THIS is still not a playoff game. Following an Eagles win, we still need to win next week. This game alone decides nothing for us. Nothing. Dallas can clinch this week if they beat us. However, we still have another regular season game to win after this week.
Many fans will disagree with me, and call this a playoff game. Oh really? Alright amateur Kotite, which round do we advance to with a win this week? Week 17, you say? You mean not the playoffs? But how could that be, if this game is a playoff game? Yeah. That’s what I thought.
Last time we faced Dallas, they beat our asses, and made it look easy. Some of it was on us, coming out emotionally flat. Some of it was that they executed, and took advantage of the opportunities we wouldn’t stop providing. They weren’t a great team that day, but we were a very bad one.
Whether we are playing for a playoff berth, or redemption, or to avoid being swept, our team has plenty of reasons to be emotionally jacked for this one. It also doesn’t hurt to have 69,000 screaming fans as back-up. There will be no emotional flatness this time.
So let’s talk about the Four Things we need to focus on this week versus the Cowboys:
1) Keep Bradham clean: The last time we faced the Cowboys, we’d just cut MLB Zach Brown, and OLB Nigel Bradham was out with an injury. So we played OLB Nate Gerry at MLB in that game, and we found out (again) that he’s not suited to that role.
This time Bradham is playing MLB. Even though he is a lot more mentally suited to the role, he’s still physically smallish for the position (due to how this division plays offense). That means he could use a hand from the DT’s to keep blockers out of his lap, so that he can roam, make tackles, and keep us from over-committing to stopping the run.
If DT’s Fletcher Cox and Timmy Jernigan aren’t going to make tackles for losses, they have to win at the point of attack, and keep the offensive linemen from advancing the line of scrimmage. This also what we need out of 350 pound NT Anthony Rush. Don’t get me wrong! Tackles for losses would be awesome, but it’s more important that we play fundamentally sound, and take away the inside run.
2) Force them into their base defense: The key to beating the Cowboys will be 12, 21, and 22 personnel groupings. With them missing OLB Leighton Vander Esch, they had to lean on their reserves at that position. As if the fall-off in talent weren’t already a killer, their back-ups have pulled up lame as well.
In fact, it got so bad that on Monday, the Cowboys signed former Seahawks OLB Malcolm Smith. Smith is 30 and hasn’t played any meaningful football since 2017 when he tore his pectoral muscle playing for Oakland. (His 2018 season was throw-away.)
That Rams game last week? It was a total outlier. The Rams like to play more 11 personnel on offense. It allowed the Cowboys to lean on a third DB, not play back-up LB’s, and kept speed on the field. Instead of leaning on the Cowboys weakness, the Rams leaned away from it. The Eagles lack enough WR’s to even play much 11 personnel. Soooooo… You see where this is headed, right?
3) Gut the middle: The backbone of the Cowboys defense is their LB play. We have to snap that spine. Nooo, I’m not saying that we should injure a player. I’m saying that we need to go full-on Bane against their very defensive identity.
We need to see if MLB Jaylon Smith can consistently cover RB Boston Scott in the Flat on one down, and then play against the interior run on the next. The match-up between OLB Sean Lee and TE Zach Ertz sounds fun, right? Or TE Dallas Goedert vs the fill-in for Vander Esch? How about splitting RB Miles Sanders in the Slot vs any LB, with Boston Scott in the backfield.
And if they go small vs 12, 21, or 22, then audible to an off-Guard running play, between LG Isaac Seumalo and LT Jason Peters.
4) Don’t over-commit vs the run: We have to be fundamentally sound vs the run. By playing fundamentally sound, I mean that the DE’s have to set the edges, before they chase a RB or QB.
Getting greedy has cost us too often recently.
I’m no longer calling for the Eagles to play much Cover Two. DC Jim Schwartz isn’t smart enough to make that adjustment. However, if we play fundamentally sound up front, then Schwartz can be creative on the back end.
QB Dak Prescott has had good days vs our Cover One look, but at times, he’s also been just average against it. The smaller we can make his throwing windows, the more likely we can get an average performance out of him.
If we don’t over-commit, and can add more players in coverage, it gives our Secondary a chance to follow and trust their eyes more. Too often our coverage concept takes players out of real chances to be disruptive while the ball is in the air. Mixing up some coverages will get Prescott to share the football with us, and let us hug him a lot.
If we do all these things, we’re just about guaranteed to win. Now that we’ve covered what should happen, let’s get into what likely will happen:
Styles dictate fights. The Rams game last week has the media buzzing that the Cowboys are back. The problem is, the Rams play a style of offense that the Eagles can’t, due to a lack of personnel. The Eagles on the other hand, use a style that makes it hard for the Cowboys to match-up with, due to current injuries. Defensively the Cowboys come into this game at a severe tactical disadvantage.
The Eagles come in at a disadvantage on Defense as well, but it’s a slight disadvantage, not a severe one. We’re healthier than we’ve been in three years facing the Cowboys, but we play a style that allows the Cowboys to score reliably. Again that goes back three years.
This will be a slugfest. This will be a war. This might be the best game you watch all season long.
PREDICTION: EAGLES 30 – Dallas 22