The Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and Dallas Cowboys (7-7) are set to play at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. In order to preview this Week 16 matchup that has major NFC East implications, I reached out to our enemies over at Blogging The Boys. The diplomatic Dave Halprin kindly took the time to answer my questions about the upcoming contest. Let’s take a look at the answers. You can check out my side of this Q&A exchange coming up at BTB on Friday.
1 — Do you believe the Cowboys are truly back on track after seeing them blow out the Rams? To what extent do concerns from the losing streak remain?
It would be foolish for any Cowboys fan to believe that the team is fully back on track. We’ve seen too many instances of the Cowboys playing well this season only to be followed by some really bad stretches of football. Having said that, the way they played against the Rams on Sunday does offer some hope that the team is waking up just in time to save the season. Most objective observers of the Cowboys this year would say they have a pretty talented roster but that they continually beat themselves with terrible mistakes like penalties, turnovers, undisciplined play, shoddy tackling and some of the worst special teams I’ve ever seen. The Cowboys do a lot of damage to themselves, but when they don’t do that they can play some nice football like they did against the Rams. The problem is that was just one week and we haven’t seen them sustain any stretch of quality play since the first part of the season. So yes, concerns absolutely remain and while I’m hopeful they are back on track, they could just as easily head up to Philadelphia and lay a big fat egg. I don’t trust them, but I at least have a little hope whereas before the Rams game I was pretty despondent.
2 — Is this game kind of a win-win for Cowboys fans in that either Dallas clinches the NFC East or Jason Garrett’s fate is sealed? Speaking of, who do you think is coaching the team in 2020?
I guess some fans see it that way and I can’t blame them, but I never want the Cowboys to blow an opportunity to make the playoffs. Once a team gets in the playoffs anything can happen so I can’t consider a loss on Sunday a “win” That’s not to say that I don’t get what you are saying, and yes, I don’t want Garrett coaching next season either. But I tend to be an optimist, so as long as the Cowboys are in the hunt, whether to make the playoffs or in the playoffs, I am always rooting for victory and want to take my chances. Also, unless Garrett can make some kind of miracle run to the Super Bowl, I don’t think he can save his job. So whether we lose this week, or sometime early in the playoffs, the results are going to be the same for Garrett. So I say let’s play it out and if we don’t get to the Super Bowl, then Garrett is gone. If we do get to the Super Bowl, then I’m willing to accept whatever happens after that.
As for who is coaching next year, I don’t think there is really anyway to know. With Jerry Jones, who knows what direction he’s going to take. I think he would take a run at Sean Payton even though it’s not going to happen but Jerry’s ego would probably require him to try. Lincoln Riley has been a name bandied about for a couple of years and Urban Meyer’s name has popped up recently, although it’s hard to tell if there is something there or just self-promotion from Meyer. Then you hear names like Josh McDaniels or a variety of current NFL assistants. I don’t know why, but Lincoln Riley is the guy I think Jones would really pursue, I think there has been a fascination with him for a couple of seasons.
3 — If you were building a game plan for the Cowboys, how would you attack them on both offense and defense?
To attack their offense, I would play the run and keep everything in front of me in the secondary. I absolutely would do everything I could to keep Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys run game from going off. When the Cowboys get that part of the offense rolling, they are very difficult to stop. So that means stay disciplined with the front seven and make sure to stay in your gaps. Don’t freelance and make them work for every yard. Also, don’t give up the intermediate/long pass. Make the Cowboys work their way down field with short passes because they are bound to make a mistake along the way. A penalty, a dropped pass, a turnover or something will go wrong. The Cowboys shoot themselves in the foot often, so give them plenty of chances to do that.
Attacking their defense should involve screens, and inside runs that use trap blocks or counters or any type of slight misdirection. The Cowboys can be very undisciplined on defense and will over-pursue, lose contain and all kinds of things because they are over aggressive. Take advantage of that and also use some designed QB runs on zone-reads or QB draws because that has killed this defense all year. In the passing game, use screens and rub routes and use your double-headed tight ends to bedevil the Cowboys linebackers and safeties. The Cowboys are pretty good about protecting deep, but they will give up the underneath stuff and they can be poor tacklers.
4 — What’s one thing that makes you feel really confident about the Cowboys in this matchup? How about one thing that worries you the most?
I guess there isn’t really just one thing that makes me feel confident. There are a few things that give me hope, like the fact that over the last few years the Cowboys seem to have the Eagles’ number. I know each game is different, but the fact that the Cowboys have been successful in recent history is comforting. Also, the Eagles injury situation is obviously an issue for your side. This would be a different game if you had all your pieces. The last thing would be the Rams game. If we can block and tackle like that, I like our chances.
What worries me the most is the Cowboys tendency to implode this year. You just never know when they are going to come out and play awful. There is no trust with this team, so every game is a worry.
5 — Who wins this game and why? Score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Cowboys season?
I think the Cowboys will win but I also think it’s going to be a close game. You guys have a couple of units that are really problematic, your secondary is vulnerable and you’ve lost your playmakers at receiver without strong replacements. Then the Lane Johnson thing, the Jordan Howard thing, you got a lot of good players who won’t go or who might go but will be battling injury. That’s a lot to overcome. If the Cowboys have truly found themselves after wandering in the desert for three games, I think they will have enough to win on the road. I’ll go with a Cowboys win 27-24. I truly don’t have any expectation for the rest of the season because of how unpredictable the Cowboys have been. One week they can look like they belong among the top NFC teams, the next week they are dumping a game to the Jets. It’s just impossible to know which team will show up.