|NEXT OPPONENT||San Diego Chargers|
|NEXT OPPONENT||Chicago Bears|
|GAME TIME||8:30 P.M. EST|
Dallas Cowboys’ Key Player: Rod Marinelli
This week, the key player of the game for the ‘Boys is not a player, it’s a coach. Rule broken. Now, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is Dallas’s x-factor on Sunday night. Should we be concerned with Tyron Smith and the protection picture? Yes. Should we be concerned with Mike Nugent’s inability to hit a field goal. Yes. Should we be concerned with the lack of playmakers on offense? Yes. Yet none of these issues take precedent over losing the most valuable member of the defense, Sean Lee. This is where Marinelli comes into play. He now faces the most threatening offensive unit Dallas has played all year, without the captain of his unit. How does he fill the gap? Can he turn Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant into ball hawks worthy of filling the role Lee leaves behind? Bring into play how young and susceptible the Dallas secondary is, with the weapons they face, it’s clear Marinelli must be on the top of his game to cultivate a full unit capable of holding Philadelphia under 30 points. In order to even compete for a win against the most complete team in football, Rod Marinelli must become a magician, a magician who turns the frog of the Cowboys’ defense into a prince… until the clock strikes midnight.
Philadelphia Eagles’ Key Player: Carson Wentz
It’s no longer time to get fancy. Yes one could overanalyze and list an obscure player to be the key for Philadelphia, like Jason Peters head-to-head with Demarcus Lawrence, or Ronald Darby in his first game back since suffering an early-season injury, but it’s Wentz’s time to shine. The kid has been great, laying a precedent for a possible hall of fame career, but in a rivalry game in JerryWorld, I see this as his most crucial game. Getting away with throwing less than 200 yards in the past three games has been great for the team, but Wentz needs to throw for more than 300 yards in this ball game. All the pressure is on him. Through all the performances he’s compiled this season, if he walks into Arlington, is outplayed by Dak, and loses to a defense without it’s top player, he will be scrutinized until the season finale against Dallas. Win this game, outplay Dak, clinch the division, and silence every hater in Texas. Lose, leave doubt of how you perform in the clutch, leave the playoff picture hanging, and deal with Dak comparisons for the remainder of the season. It really does come down to this.
GAME PREVIEW AND ANALYSIS
This game is really it for Dallas. One can say hope is held for the Wild Card if they can’t clinch the NFC East, but with losses to the Packers, Falcons, and Rams (all Wild Card possible teams) Dallas can essentially kiss their playoff chances goodbye. But after all, anything can happen. On the other end, the Birds have just as much pressure to deal with, despite coasting with an 8-1 record. With a win tonight they stay in the driver’s seat for home field the entire 2018 playoffs, but with a loss they have Dallas in the rear view mirror for as long as the ‘Boys can stick around, not to mention an L taken at the hands of a below-average defense. Of course Dallas is not the complete underdog here. If able to utilize Demarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Tyrone Crawford (Totaling 21.5 sacks on the season) Marinelli can rattle Wentz and possibly create a crucial turnover. The LT issue is an entirely new beast but becomes less accentuated against a Philadelphia team who has given up 9.8 yards per carry behind left tackles of opposing teams this year, but if Smith cannot play, Byron Bell must shine. The running game is not of concern, Morris can make plays if given the right holes and McFadden may be utilized this week as a spark. All else fails, this is a rivalry game, and rivalry games are the greatest equalizers in pro sports. Buckle your seatbelts folks, Sunday night is going to be a ride.
GAME PREDICTION: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 24
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