First place in the NFC East will be on the line when the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys renew their rivalry this weekend. Kickoff is set for 8:20 EST on Sunday, October 20 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.
Oddsmakers view the Cowboys as 2.5-point home favorites with an over/under of 49 points. Click here to check out a full list of this week’s NFL betting odds.
Early in the season, the Cowboys looked poised to run away with the NFC East after starting the year 3-0. However, those three wins came against teams that have just three combined wins this season. Since then, Dallas has dropped three straight games, losing to the Saints, Packers, and Jets. Those three losses have negated their fast start to the season. Dallas also faces a rather unforgiving schedule throughout much of November and December. That makes it vital that they take advantage of coming home to face their division rivals before their schedule increases in difficulty.
The Eagles, meanwhile, did well to recover from a sluggish 1-2 start with back-to-back wins one the Packers and Jets to draw even with Dallas atop the NFC East. However, Philadelphia took a step back last week with a 38-20 loss to the Vikings to drop them to 3-3 on the season. The Eagles also face a challenging schedule moving forward, starting with back-to-back road games against the Cowboys and Bills. That will be followed by a three-game homestand against teams that all have winning records to close out November. That makes this week’s game just as important for the Eagles as it is for the Cowboys.
Philadelphia is also eager to put an end to their three-game losing streak against the Cowboys. Dallas swept the season series a year ago with both games being decided by a touchdown or less. On the bright side, the Eagles have won six of their last eight games when visiting the Cowboys in Arlington, including a 37-9 thrashing two years ago leading up to Philly’s Super Bowl win.
To be honest, neither of these teams has played with the consistency of a division leader. But one of these teams will sit all alone in first place after this game. Part of me is expecting a better performance out of the Cowboys at home, but I also said the same thing two weeks ago when they lost to the Packers at home. In a game that could go either way, I feel a little safer taking the Eagles and the points.
The thing that makes me nervous about Dallas is how bad they’ve been in the first half of games lately. They’ve scored a total of six points in the first half of their last three games. It’s almost impossible to beat good teams like that. Until I see differently, I’m going to remain skeptical of the Cowboys.
Right now, the Cowboys can’t even get Ezekiel Elliott and their running game going. Despite ending up with over 100 yards rushing last week, Elliott averaged less than four yards per carry and didn’t do any damage in the first half. When the Cowboys can’t establish Elliott and the running game early on, Dak Prescott isn’t in a good position to succeed. Things may not get much easier this week with Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, and three offensive line starters listed as questionable.
With those injury concerns and their recent play, I’m not convinced that the Cowboys will be able to take advantage of Philadelphia’s biggest weakness, which is their secondary. Cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox have both missed several weeks due to injury, making the Eagles vulnerable down the field. Even Kirk Cousins was able to hit on some deep throws last week. The good news for the Eagles is that they’ve been good against the run for most of the season. If they can keep Elliott in check, they might be able to prevent the Dallas offense from exposing their banged-up secondary.
At this point, the Eagles don’t have enough explosiveness on offense to overcome a poor performance from their defense. DeSean Jackson has been out since Week 2, taking away Philadelphia’s best deep threat. Alshon Jeffery is averaging just nine yards per catch this season, so he’s not been a downfield threat either. Despite being top-10 in the NFL in points and having a trustworthy quarterback in Caron Wentz, the Eagles can’t be relied upon to score much more than 20 points right now.
All things considered, I can see both of these teams getting off to a slow start offensively this week. Both sides have injuries that make me think points could be at a premium in this game, even with Philly’s concerns in the secondary. Ultimately, a low-scoring game should favor the Eagles. Based on the last few weeks, I have more faith in Wentz to make game-winning plays and avoid critical errors than Prescott. That’s enough to push me toward Philadelphia and the points in this game.