Ever since the news about Jalen Hurts, I have felt very strange about this game. The Cowboys are a very good team but they do have some clear weaknesses. Let’s get into some of the matchups. As always, I am using Sports Info Solutions for all the numbers.
No real differences here, but I think we could see some more 12 personnel with Dallas Goedert back this week.
The Eagles were 1st in RPOs recently and it doesn’t surprise me that they have fallen to 4th as they have used them a lot less in the past few weeks.
These numbers have been consistent all year. The Eagles rarely play 4 defensive backs but I think they will be forced too against the Cowboys.
The Eagles have gone back to more two-high shells recently and more light boxes, which we know is what Gannon wants to do ideally.
The Cowboys love to get into heavy personnel and run the ball on early downs. More on this later...
The Cowboys don’t just want to run the ball, they want to run the ball from under center. They use no-huddle quite frequently and if I was them, I would be using no-huddle when the Eagles are in their 4-man fronts.
The Cowboys' run game is a nice mix of gap and zone and it’s not surprising that they run into stacked boxes. Despite having a franchise quarterback, all of the offensive tendencies point to a team that is built around the run first and foremost.
This defense does not play base. You will not see the Cowboys with 4 defensive backs on the field, regardless of the offensive personnel. I expect the Eagles to challenge this and run from 12 and 13 personnel.
Despite not playing 4 defensive backs, that doesn’t mean this defense doesn’t prioritize stacking the box. The Cowboys love to stack the box and will play a lot of single-high safety. This is a largely cover 1/cover 3 defense. The Eagles have been good at game planning for different teams this week and I expect them to look at what the Jaguars did this past weekend and find ways to beat the Cowboys’ defense, no matter who the quarterback is.
The Cowboys is a heavy-man coverage defense too. I expect to see a lot of slot fades and vertical shots to AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. This could be a good game for Minshew to prove he deserves a chance to start for another NFL team next year because he is going to get opportunities to throw the football down the field.
Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense
This is going to be a tough matchup. Thankfully, the Cowboys’ injuries at cornerback have left them short in recent weeks. But this is still a very good defense. The scariest numbers are the sack rate and turnover numbers. Minshew is going to have to get rid of the ball quickly as the Cowboys will get pressure on him, despite the Eagles having an elite offensive line. I expect the Eagles to really test this run defense early.
Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense
This is a very good, but not elite, Cowboys’ offense. They do not take many sacks and they don’t turn the ball over too much. The points per game seem a little inflated when you look at the other numbers, but that highlights that they are a good red zone team and know how to score. Watch out for the tight ends in the red zone this weekend. The Eagles will be hoping they can shut down this passing game as outside of CeeDee Lamb, they do not have too much talent on the outside.
2 Key Matchups
Cowboys 13 personnel
As I noted earlier on, the Cowboys run 13 personnel at the 6th highest rate in the league and they love to run from this look too. In particular, the Cowboys love to use 13 personnel on 1st down. They have used 13 personnel at the 3rd highest rate on 1st down and have the 5th highest EPA per play from 13 personnel.
The Cowboys have one of the best run games from 13 personnel in the NFL this season. On 1st down with 13 personnel, the Cowboys have 33 attempts (4th) for 159 yards (3rd), 4 TDs (1st), and 9 1st downs (1st). The next highest 1st downs are the Seahawks with 6 and they have 11 more attempts. So, when the Cowboys run from 13 personnel on 1st down, they have a 27% chance of a 1st down and they average 4.8 yards per carry. That is pretty good. If the Cowboys had their tight ends healthy all season, they would have a lot more than 33 attempts this season too. I expect them to test the Eagles from 13 personnel early and often.
The Eagles haven’t really been tested by 13 personnel on 1st down this season, but they have done well when they have faced it. The Eagles’ defense has allowed 39 yards from 13 carries against 13 personnel on 1st down.
Throw it to the wide receivers
Last week, the Eagles receiving box score looked almost ridiculous because it was dominated by just two players.
Obviously, the Eagles have Dallas Goedert coming back, but this week might look a little similar if Minshew can execute the offense. This is the Cowboys’ defense against different positions targeted this season.
RB: 50/61 (82%) for 330 yards (5.3 YPA), and 0 TDs.
WR: 170/263 (65%) for 2133 yards (8.1 YPA), 18 TDs, and 10 INTs.
TE: 67/95 (70%) for 516 yards (5.4 YPA), 1 TD, and 2 INTs.
This defense sort of reflects Trevon Diggs. When you target receivers against the Cowboys, you will have chances to get a lot of yards and touchdowns, but you run the risk of being picked off. The Cowboys have done a fantastic job at shutting down running backs and tight ends this season though, so it could be another AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith week.