Three-And-Out: Eagles-Cowboys Predictions
Player I’ll be watching
McManus: Cary Williams.
This is the game where Williams can truly become an Eagle. He has spoken about his disdain for former rivals like New England and Pittsburgh, and how he is now learning to hate a new set of divisional foes. No worries, this type of stuff comes natural to him. He will be fueled up on Sunday and really, the type of bite that Williams can provide is exactly what the defense needs this week. Perhaps the biggest mismatch coming in is the Dallas receiving corps against this secondary. From a pure matchup perspective, it’s difficult to envision the Eagles corners and safeties hanging with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Co.
The talent is on the Cowboys side. The Eagles will have to try and find an emotional and psychological edge. This is where a player like Williams can come in handy.
“I think Cary is a highly competitive guy that wants to win in every situation he’s in, whether it’s on the practice field or against the Cowboys,” said Chip Kelly. “I think that’s just one of Cary’s strong traits is his competitive nature. We’d never do anything to try to diminish that. I think that’s why he’s got an edge to him, and I think that’s what Cary is all about, and it makes us better.”
Kapadia: Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles’ second-year linebacker isn’t quite where he should be. He’s been better the past couple weeks and played OK overall. But when you draft an inside linebacker with the No. 46 overall pick, you’re looking for special attributes that separate him from the pack.
With Kendricks, those attributes were his speed and coverage ability. In Week 2, Kendricks had one of his roughest days as a pro going up against Antonio Gates. But several members of the Eagles’ defense seem more comfortable now that they’ve played in this scheme for six games.
On Sunday, Kendricks can expect to get matched up with Witten quite a bit. Overall, the Eagles rank 18th against opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders. Fletcher Cox had his best game of the season last week vs. Tampa. Now it’s Kendricks’ turn to make an impact.
Prop bet of the week: Over/under Tony Romo sacks — 2. Whaddya got?
McManus: Romo is being sacked twice a game on average through six games, so I guess predicting a push would be the smart move. But what fun is that? I’m going over. The Eagles’ defensive line is beginning to show some signs of life. That’s particularly true when it comes to Fletcher Cox. The 22-year-old was stuck in neutral early on as he transitioned to a new scheme, but broke out this past Sunday against Tampa, notching five hurries. I’m betting that he has turned the corner.
The more Cox wreaks havoc, the more it will open things up for the rest of the pass rushers. The Eagles are tied for 24th in the league with 13 sacks on the season. Romo can be slippery, but I’ll guess that the pass rush gets home this week.
Kapadia: Two is a good number. You are quickly becoming a master at setting these totals, McManus. But the way I see it, one or zero seem more likely than three or four.
Trent Cole has held up well against the run, but the pass-rush just hasn’t been there on a consistent basis. Cox improved last week, but the Bucs were playing with a backup left guard. I need to see more.
The other problem is that Billy Davis’ blitz packages haven’t been getting home. Last week, rookie QB Mike Glennon went 10-for-18 for 148 yards when the Eagles sent extra pressure (per STATS, Inc.). Tony Romo has a 97.1 passer rating vs. the blitz and does a great job of escaping pressure and avoiding sacks.
For those reasons, I’m going with the under.
McManus: Cowboys 30, Eagles 27
I can see an exciting, point-filled slugfest unfolding at the Linc Sunday. Both offenses should be able to move the ball. It will be critical for Nick Foles to remain efficient in the red zone.
Can the Eagles get Romo to throw one of his late-game picks? If so, they may end Sunday in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. My feeling is that the ‘Boys are the better team right now, even without DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray. But not by much.
Kapadia: Eagles 34, Cowboys 31
I think we’re underselling this Eagles’ offense a little bit. Against the Giants, they had problems running the ball. They faced a strong Bucs run ‘D’ the following week, made corrections and found ways to be productive on the ground. They moved from one quarterback with a defined skill set to another whose strengths are different and still found a way to be dynamic with the passing game.
We now have a six-game sample size, and I’m comfortable saying Chip Kelly looks pretty impressive designing offense at an NFL level. The Cowboys are a 4-3 team that won’t blitz a lot and won’t be able to generate much of a pass-rush. I expect Foles and the offense to consistently move the football.
The defense is going to struggle, but other than Patrick Chung, they’re healthy. And let’s face it, their goal is just to be not as bad as the Cowboys’ D. That’s attainable… I think.
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