The Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the Dallas Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon. In order to preview this huge Week 9 NFC East matchup, I reached out to our enemies over at Blogging The Boys contributed to this post. The daring Dave Halprin kindly took the time to answer my questions about this upcoming battle. Let’s take a look at the answers. [For my answers to questions about the Eagles, check out BTB.]
1 - The Cowboys fired Kellen Moore to give Mike McCarthy play-calling power. How would you grade the job McCarthy has done in that capacity thus far?
This is a really weird one. If you had asked me before the Cowboys game against the Rams last week, I would have said the Cowboys made a mistake in letting Moore go for McCarthy. But it was not as one-sided as you might think. McCarthy’s offense has certainly had its issues this year, probably the redzone issues sticking out the most. But he was actually moving the ball very effectively before getting to the redzone. The Cowboys are near the top in categories like third-down conversions and drives of over 10 plays. The offense had little problem moving the chains and getting up and down the field. Just converting those chances into touchdowns was holding them back. Still, the Cowboys offense was lacking big plays, and that exacerbated the redzone problems. The Cowboys, and McCarthy, were calling it safe, and Dak Prescott was having career lows in various distance per pass categories. So basically you had a methodical, short-pass offense without big plays and with inconsistent scoring.
Then the bye week and the Rams happened. It appears the Cowboys really did some self-scouting during the bye and worked through some of their issues. They employed more pre-snap motion and gave Prescott a lot of freedom at the line of scrimmage to make adjustments. They started trusting some downfield throws and hit on some big plays. They were efficient and explosive. So now we have one game like that under McCarthy’s belt, so the grading of his play-calling is incomplete as of now. Let’s see how this offense plays out for a few more games, then revisit the question.
2 - What are the lasting concerns from losses to the Cardinals and 49ers?
I think those losses are less about specific issues and concerns, like inefficient ground game, or run defense, or something like that, and more about the Cowboys failing to conquer some demons. For some reason, the Cardinals just have the Cowboys number. It doesn’t seem to matter how good or bad the Cowboys team is, they just keep losing to the Cardinals. They are 1-7 against the Cardinals in their last eight games. So once again, the Cowboys showed up with a superior team to the Cardinals, and promptly lost. There’s just no explanation for that.
With the 49ers, Dallas pointed to the game as a measuring stick, a whipping stick would have been more accurate. The 49ers have beat Dallas twice in the playoffs the last two years, and then just crushed them in Week 5. The Cowboys faded in a big game, and the 49ers scheme and physicality is just a terrible match for the Cowboys. We’ve yet to crack that puzzle. I would want to face almost any other team in the playoffs before playing San Francisco again. Right now, the Cowboys have no answer for them. And that’s a lot more important than blowing games to the Cardinals, who we never see in the playoffs.
Check out this NFC East Mixtape Eagles-Cowboys preview bonus episode featuring BLG, RJ Ochoa, and some special guests:
3 - What’s one matchup that you think really favors the Cowboys?
I like the Cowboys passing game versus the Eagles secondary. I don’t watch the Eagles as closely as you guys do, and the personnel should say that the Eagles are a decent coverage secondary, but the numbers do not say the same. And the Cowboys seem to have found some rhythm to their passing attack recently, and they have needed that because the run game has been fairly inconsistent so far this year. CeeDee Lamb is on fire in catch percentage, yards, YAC etc. over the last few games and Brandin Cooks is finding his way in the offense too. The Cowboys have a lot of weapons to catch the ball and they are just now figuring out how to utilize them. Even something like featuring tight end Jake Ferguson in the middle of the field more often has paid dividends. I’m not sure what is going on with the Eagles secondary, but they appear to be the weak point on a solid team. I assume that’s why Kevin Byard was brought in.
4 - What’s one matchup that you think really favors the Eagles?
Mobile quarterbacks seem to absolutely befuddle the Cowboys. Maybe it’s the aggressive nature of Dan Quinn’s defense that is the problem here. The Dallas defense lines up in lots of odd formations and employs more stunts than almost any team in the league. It makes it very difficult for offensive lines and running backs to set protections in the passing game for offenses. But, all that movement can open up huge lanes in the pass rush, and a mobile quarterback can feast. And it extends to just breaking contain and making plays throwing outside of the pocket. It can also be exploited by teams that are clever with run-pass options. All of this seems to fit well with Jalen Hurts and the Eagles offense. The Cowboys defense does so many things well, but this is the one area it feels like could be a real problem.
5 - Who wins this game and why? With DraftKings Sportsbook listing the Eagles as 3-point home favorites, what’s your score prediction? And what are your expectations for the rest of this Cowboys season?
Pre-Rams game, I probably wouldn’t have been very bullish on the Cowboys winning on the road. That’s a tough ask anytime, but especially so with an erratic offense. As mentioned above, the Rams game injected some optimism that the Cowboys could have some idea of how to straighten that out for the rest of the season. If the Cowboys offense can become consistent and put touchdowns on the board instead of field goals, then the team can be really good because their defense and special teams have been playing at a very high level. So I’m going to ride the optimism and say the Cowboys pull this one out 27-24 on a late field goal.
As for the rest of the season, it all depends on that offense. If it stays inconsistent like the first part of the season, then the Cowboys probably make a quick playoff exit again. If they have found something from the Rams game, then they are legit Super Bowl contenders.