have to game plan around not just him, but Alshon Jeffery, Zach Ertz, and even Nelson Agholor and rookie Dallas Goedert.
However, if the Eagles cannot establish a ground game, the Cowboys can sink back in their coverage while only rushing their aggressive and impressive defensive line. Keeping the Cowboys honest by gaining 3-5 yards at a time will open up space for Carson’s weapons to make plays downfield.
For my player prediction, I am going BOLD this week. I have been on the Josh Adams’ bandwagon for awhile now and was ecstatic when the Eagles decided to bring him in for training camp.
I think that Josh Adams will get 15+ touches on Sunday night and rush for close to 100-yards. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will be saying “the kid from Notre Dame’s” name a lot come Sunday Night Football time.
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