Eagles at Cowboys Thanksgiving Day Preview

The next three weeks will see the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles meet twice. Both these longtime NFC East rivals sit at a solid 8-3 and yet neither is assured even of the playoffs, let alone the division crown. Philadelphia currently holds the narrowest of edges in the division via tie breakers – a sweep by either team will almost certainly determine first place.

Dallas Offense vs Philadelphia Defense

The Dallas offensive line has been dominant, especially in run blocking. While Philadelphia has been solid against the run, ranking 10th in lowest allowed yards per rush, the Cowboys have excelled in the ground game and rank 2nd in both rushing yards per attempt and total yards.

The Eagles have also lost their best linebacker against the run, DeMeco Ryans, as well as his backup, and even his backup’s backup.

The Cowboys’ line, however, did struggle against both Washington and Arizona in pass protection, mainly against the blitz. A confusing and aggressive blitzing plan is very much a component of an Eagles defense that ranks second in sacks.

This pass rush especially needs to show up for the Eagles due to their issues in the secondary, as the team has allowed the most passing yardage per game and the most passing plays of 25 yards or more. In particular, they have no one who can cover Dallas wide receiver Dez Byrant. As a result, this game may well come down to the ability of the Eagles’ pass rush to disrupt the Cowboys’ passing game.

Overall: Edge Cowboys, but slimmer than one might think.

Dallas Defense vs Philadelphia Offense

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy is coming off his best game of the season Sunday and the offensive line is getting better as they get healthy. Expect Philadelphia to have success running the football, though Dallas is ranked a respectable 18th in rushing YPA, and has proved better than expected.

The Eagles also project well at the other skill positions and in overall depth: Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, and Zach Ertz will have the edge against their opposite numbers.

What Philly doesn’t have is a quarterback that they can feel comfortable with. Mark Sanchez has turned over the ball too frequently – eight times in 14 quarters.

This single issue offsets many of the advantages the Eagles hold in the match-up. Watch out for the red zone; the Eagles have struggled mightily there all season and will need more than field goals to prevail on Thursday.

Overall: Edge Eagles, but Sanchez makes it small.

Special Teams

The Philadelphia Eagles have one of the best special team units in the league, scoring six touchdowns in eleven games to prove it.

The Cowboys have a below-average unit that has yet to produce a return TD.

Overall: Significant edge to the Eagles.

Conclusion:

A slight edge to each offense over the respective opposing defense sets the table for an exciting, high scoring game. The Eagles win if the pass rush can get home and they protect the rock. The Cowboys prevail if they can protect Romo and run a diverse offense, though they would still probably need to generate turnovers or excel in the red zone.

Summary

The Cowboys need this one more; they simply cannot go into Philadelphia in two weeks looking at a must-win situation. The Eagles are travelling on short rest, too. While the unit-by-unit breakdown says Eagles, the head says Dallas at home.

Eagles at Cowboys Thanksgiving Prediction: Dallas wins an exciting 38-34 game.

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Inside The Pylon covers the NFL and college football, reviewing the film, breaking downmatchups, and looking at the issues, on and off the field.

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