The Matchup: Eagles Vs. Cowboys

Trent Cole had one sack in the Eagles’ first 10 games. He has seven in the last five, including three against the Bears.

Here is a complete breakdown of Sunday night’s Eagles-Cowboys matchup.

THE BIG PICTURE




It's pretty simple: Winner hosts a first-round playoff game next weekend, while the loser goes home.

The Cowboys have been up and down with two losses in their last three games, but they pulled out a 24-23 victory over the Redskins in Week 16.

The Eagles have won six of seven and are averaging 39.3 points per game in their last three.

Here is how the Eagles' offense matches up with the Cowboys' defense:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Eagles Offense6.4 (1st)27.9 (2nd)23.4% (2nd)
Cowboys Defense6.1 (29th)27.2 (25th)14.2% (30th)

And the Eagles' defense against the Cowboys' offense:

 
Yards Per Play
Points Per Game
DVOA (FB Outsiders)
Cowboys Offense5.6 (9th)27.8 (3rd)7.9% (11th)
Eagles Defense5.4 (19th)24.0 (16th)5.4% (23rd)

Note: Click here for an explanation of DVOA.

***

EAGLES RUSHING OFFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Eagles Rushing Offense5.2 (1st)24.4% (1st)
Cowboys Rushing Defense4.8 (30th)4.8% (29th)

On paper, this is a monumental mismatch. LeSean McCoy is on fire with 388 yards on 55 carries in his last three games (7.1 YPC). The Eagles gashed the Bears with their split-zone run, moving the tight end across the formation to block the edge defender on 11 occasions (99 yards).

In the first meeting against Dallas, McCoy had just 55 yard on 18 carries and said afterwards that it was one of his worst games as a pro. The Cowboys got a couple of great individual performances in that game - from middle linebacker Sean Lee and safety Barry Church. But Lee is not expected to play Sunday night because of an injury.

Replacing him has been rookie sixth-round pick DeVonte Holloman. Bruce Carter plays the weak-side, and second-year player Kyle Wilber mans the strong side.

The Eagles will start the same five offensive linemen for the 16th straight game. Jason Peters is coming off arguably his best game of the season, having dominated Julius Peppers in Week 15. Evan Mathis has been consistent throughout. Jason Kelce is playing at a high level. Todd Herremans has done a good job in the run game for most of the season, and Lane Johnson continues to improve.

Brent Celek has been excellent as a run blocker, and James Casey has seen an increased role because of his run-blocking experience. In the first meeting, the Eagles went with multiple TE sets on just three of 75 plays. Expect that number to be significantly higher in this game.

Up front, Dallas goes with DeMarcus Ware and George Selvie at the DE spots. Nick Hayden and Jason Hatcher are the starting tackles.

EAGLES PASSING OFFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Nick Foles63.9% (9th)9.03 (1st)75 (1st)*30.8% (4th)
Cowboys Passing Defense64.8% (26th)7.7 (25th)66 (32nd)20.9% (29th)

Nick Foles played the worst game of his career against Dallas earlier in the season, completing just 11 of 29 attempts for 80 yards. Since that game, he's been on fire with passer ratings over 100 in six of seven starts.

If there was an injury explanation for his performance in the first meeting, the Eagles have done a good job of concealing it. The company line has been that Foles just had a bad game. The Cowboys played a lot of man coverage, and Foles missed too many opportunities. The guess here is that Dallas will do the same thing this week: load the box to stop the run, play with a single-high safety, and force the Eagles to beat man coverage (something they've been doing with regularity as of late).

Against Chicago last week, Foles played one of his best games of the season, completing 21 of 25 passes. Of his four incompletions, three were throw-aways, and one was a drop by Celek. Foles leads the NFL in passer rating (118.8) and yards per attempt (9.03).

DeSean Jackson has set career highs with 79 catches and 1,304 yards. He only had three catches for 21 yards in the first meeting, but there were opportunities for much more. He'll get matched up against Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick. Carr had a rough outing last week against Pierre Garcon. Cornerback Morris Claiborne could return from a hamstring injury and should play in sub packages.

Riley Cooper is averaging 18.1 yards per catch, third-best in the league, and has been great as a downfield blocker.

One number that jumps out here: The Eagles have 75 pass plays of 20+ yards, tops in the league. The Cowboys have allowed 66 pass plays of 20+ yards, dead-last in the league.

Up front, Peters will get matched up against Ware, who didn't play in the first game. Ware has six sacks in 12 games. Johnson will face off against Selvie, who has seven sacks. Hatcher gave the Eagles problems in the first game and leads the Cowboys with nine sacks. Herremans and Johnson have had fewer breakdowns on the right side of the line in the second half of the season.

Dallas ranks 30th in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders. The Eagles' protection held up well for the most part in the first outing.

***

EAGLES RUSHING DEFENSE

 
YPC
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Cowboys Rushing Offense4.6 (5th)9.5% (5th)
Eagles Rushing Defense3.8 (3rd)-10.3% (12th)

This has been the strength of Billy Davis' unit. Fletcher Cox, Cedric Thornton and Bennie Logan are all playing at a high level. The Eagles are limiting opponents to 3.8 yards per carry, tied for third-best in the league. 

DeMeco Ryans leads the Eagles with 169 tackles, per team stats. Mychal Kendricks is playing his best football of the year. Trent Cole has come on in the second half of the season. And Connor Barwin has been consistent throughout.

With Tony Romo out, the Cowboys are expected to lean on DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys' running back has the highest yards per carry (5.4) of any running back with at least 150 carries. He has 376 yards on 58 carries in his last three games and is averaging 6.5 YPC during that stretch. Murray did not play in the first meeting between these teams.

Like the Eagles, the Cowboys have benefited from O-Line continuity. Four of their five linemen have started all 15 games: LT Tyron Smith, LG Ronald Leary, center Travis Frederick and RT Doug Free. Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau has started 10 games.

***

EAGLES PASSING DEFENSE

 
Completion Percentage
YPA
20+
FB Outsiders (DVOA)
Cowboys Passing Offense63.9% (8th)7.2 (14th)44 (19th)15.7% (12th)
Eagles Passing Defense60.6% (16th)7.3 (19th)58 (27th)16.9% (24th)

Orton has thrown 15 passes in the past two seasons and has not started a game since 2011. He has experience (69 starts), but does not possess Romo's improvisational ability.

Dez Bryant leads the Cowboys in targets (147), receptions (85), yards (1,134) and touchdowns (12). He also has a team-high 13 receptions of 20+ yards. Bryant caught eight balls for 110 yards in the first meeting against the Eagles.

Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher played well last week against the Bears. They'll line up on the right and left sides, respectively. Expect Davis to give them help on Bryant.

Jason Witten has 61 catches for 716 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. He had six grabs for 48 yards against the Eagles in the first meeting. But overall, the Eagles are 25th against opposing tight ends, per Football Outsiders.

No. 2 wide receiver Terrance Williams is averaging a team-high 16.2 yards per catch, and Murray has 48 receptions out of the backfield.

Cole faces a tough matchup against Smith, arguably the best left tackle in the league. Cole is coming off a three-sack performance against Chicago and has seven sacks in his last five games.

Expect Davis to blitz the A-gaps and challenge the interior of the Cowboys' offensive line. Kendricks had two sacks and a hurry last week against Chicago.

At safety, Earl Wolff's status (knee) is up in the air. Patrick Chung played one of his better games last week, but has been up-and-down throughout. He'll likely start alongisde Nate Allen.

On special teams, the Cowboys will get dangerous return man Dwayne Harris back.

***

THE ESSENTIALS

Kickoff is set for 8:30 p.m. EST on NBC. Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth will have the call. Sports Insights has the Eagles as 6.5-point favorites – 69 percent of the money is on the Eagles, 31 percent on the Cowboys.

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  • Beastmode

    I gotta feeling this is gonna be a repeat of the Bears game. Cutler is way better than Orton. Defense will be swarming to the ball.

    • jabostick

      Hopefully the Minny game was a kick in the pants and they are in “get out of my way” mode this week, and several after it

    • John J. King

      Hope you’re right.

  • Will

    Waiting all week for Sunday Night….Hope Eagles jump out to an early lead and never look back…Go Eagles…

  • sbanul20

    First year in a 3-4 and we give up the 3rd least YPC in the league.. And the average age of our 6 D linemen is just over 24. Just wow

    • G_WallyHunter

      Exciting isn’t it. This D is built for the FUTURE

    • KobraKai7474

      Even so (and this is obviously a discussion for another day), the 2014 draft should be a defensive one. The offense is pretty stacked (assuming Foles doesn’t regress) and pretty set at all positions for at least next year if not a year or two beyond (at which point age could begin to be an issue with Peters, Herremans, Mathis and even McCoy). Defense is where this team could improve by leaps and bounds next year with a few more key young players. At safety… well, do we really need to get into the details… they just need help. At linebacker, Ryans is, if not “old”, at least getting old, and, while Trent Cole has played his face off on the outside, he, too, is getting old in football years. While the team is a bit better off on the d-line and at corner, it is not possible for a team to have too many defensive linemen and/or good cover corners in their rotation so even some picks at those positions would be huge for this team.

      • DEBO 215

        It’s a shame there aren’t many good safeties in this draft because that is easily their biggest need.

        I think they draft the best available defensive player, regardless of position.

        • theycallmerob

          too early to tell. everyone thought last year was extra deep at S, but many of the rookies have looked pretty terrible. Imagine if we got Rambo or Wilcox instead of Wolff.

          At the S position, still a huge fan of L. Joyner as a late 1st or traded-up 2nd. He went and officially moved to CB, but if anything it makes me want him more. He’d be our honey badger.

          Long, but good write up w/ vids here: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/futures/2013/futures-florida-state-db-lamarcus-joyner

          • DEBO 215

            I like Wolff but I’m looking at it from the middle first round perspective. Kenny Vaccarro or Matt Elam…

          • theycallmerob

            After the offensive #s we’ve had this year, I’ll take LJ a million times over either of those guys at #4. 3rd year playing OT in his life, and at the NFL level as a 23yr old? Yes please.

            Judging from our draft position this year, it’s much more likely they’ll have their pick of DB prospects. Top 4 S prospects outside of HaHa are projected anywhere from 2-4 by CBS, though still very early.

            http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/prospectrankings/2014/SS

          • DEBO 215

            Oh I’m not saying I would’ve taken them over LJ. He’s a beast and if a re-draft were able to happen right now, he’d go #1 over Joeckel, Fisher and Jordan. No question. I just want that first round safety talent and I doubt they get a crack at it this year. I want that Earl Thomas/Eric Berry type back there.

          • Richard Colton

            I’ll tell you who isn’t going in round one of that redraft – EJ Manuel or Geno Smith. Kiko Alonzo would be a top 10 pick.

          • Richard Colton

            agree. can’t dictate events when you’re drafting in the mid 20s. Need to be prepared to react to who is falling and what positions are being over drafted. I wouldn’t be upset if Haha fell to us at 24.

          • DEBO 215

            That’d be a great scenario. Mid 20’s pick in round 1, they should be drafting best available.

      • pkatz

        The only problem with your statement is that I think you have to expect Foles to regress. You can’t expect anyone to turn in a 30 TD 2 int year, every year….

        Debo said it, and I agree that they have huge need at safety but last year was supposed to be a safety draft for the ages and they didn’t make a move when I was hoping (rounds 2 or 3). If they didn’t do it then I don’t expect them to do it this year. Fully expect BPA

      • Tom W

        I am a proponent of drafting best player available regardless of position or side of the ball … drafting for need ends badly.. and I believe Demeco is only 28 and playing at a close to pro-bowl level. If we talking age ..its on the oline w three starters over 31.

        And w free agency taking place earlier by a wide margin this year, its very possible those holes on defense you speak of could be addressed w a signing of a stud Free safety like Jarius Byrd, TJ Ward, Clemons or more corner depth

        Its very likely that the bpa where we pick in the first round is a monster wr considering this years draft is loaded w elite wr talent in the first 2 rounds … Seeing as Jason Avant at wr 3 can certainly be upgraded and Maclin is no sure thing w his injury history of inability to block and Cooper and Maclin are free agents, and Chip’s love for big wrs … I could certainly see us taking a wr in the mid 20s …whether it is the monster from Texas Am or the freak Benjamin from FSU or the kid from Vandy or LSU or USC or Clemson …

        Its looking like there is only one safety w a first round grade this year in HaHa from Alabama and as we know safety is a tough position to evaluate and draft for the eagles — so I could see Howie addressing this in free agency and bringing back Allen w Wolfe and drafting a safety in later rounds

        I think the eagles are happy w their corners … and I don’t see any big corners like an Xavier Rhodes going in the first round … lot of undersized guys. maybe in the second but I think the third is more likely…. deep class but not elite talent like a joe haden or patrick peterson or woodson …. if Verner from Tenn doesn’t get tagged, I certainly would make an exception for a 25 yr old shut down corner in free agency … but I think a splash at safety is more likely

        Pass rusher certainly is a need but not as much as I thought earlier in the year … we aren’t cutting Cole or Graham (maybe trade one) because of the cap hit/dead money hit but Barwin does need a backup that we could start the following year … lots of nice pass rushing olb in this draft from Stanford, Utah, BYU, Clemson, and Missouri that will be there in the 20s … If Howie were to make a splash in the draft, it would be a trade up and draft Mack from Buffalo … the prototypical beast olb who can do everything or Orapko in free agency which I wouldn’t do because he is already 28.

        I dont see us drafting a dlineman early unless an elite talent falls to us like one of the two kids from Notre Dame … would have no problem drafting either of them

        The guard from baylor would be intriguing first round pick … but I think Todd’s versatility to play guard or tackle would preclude that for at least another year and he isn’t that expensive …

        • Richard Colton

          You want another guard from Baylor? Bold.
          Seperate question – this isn’t the same Tom W who was begging the Eagles not to take an offensive lineman in the first round last year, is it?

          • Tom w

            I was and stand by it. Look at bears 5 th round otackle and Pugh from giants playing as well if not better than lane. And more importantly we still need a pass rusher. Never said it wasn’t likely we wouldn’t hit on otackle but that it was very likely we could hit on otackle later in the draft and not take in top 5. I wanted a trade down and grab star or Sheldon. Picking at 25 much different than 4 and I basically said id be fine seeing birds take a stud wr or pass rusher or safety or dlineman equally as an oguard. And caring what college the guard came from is idiotic. Logical fallacy at its best.

          • Richard Colton

            Not even going to admit you got the ’13 draft dead wrong, huh? Come on Tom. You’re better than that.

          • Tom w

            How did I get it wrong at all? I wanted Jordan … Can’t control the dolphins gm. Next I wanted to trade down and take star or Sheldon … Both those kids are playing at a probowl level and would go in top 3 of a redraft arguably. Third option was take bpa and that was lane. Even chip wanted dion Jordan and Howie admitted they tried to trade down and had no takers, so please explain where I was wrong???????????

          • Richard Colton

            Come on man. its just you and me in here now. You had a lot of good points about the draft last year but your main argument was to avoid taking an Olineman in round one. Remember the chart? You were dead wrong. The strength of the offense has been the O-line. Lane Johnson was a great pick.

            You’re assuming facts not in evidence. There was no trade on the table to move down. Saying “we talked to teams about moving down” is like saying water is wet. And your Sheldon Richardson point is dishonest. Just about every mock had him going top 8. The fact that he fell to the 20s was the biggest surprise of round one. The only guarantee would have been to take him at four.

          • Tom w

            Yes avoiding ol in rd 1 was my main pt bc we could land a good one later like Pugh or bears right tackle who went in rd 2 and 4. Fisher and joeckel look like busts.

            Sheldon went at 12 to jets and star right after. 20s? U are thinking about Floyd. Go back and read chips presser after that pick …. Said no one was interested in trading down and they had 4 guys they wanted at 4 including Jordan. One could easily argue star and Sheldon’s picks are much better than lane. And imagine if we had a right tackle like Pugh and Sheldon or star or dion. Wow. My main point of not taking an otackle in top 5 has proven out w atleast 2 tackles playing at a high level like lane drafted after first round. Never said I didn’t like lane or it was a bad pick…. I always said it wasn’t the best utilization of our picks bc there was only 3 good pass rushers … And lookey here we still need that pass rusher

          • Richard Colton

            But the guys we were talking about as round 2 options – Pugh, Kyle Long all went in round one. The Predraft hypothetical was would you rather have Dion Jordan and Kyle Long or Eric Fisher and Margus Hunt? Obviously the draft didn’t work out that way. But if you asked me today if I would rather have Lane Johnson and Margus Hunt/Tank Carridine/Kiko Alonzo or Dion Jordon and Menelik Watson/Terron Armestead – Im taking Lane. It was an outstanding pick.

      • George

        I think the goal has to be to grab a lockdown corner, sign jarius byrd, and build a stable of pass-rushers. And maybe grab an extra wideout and potential replacement for meco in the middle rounds. This offseason would make me extremely happy

      • Sig

        I see Chip and Howie building an offensive team, with an average D much like the New Orleans of 2010.

        I think OLB is a top need, getting a young pass rusher to start filling in for Cole after next year is a must.

        I will be perfectly fine if they address WR/OL in the first or second rounds. I feel best player available regardless of O/D is what directions we need to go in.

        FA will be big for us, adding players of need, allowing us to draft top players available in the draft.

        It will be a fun offseason, but right now focus is on beating the cowgirls and heading to the playoffs!!!!

  • John J. King

    Who was the QB with the Vikes? Please do not forget.

    • nicksaenz1

      Be fair, Cassel has taken significantly more snaps in the last two seasons than Orton has.

      • Andy124

        He’s also the best quarterback on the Vikings roster (unless you count Webb lol). A claim Orton cannot make.

  • Adam

    Don’t rush Wolff back. I don’t think safety play will be the deciding factor in this game, so let him rest up and get back for next week.

  • addicted2mula

    I’m not going to lie I didn’t think this D was going to adapt to the scheme so quick. The offence neither. Way to go Chip! Bird Gang!

  • DEBO 215

    I’m nervously optimistic for this game. On paper it should be a blowout…and I’m optimistic that we’ll get the W…but I’m still pretty damn nervous. Road game against a backup QB and a team that is being told all week that they have no shot…I just hope they blow the doors off them.

    • Andy

      Agree, on paper this is a pretty one-sided match-up. In light of the Minnesota game, though, that’s why this is frightening.

      • cliff henny

        think 2 major differences, minne defense is legit (any qb play they might have won division), cowboys are historically terrible. also, cassel had played and practiced with starters often. orton is fine, but he is ceratinly not elite talent that can roll out on week practice and have a cassel like game. just cant see dallas stopping offense for extended period. at some point, eagles will score 14 in 5 mins and game will rest on orton. then it gets ugly.

        • Bukester

          Zakly! Cassel has had a few chances this year. Orton has had no chances. My gut feeling is Wittten is the key to their success. That is, if the only thing Orton does/did all this week was work on a short game to Witten and Murray, then he has a shot at doing damage early which would open up Bryant and Williams. Its the only chance he has. That makes the Eagles defense easier to breakdown – flood the second level and get a quick pick from Orton with one of his Witten passes in the seam. That will get into his head early and it will snowball from there.

          There are a lot of reasons why this defense needs to win this game for the team. I would be really happy with a 24-10 victory if it meant the D is red hot going into the playoffs. Think Hot Goalie. Anything can happen. As Foles gravitates to his own mean (whatever that is, I won’t pretend to know), the D needs to mature even more and I think they will.

  • nicksaenz1

    4 more plays of 20+ yards and we officially have “The Greatest Show to Not Need Turf”.

  • Andy124

    The Matchup: Good vs. Evil

    Key matchup, Referee’s honor vs. Evil’s bribes. Who will win? If the Cowboys trade in their horses to ride on the backs of zebras, can the Eagles soar above the adversity snatch victory in their talons or will the zebras carry the forces of evil across the finish line?

    Other matchups to consider: Beer vs. sobriety. No contest here. Moving on.

    Next matchup: Tension vs. my heart. This one really swings on the Eagles getting off to a fast start. If they can start fast and keep their feet on the necks of the bad guys, I should live to gloat another day. Should the game come down to the last possession, well, it’s been fun guys.

    • cliff henny

      oh man, you just made my stomach sick. i can see flags being all thrown 1-way to keep dallas close.

    • TPZ-1

      Regarding the refs, I was thinking the same thing. Expect a few bogus personal foul, PI, & other bs calls…

    • Andy124

      For the record, this post was for entertainment purposes only (mainly my own) and not a serious accusation of bribery.