With the NFC East firmly up for grabs, the (4-4) Philadelphia Eagles are set to host their heated rival, the (3-5) Dallas Cowboys tonight (8:20 PM ET Sunday on NBC).
If this were any other division, the Cowboys would have essentially been out of the race and the Eagles would have been barely holding on, hopes of defending their Super Bowl championship slowly slipping away. The NFC East doesn’t have one dominant team right now as the top three are all separated by just two games. The Eagles are currently in second, one game behind the (5-3) Washington Redskins, who lead the division, and Dallas is just one game behind Philadelphia. That means that a Cowboys win in this matchup would put Dallas right back in the conversation, at worst just two games behind Washington, who play Tampa Bay Buccaneers earlier in the day.
The NFC East is wide open for the taking and tonight’s Sunday game will have a lot to say about which team goes on to win the division. At the very least, it could determine which team falls out of the race, especially if the Cowboys lose. As of right now, the NFC East is still winnable for three of the division’s four teams.
Dallas’ X-Factor: Ezekiel Elliott
When the 2018 season began, the Cowboys had high aspirations and in some models, were even predicted to win the division ahead of the defending champs. Things haven’t gone the way Dallas would have hoped. In fact they haven’t even really gone half as well as the team hoped as injuries, inconsistent play at key positions and the inability to replace the production of the retired Jason Witten and released Dez Bryant, have certainly had their impact on the Cowboys’ struggles. There has been perhaps one lone bright spot for Dallas and it’s their third year running back, Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott ranks fourth in the NFL in both yards (680) and rushing yards per game (85). While Elliott is slightly underperforming from what he has done in years’ past, he is just about the one guy on the team right now that Dallas can rely on for consistency. Elliott also averages 4.6 yards per carry which is really good. Among all NFL players, that ranks Elliott in the top-10 but among guys with 100+ carries, his 4.6 YPC is good enough for ninth best. Elliott is Dallas’ best player and he has really been doing it alone this year as Dak Prescott and the passing game have struggled.
Elliott only played in one game against the Eagles in his rookie year, but he helped lead the Cowboys to an overtime victory. Elliott recorded 22 carries for 96 yards. While that might seem like a lot, for Elliott, that was his 10th lowest output on the season. The following year, Elliott again was only able to play one of the two Philly games. It was the last game of the season and the Eagles, who had already locked up the division and top spot in the NFC, were resting most of their starters. Elliott went off for 103 yards, his fifth lowest output of the season. In case it’s not clear, Elliott’s a really good running back.
Even good running backs have bad days and bad matchups such as the one Elliott will be facing this Sunday. The Eagles are the second best run defense in the NFL, allowing just 670 rushing yards on the season and 83.8 rushing yards per game. It is right behind the New Orleans Saints, who lead the league in both categories. Elliott is going to have a tough time getting through that especially since the Eagles won’t really have to worry about defending a Dallas passing game. The Cowboys have the league’s fourth worst passing yards total (1,507) and passing yards per game (188.4). Their output through the air has been awful which is why the team went out and got Amari Cooper to add to a receiving corps of Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns and Cole Beasley. That is not exactly a formidable unit. In his Dallas debut, Cooper made an instant impact, collecting five of eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. He is only going to get better the more he gets comfortable with the team’s offense. So he will get some looks in the coverage game but for the most part, eyes will be on Elliott. If he can torch the Eagles, Dallas might have a shot at pulling off an upset. That’s a big if when you’re going against the second best run defense in the NFL.
Philadelphia’s X-Factor: Golden Tate
Speaking of receivers on new teams looking to make an impact, the Eagles got one of their own when they traded with the Detroit Lions to acquire Golden Tate. The timing couldn’t have been better as Tate is someone who has a recent history of just burning the Cowboys for major production. In fact, just a few weeks ago when Dallas played Detroit, Tate went off for a season high 132 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions lost that game but Tate was on fire, catching everything thrown his way (8-for-8) and making big plays all game.
The Cowboys certainly aren’t looking to see a repeat performance, especially now that Tate is on the roster of one of their biggest rivals. He has got Carson Wentz throwing to him now and that really could be quite the successful pairing. Since 2014, Tate leads the NFL in missing tackles and over the last three seasons, he is leading the league in yards after catch as well (1,528). YAC is perhaps the most important stat for any pass catcher and it’s a part of the Eagles offense that has been sorely lacking with Darren Sproles spending all of this season on the injury report. The team is hopeful that Tate is the answer they have been looking for at wide receiver and that a combination of him and Alshon Jeffrey will be enough to rejuvenate the league’s just 14th ranked passing offense.
Tate brings a level of explosiveness and has showed no signs of slowing down despite being in his ninth season in the league now. This season, Tate has caught 44 passes for 517 yards and three touchdowns. He is probably the Eagles top option and he will be looking to have a big debut in one of the most important games of the season for his team.
Our Preview’s Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia Eagles Picks & Betting Predictions Verdict
- The Eagles are favored 7.5 with those oddsmakers that accept USA bettors. That seems high given neither of these teams has played particularly well on a consistent basis. The first of our Dallas Cowboys vs Philadelphia predictions for this preview is to bet on the Cowboys +7.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
- As for the total points in this game, all signs point to the under on 44. The total has gone under in eight of Philly’s last nine home games and the Cowboys are averaging less than 14 points on the road this season. Our pick for the points is to go under 44pts @ -110 with Bovada or Intertops.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.