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Three numbers that matter for Week 16: Eagles vs. Cowboys

NFL: NOV 01 Cowboys at Eagles Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2011 — That’s the last year the Eagles swept the Cowboys in one season

It’s pretty crazy to see, considering there have been some doggone good Eagles teams between then and now. But the Eagles are 6-10 in their last 16 against the Cowboys, with 0-2 performances in 2012 and 2018, and 1-1 splits every time since.

Oddly enough, they are 4-4 in Dallas over those last 16 games, though they are entering AT&T Stadium without a win there since 2017, the 37-9 romp that is best remembered as the Kamu Grugier-Hill emergency kicker game.

This probably will end up a season in which moral victories are accepted, as the Eagles still need some help to get into the playoffs — more on that in a second — and sweeping the Cowboys would be an acceptable one. The Eagles did avoid a Dak Prescott-led offense that looked red-hot to start the season in both games this year, with the 23-9 win earlier this season coming against Ben DiNucci, so it isn’t necessarily a full-strength Cowboys squad. With that said, a sweep’s a sweep.

This time around will be tougher. The Cowboys defense hasn’t necessarily gotten better, but their offense certainly has. With Andy Dalton returned from injury and looking like the acceptable game manager he’s been for most of his career, the Cowboys’ deep pass-catching corps can flex their muscles. Dallas has been an average offense over the last five weeks: 15th in EPA/play. For the injuries they’ve endured, that’s not too bad.

Of course, with Darius Slay back in the lineup, the Eagles’ star corner will look to lock down Amari Cooper on the outside (he had 1 catch for 5 yards on 5 targets in their duel earlier this year) — but the Eagles will once again play without Avonte Maddox, Rodney McLeod, Cre’Von LeBlanc, and now even Kevon Seymour as their secondary endures injury after injury.

The game will likely be decided in the match-ups between the Eagles’ cornerbacks and the Cowboys’ wide receivers.

5.0 - That’s how many yards/carry the Cowboys are allowing this year. It’s tied for the highest number in the league.

It’s pretty rough in Dallas. While they’ve actually been solid against quarterbacks on the ground, giving up only 280 yards on 60 carries, they bleed in the base running game: no team has seen more handoffs against them, and only the Houston Texans have given up more gross yardage.

Philadelphia should be considered a run-first offense, now, having largely flipped the script on their offensive philosophy since the insertion of Jalen Hurts in the starting lineup. Against the Cardinals last week, they were by-far the most dependent on early down runs than they had been all year.

The Eagles still haven’t been a very effective team on called runs over the last two weeks — they’re 18th in the league in rush EPA/play. It’s important to remember that scrambles are not called running plays — they’re called passing plays — and a large number of the Eagles’ explosive and most effective runs have been Jalen Hurts scrambles.

But against a defense like the Cowboys, we should expect the Eagles’ recent run-dependence to continue and bear more efficiency. Miles Sanders has dominated the backfield since Hurts return, carrying the ball 31 times with only 3 carries going to Boston Scott in relief. Only 190 yards away from a 1,000-yard season, a 15-carry game for Sanders against the Cowboys could very well put him in triple digits and within striking distance of the millennia mark: he would be the first 1,000 rusher for the Eagles since LeSean McCoy in 2014.

10% - That’s the current chance Philadelphia has to make the playoffs, according the 538’s Playoff Predictor

It’s a great tool if you haven’t played around with it — you can choose the results of game and see the odds of playoff berths update live in real time. I’ll lay out some scenarios here.

The Eagles are currently at 10% as Washington commands the division. Washington can win out and take the East title, so they currently have a 75% chance to make the playoffs with only a home game against Carolina and a Week 17 road game with Philadelphia on the schedule.

Both the Giants and the Cowboys are still alive, technically. The Giants have a 10% chance and the Cowboys have a 5% chance. A loss from either next week — the Giants play at Baltimore, and the Cowboys, of course, face Philadelphia — eliminates them from contention.

I don’t know if 538 currently expects Alex Smith or Dwayne Haskins to start for the Football Team this Sunday, as Smith is 50/50 to play on Sunday and certainly boosts WFT’s chance of bringing home a dub. If they win, they have a 95% of making the playoffs, eliminating the Eagles from competition outright. Only the Giants would remain: they would need to win out against Baltimore and Dallas, and have Washington lose to Philadelphia in Week 17, to snatch the NFC East crown. A 5% chance.

The important thing how the Eagles stay alive: beating Dallas boosts them to a 20% chance, and if they get losses from both Washington and New York, they’ll become the running favorite at a 55% chance. It will be between them and the Football Team for the division in one of the zaniest seasons of Eagles memory — and that’s saying something.

So we’re all Panthers and Ravens fans this Sunday, at least after we are Eagles fans. And if the Eagles don’t get what they need for a Week 17 win-and-in game? Well, we’re all Ja’Marr Chase fans too.