Three-And-Out: Eagles-Cowboys Predictions
PLAYER I’LL BE WATCHING
McManus: Bennie Logan
The Cowboys offensive line is so good, some say, that you can plug just about any back behind it and the machine will still hum. This theory was presented to Bennie Logan at his locker stall following practice earlier this week.
“Oh, cool,” he deadpanned. “Do you buy into it?”
Not really. Do you?
“You already know how I feel.”
The defensive tackle made some waves heading into last year’s Thanksgiving Day matchup when he said he was tired of the talk about Dallas’ offensive front and didn’t think there was “anything special or spectacular about them.” Fueled by the one-sided media attention, ‘The Nobodies’ started the process of outgrowing their nickname with a strong showing in the Eagles’ 33-10 win. They’ll need to have another big day on Sunday. You can argue whether the Cowboys’ O-line is overhyped but there is no denying its ability to shield off defenders both in both the pass and ground game. It falls on the Eagles’ defensive line to penetrate the wall and disrupt the operation at the point of attack.
Logan looks like a player on the rise and had arguably the best preseason out of anyone on defense. A big outing by him against this unit would help the Eagles’ chances a good deal.
Paunil: Allen Barbre
I’m not concerned yet about Sam Bradford and the passing game; I think the quarterback just had to shake off rust and will get into a rhythm much quicker this week. However, one person I am curious about is Allen Barbre.
Jason Peters and Jason Kelce certainly had their negative plays against Atlanta too, but Barbre doesn’t have the pedigree the two Pro Bowlers have that makes you confident they’ll be fine. On the right side of the offensive line, Lane Johnson quietly had a good game and Andrew Gardner was better in pass protection than Barbre.
Part of the Eagles’ struggle running the ball was the Falcons’ defensive scheme, but they also have to improve their chemistry. Several offensive linemen said they didn’t handle Atlanta’s stunts well because of the their communication. That has to change going forward and the two new starters—Barbre and Gardner—will play important roles in that.
The offensive line catches a break with Randy Gregory not playing tomorrow, especially with Greg Hardy already out. This unit will be the determining factor of the Eagles’ success against the Cowboys on offense, and we’ll get a better sense of whether they showed their true colors in the first half or second half against the Falcons on Monday night.
OVER/UNDER: 21 touches for DeMarco Murray — Whaddya got?
McManus: I’ll try the under.
Murray was on the field for 33 snaps — or 45 percent of the time — against the Falcons compared to 25 plays for Darren Sproles and 16 for Ryan Mathews. He finished with 12 touches (eight runs, four receptions) for 20 yards with a pair of touchdowns. With the Eagles leaning heavy on the pass (they threw it 52 times and ran it just 16) Duce Staley went with a heavy dose of Sproles Monday night.
It’s a safe bet that the Eagles will make more of a concerted effort to establish the run against the Cowboys and will lean more on what should be a motivated Murray, who will be squaring off against his old team. I see more touches and production, but will say he falls just shy of the 21-touch mark.
Paunil: I also have the under.
I thought before the regular season started that the carries at running back would be split 60/30/10 between Murray, Mathews and Sproles. However, Murray’s workload could easily fall to 50 percent instead. Chip Kelly has talked numerous about wanting to keep his backs fresh not just for the end of the game, but for the end of the season.
Not only will the Eagles be able to run the ball better against the Cowboys, but even if they don’t, I doubt Chip abandons it as quickly. Dallas will make Philadelphia beat them through the air, however, which is why I doubt Murray’s touches will go higher than the teens.
McManus: Eagles 28, Cowboys 27
The Eagles’ performance against the Falcons raised some concerns on both sides of the ball. The offensive line had its share of struggles; Sam Bradford did not handle pressure particularly well; the secondary failed to contain Atlanta’s passing attack; the pass rush didn’t get home (though they were going against max protect); and the coaching staff didn’t make the proper adjustments until it was too late. An underwhelming showing overall.
I don’t expect all those issues to just disappear in a matter of a week, but I do believe we’ll see a more polished product on Sunday. The Eagles get a break by not having to face Dez Bryant; Byron Maxwell and the secondary are set up well for a bounce-back performance. And communication along the offensive line should improve with the scene shifting from the Georgia Dome to the Linc. With some of the rust knocked off, I believe Bradford and Co. will elevate their game enough to pull out a close one against the ‘Boys.
Paunil: Eagles 31, Cowboys 27
It will be a close game throughout, but I see Bryant’s injury as the difference-maker between a toss-up and a tough Eagles win. Although I think Cole Beasley could give Philadelphia trouble from the slot, Dallas won’t have as many big plays without Dez. The defense also catches a break with Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary listed as doubtful for tomorrow.
On the offensive side of the ball, I already highlighted my area of concern. The Eagles have the talent on the offensive line, but they simply need to execute better and cut down on the penalties. Every starting offensive lineman committed a penalty against Atlanta, and four of the five starters were called for holding at least once. I expect them to be better against the Cowboys, however, which is why I see them scoring four touchdowns and a field goal.