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Eagles vs. Cowboys: Four matchups that matter

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Look out, Dallas, here they come.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

When looking into the Cowboys’ strengths and weaknesses ahead of their obliteration game in Philadelphia this Sunday night, I found a few juicy matchups that might help clarify our expectations of what awaits.

Zach Ertz vs Dallas Linebackers

Zach Ertz has been the primary target in the passing game for the Eagles through 8 games. He leads the team with 61 receptions on 84 targets for 644 yards, and has truly been the elite tight end Eagles fans have been waiting for since he was drafted.

On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys sans Sean Lee have had stellar play out of the linebacker position with two young studs holding down the fort. For what its worth, PFF has Leighton Vander Esch as the 5th highest graded linebacker, with Jaylon Smith a few spots behind him in the 11th position. If you sort by “Coverage Grade” in PFF’s premium stats, Vander Esch comes out as the 4th highest qualified coverage linebacker.

When looking at the specific match up of tight end vs linebacker, I began to temper my expectations of Zach Ertz in the upcoming prime time match up. When targeting Ertz when facing a linebacker, a situation that has happened a league leading 35 times, Philly QBs have thrown for a passer rating of just 81.5, which ranks 32nd/46 tight ends. In comparison, when targeting the super-star tight end in coverage against any non-linebacker, QBs have thrown for a passer rating of 118.8.

When looking at similar statistics for the young duo of Vander Esch and Smith, it is hard not to picture an off night for Ertz. When targeted, while covering a tight end, Vander Esch has allowed a passer rating of just 81.7 and Smith 97.0, marks that rank 15th and 26th out of 60 linebackers, respectively.

Cowboys Offensive Line vs Eagles Pass Rushers

While Ertz has stolen the show so far on offense, the Eagles defensive line has done the same on the other side of the ball. Through 8 games, Brandon Graham and Michael Bennett have far and away been the best pass rushing duo from the edge position. With a combined 74 quarterback pressures, which are defined as either a sack, a QB hurry, or a QB hit, Graham and Bennett have been terrors for opposing play callers. As if that wasn’t enough, Fletcher Cox has also been destructive from the interior, generating an additional 49 pressures by himself. All three players rank within the top 10 among pressures generated by defensive players.

On the other side of the ball, the “Great Offensive Line of Dallas” has been living up to its name so far. With only 73 pressures allowed, the Cowboys rank 8th out of 32 teams so far in 2018. As stated in the conclusion of my research yesterday, generating pressure on opposing quarterbacks has been highly correlated with winning this season for the Eagles. Its not hyperbole to say that the winner of this match up just might be the winner of the game.

Carson Wentz vs Dallas Red zone Defense

Now that we’ve looked at a match up that favors Dallas, and a critical one that is seemingly equal, lets look at one that highly favors our hometown guys.

As long as the Eagles can find their way to the red zone, the Cowboys basically have no chance against Carson Wentz (Not that they really do anyways).

Golden Tate vs Cowboys Secondary

Golden Tate, the newest member of the Philadelphia Eagles, has found a large portion of his success out of the slot. So far in 2018, with a mediocre team mind you, Tate has caught 26 of 38 passes in the slot for 339 yards and 2 TDs. When targeting Tate in the slot, Stafford has thrown for a passer rating of 102.9 (31st/54 WRs).

The young Dallas secondary, however, has allowed a passer rating of 118.9 by opposing quarterbacks when targeting the slot (27th/32 teams). With 40 caught passes for 494 yards and 4 touchdowns, Carson Wentz and Golden Tate might become pals real quick on Sunday night. When this mismatch is combined with the tough match up for Ertz against the Dallas linebackers, its hard not to envision Golden Tate, and perhaps even our boy Nelson Agholor, having a great game.

While these are just four of many, many match ups that will be present Sunday Night, they might be four of the most critical ones.