Three And Out: Eagles-Cowboys Predictions

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin (22) celebrates with his teammates on the field after making an interception in the fourth quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Player I’ll be watching

McManus: Brandon Boykin

Boykin made some pretty good memories during his last trip to AT&T Stadium. His interception of a Kyle Orton pass with under two minutes to play last December secured a 24-22 win that punched the Eagles’ ticket to the playoffs.

“It was a big interception and it clinched the division so in essence, yeah, it was the biggest moment of my career as far as making a play,” he said. “But I can’t live off of that, you know what I’m saying? I don’t really care about it anymore. That was last year just like six picks was last year, just like we were division champs last year. You can’t live in the past in this league.”

It has definitely been a different year for Boykin. He is playing just 42.6 percent of the snaps this season, down from 51.6 percent in 2013. The production has dipped as well. The Georgia product had the second-most interceptions in the league last year but has just one pick so far this season, which came last week against Tennessee.

Boykin does have six pass breakups in limited action and is allowing fewer yards after the catch on average.

“That’s typical. Anytime you don’t do better or up to par of what you have done [statistically], people think you aren’t doing as much or you fell off,” said Boykin. “That’s really not fair to put those expectations on me or anybody to expect them to replicate a year that they had. Everybody is a pro in this league and everybody game plans and everybody knows, they had success doing this last year, we’re not going to do that [again].”

“I think I’m playing consistent in my opinion, doing what I need to do for us to win. This year I feel I’m more consistent in my technique. As far as passes getting thrown at me and opportunities I do get, I make plays.”

New season and a different quarterback for the Cowboys this time around. But it would be big for the Eagles if Boykin can come up with a little magic once again in Dallas.

Kapadia: Jordan Matthews

There’s no denying that he and Mark Sanchez have a special connection. Matthews is averaging 107.3 yards and 17.9 YPR in the past three games that Sanchez has started. He looks much more comfortable than he did earlier in the season, is using his size to his advantage and has made some impressive plays picking up yards after the catch.

Chip Kelly’s plan with Matthews has been consistent since the Eagles drafted him: Station the wide receiver in the slot and use him in between the numbers. And that’s exactly where Sanchez has liked to go with the football. The Eagles’ QB has struggled with throws downfield outside the numbers.

Last week in front of a national audience, rookie Odell Beckham, Jr. went off for 10 catches and 146 yards against a mediocre Cowboys defense. Dallas is not particularly strong against the pass.

Matthews is on pace for 73 catches and 924 yards. If he stays hot, it’s not out of the realm that he could hit the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie. Look for him to lead the Eagles in receiving and cause the Cowboys problems in this one.

Over/under: 2 1/2 Eagles sacks — Whaddya got?

McManus:  I’ll take the over.

Tony Romo is being sacked two times a game on average. A sturdy offensive line and effective ground game has made it more difficult for opposing defenses to tee off on the quarterback, who is often able to escape pressure when it does get home.

It’s a tough assignment for Billy Davis’ group, but I think they’ll be able to generate some heat. This unit already has more sacks through 11 games (38) than it did all of last season (37). Connor Barwin, Trent Cole and company have exceeded expectations, helping to turn the pass rush into one of the strengths of this team.

I don’t expect the defensive attack to go crazy like it did against Carolina, nor do I think it’ll be silenced like in Green Bay. I’ll say they bring Romo down three times in this one.

Kapadia: Tough one here, but I’ll take the over.

The Eagles are second in the NFL in sacks and can get to the quarterback in a different ways. Barwin will line up in a variety of spots. Cole still wins plenty of one-on-one matchups. Fletcher Cox is constantly disruptive. Vinny Curry and Brandon Graham make noise when they get on the field.

Don’t be surprised if Mychal Kendricks is heard from as a blitzer in this one as well.

The Cowboys’ offensive line is legit, and Romo is going to make his share of plays downfield. But I’m with you, T-Mac. I think the Eagles can get to him three times.


McManus: Eagles 31, Cowboys 28

I went back and forth on this one, but I’ll say the Eagles pull the mild upset in Dallas. The defensive line seemed a little chippy this week over the fact that the Cowboys’ front was getting all the attention. Jerry Azzinaro’s group has been impressive and should be able to hold its own against Dallas’ O-Line. We’ll say that DeMarco Murray is kept in check for the most part and that Romo will be forced into a critical interception late.

The Eagles should be able to move the ball offensively, it’s just a matter of whether they can hold onto it. I’ll say that Sanchez throws one pick and the Eagles play a relatively clean game on offense en route to a huge road win.

Kapadia: Eagles 30, Cowboys 27

It’s an evenly matched game. The line in Vegas (Cowboys -3) tells us that. So do the numbers and the matchups.

Offensively, I think the Eagles will be able to move the ball consistently. The Cowboys don’t have a great pass-rush, the Birds’ offensive line was good in pass pro last week, and Sanchez has done a good job of getting rid of it quickly/navigating the pocket. I don’t know that LeSean McCoy will go off like he did last week, but there will be opportunities in the run game.

Defensively, the battle up front is going to be fun to watch. Dallas runs the ball every week, and the Eagles focus on stopping the run every week. Murray will get his yards, but I don’t expect him to take over the game.

The secondary is where the Eagles will have issues. Dez Bryant against Bradley Fletcher, Cary Williams and Nate Allen is potentially a nightmare matchup.

The Eagles will give up big plays and will likely turn it over a couple times. But they also have a coaching edge and a special teams edge. This one could go either way, but my gut says the Eagles pull out a close win.