Here’s a look at three numbers that matter as the Philadelphia Eagles prepare to play the Dallas Cowboys in Week 14.
45 - The number of times Dak Prescott has been sacked, most in the NFL.
The Eagles are going to have opportunities to get to Prescott. They already did earlier this year when they sacked him four times and hit him 10 times in Week 10.
Of course, the Eagles didn’t win that game. So why is this number important?
Well, the formula for beating the Cowboys is very simple. You need your defense to stop their rushing attack (AKA Ezekiel Elliott) and make the Dallas offense one-dimensional. Prescott isn’t the kind of quarterback who’s going to single-handedly carry the team with his arm.
If the Eagles can stop the run, which is easier said than done, they should be able to make life tough on Prescott. Finding a way to hit him and knock the ball out of his grasp will be especially key. People like to harp on how Carson Wentz loses the ball too much but Prescott has been even more reckless this season with 11 fumbles in 12 games.
Perhaps an Eagles defense that ranks second to last in takeaways is due for some positive regression in the turnover department. Prescott’s fortunate fumble luck could also be due for some negative regression.
Whether the Eagles can stop the run remains to be seen. Jim Schwartz’s defense allowed Zeke to pick up one touchdown and 151 rushing yards on 19 carries (7.9 average) earlier this season. Philadelphia ranks 20th in run defense by DVOA and tied for 26th in opponent yards per rush attempt at 5.0.
So, again, easier said than done. But the blueprint to beat the Cowboys is there. It’s just a matter of execution.
7th - Dallas defense ranked by DVOA.
Speaking of defense, the Cowboys sure do have a good one. That much is apparent after they held the Saints, who were averaging a league-leading 37.2 points per game, to just 10 points in Week 13.
The Cowboys are especially strong against the run. They are allowing just 3.7 opponent yards per rush attempt, which is tied for the second best rate in the league. Dallas ranks sixth in run defense DVOA. The emergence of tackle-everything linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch has certainly helped in this regard.
It’s concerning to know that the Eagles are facing such a tough run defense given the way Philly’s offense has looked better recently as they’ve been able to get the ground game going. Maybe there’s hope here for the Eagles since their offensive line is playing well. Also, Josh Adams DID have seven attempts for 47 yards (6.7) average against the Cowboys in Week 10. It’s obviously a sample sample size but maybe he can maintain an efficient performance with increased volume. It’s worth noting that Adams is up to 347 yards and two touchdowns on 69 nice carries this season (5.0 average).
The Cowboys’ defense is a little more vulnerable against the pass. Emphasis on “a little.” Dallas ranks 11th in opponent yards per pass attempt at 6.9. Their pass defense DVOA ranks 10th.
This is a game where the Eagles really need a signature performance from Carson Wentz. We all know No. 11 is capable of greatness. Now we need to see him deliver on that potential in a huge game. Wentz can’t be throwing those “WTF” interceptions right to defenders like he did on Monday against Washington and against Dallas earlier this season. He can’t be leaving easy plays on the field.
Wentz is a much better quarterback than Prescott. It’s time for him to remind everyone as much on Sunday. The Eagles need him to bring his A-game.
47% — The Eagles’ playoff probability leverage in this very critical game.
You don’t need numbers to tell you Sunday’s game is incredibly important, but I’ll share some anyway. This graphic comes from ESPN’s Brian Burke:
Just look at that huge swing if the Eagles win compared to if they lose this game.
Beating Dallas on Sunday doesn’t guarantee the Eagles will win the NFC East. But it’ll put them in a reasonable position to do so with just three games to play.
We all know the Eagles’ final three games aren’t easy. Philadelphia still has to play the Rams in Los Angeles before coming back home to host a Texans team that’s currently riding a nine-game win streak. The Eagles should be able to beat a Mark Sanchez-led Washington team in Week 17, so at least there’s one win reasonably on the table.
Perhaps the Cowboys’ remaining schedule isn’t as easy as it might look on paper. The Colts could be tough to play in Indy. Hosting the Buccaneers should be winnable for Dallas but Tampa Bay’s offense could always come alive. The Giants, who have won three out of their last four, might be able to put up a fight in Week 17.
In any case, the Eagles MUST win this weekend. Stealing the NFC East away from Dallas and finishing the regular season strong would be so nice.