Three Ways Dallas Cowboys Can Defeat Philadelphia Eagles on NBC Sunday Night Football
I have a confession to make. It’s one that potentially some of my die-hard Dallas Cowboys fans/readers won’t be able to handle. I’ve been a Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for FanSided/SportsIllustrated.com’s Inside the Iggles site for almost a year. When the Editor-in-chief contacted me about the staff writer position, at first I thought he was crazy. However, as I considered the opportunity, I realized that as a sports writer, if I couldn’t cover another team, especially a franchise as hated and despised by Cowboys fans as the Eagles, then what kind of a professional writer could I ever be.
This information might make some question my Cowboys loyalties, and that’s fine, if providing for my family offends you then I’m truly sorry. However, think twice about questioning my love for America’s Team as I’ve been a fan for longer than some of my readers have been alive. As further proof, I was the nut a couple weeks ago who on NBC Sunday Night Football ran around MetLife Stadium in New York wearing my @MattsCowboys jersey asking Giants fans why they hated me. I present exhibit “A”.
I was verbally accosted only a few times, never harmed, and yes, Eagles fans, I would gladly do that in Philadelphia if NBC asked me to, without any fear…
All this information is an attempt to convince you of my insider information about the Philadelphia Eagles. I’ve studied the Eagles more than any other NFL team, aside from the Dallas Cowboys of course. I know the Eagles strengths, and weaknesses, and what I’m here to tell you today is there are three ways the Dallas Cowboys can defeat the Philadelphia Eagles on NBC Sunday Night Football this week.
The Philadelphia Eagles were handed a gift by the NFL scheduling gods on Thanksgiving as they got a banged up Dallas team with less than four days rest between the Cowboys previous game. Philadelphia did what it does best in scoring 14 quick points at AT&T Stadium and never looked back. The Eagles will not be so lucky this week, however, because the Cowboys are well rested and have impact players like cornerback Tyler Patmon likely to return to the lineup.
The Eagles have the fourth overall ranked offense, but Chip Kelly’s scheme has struggled throughout the season against good defenses like San Francisco, Arizona, Seattle, and Green Bay. The Eagles Achilles heel in all three games is their red zone scoring problems, coughing the ball up too many times, and the less talked about but in my opinion perhaps their biggest problem, losing the time of possession battle every game.
Stop the Big Play:
The Eagles are the NFL’s fifth worst in red zone scoring percentage; converting opportunities into touchdowns inside their opponents’ 20-yard lines only 44.68% of the time. What’s even more fascinating is that in my opinion, the best weapon the Eagles have in the red zone is tight end Zach Ertz, but the team replaces Ertz with the perceived better blocking tight end Brent Celek when they get into the red zone. It’s mind blowing, but Eagles head coach Chip Kelly continues to help out opponents by eliminating his best red zone weapon. What the Cowboys need to do is force the Eagles to beat them in the red zone by not giving up big plays. Philadelphia thrives on long scoring plays. Dallas needs to play smart, disciplined defense keeping the Eagles offensive players in front of them. If the Eagles do make it in inside the Cowboys red zone, it’s very likely Philadelphia will only walk away with three points.
The Eagles are tied for fifth worst in the league with minus six turnovers. That’s six fewer turnovers the team has generated than given up to their opponents. Each turnover represents not only points Dallas can score against Philadelphia, but also potential points lost for the Eagles. In other words, a turnover represents a maximum potential swing of 16 points if the teams were to utilize the opportunity for a two-point conversion.
Each Eagles interception or fumble is a potentially lost touchdown and 2-point conversion plus a lost touchdown and 2-point conversion for the Cowboys. This is the reason teams that prevail in the turnover battle each game usually have a higher percentage of wins. It’s no secret that the Philadelphia coughs up the football a lot, and no Eagle does it more than quarterback Mark Sanchez. In just six games Sanchez has thrown seven interceptions and fumbled six times. Dallas must make him pay for his mistakes.
Time Of Possession:
The Philadelphia Eagles possess the ball for only 28:14 every game, which is the fifth least (notice a pattern here) amount of time in the NFL. Let that stat sink in for a moment; Philadelphia gives their opponents more chances to score against them than 27 other teams in the league. Today’s National Football League certainly isn’t your Grandfather’s “three yards and a cloud of dust” NFL where a team must run the ball 90% of the time. However, winning the time of possession battle is proven as a consistent way of league success. Teams with high ToP/G percentages run the ball well, keep their defenses fresh, and prevent other teams from executing their offensive game plan.
It is my opinion that Chip Kelly’s hurry up spread offense is innovative and one that teams will be copying for years to come. Philadelphia has proven that they can generate substantial points in a short period of time game after game. However, like good defensive teams like San Francisco, Green Bay, Arizona, and Seattle the winning recipe for Dallas calls for heavy rushing yards and dominating the time of possession.
By hurrying up the attack, I believe Kelly puts his team in a position of weakness, and the Cowboys can exploit that weakness. Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a season low 73 yards on Thanksgiving against the Eagles. Getting the Cowboys running game going again will stifle Philadelphia’s high scoring attack.
When Philadelphia is scoring at will against overmatched defenses, they hide their red zone, turnover, and time of possession issues. But, the Cowboys can highlight and exploit those weaknesses on Sunday. If Dallas can prevent the Eagles’ big plays, force Mark Sanchez to turnover the ball, and win the time of possession battle, there is no reason why Dallas can’t walk out of Lincoln Financial Field with the win.