Big Picture: 5 Storylines For Cowboys & Eagles

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This was the game we've circled all year long. Even though the Cowboys had the lead in the NFC East for most of the year, and even though they won by 27 earlier this year over the Eagles, we all figured the division race would come down to this Sunday's game in Philadelphia.

And here we are. Both teams are 7-7 and coming off emotional wins to get to this point.

Here are some key storylines for each team.

Philadelphia

  • The path to the playoffs for Philadelphia isn't quite as straightforward as it is for Dallas, but it's still pretty simple – win the last two games. If the Eagles beat the Cowboys and the Giants to close out the season, they're in as the No. 4 seed and will host a playoff game at Lincoln Financial Field. But they can't clinch the division on Sunday. If the Eagles beat Dallas this weekend, but lose to the Giants, then the Cowboys can still backdoor into the postseason with a win against Washington.
  • Who exactly is going to play wide receiver for these guys? With Nelson Agholor sidelined by injury last weekend, the Eagles beat Washington with just three receivers. Those three – Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Robert Davis – have 27 career catches combined. Agholor may return to play against the Cowboys, but that's hardly comforting, given that he's suffering through a season that's seen him manage just 39 catches on 69 targets. With DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery hobbled by injury this years, the Eagles have struggled to find consistent production outside.
  • The Eagles have found a spark from rookie running back Miles Sanders, who now leads the team in rushing with 687 yards. He also has 433 receiving yards, making him the only player on the team with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Last week, Sanders made a clutch touchdown catch in the end zone against the Redskins, showing his versatility as a runner and receiver.
  • It's been a miserable three weeks for the Eagles secondary. To be fair, the team is 2-1 in that stretch, but they're allowing an average of 276 passing yards per game and have given up seven touchdown passes with just one interception. The low point came in their game against Washington and Dwayne Haskins. The rookie, who has struggled at times this season, bombed away for 261 yards and two touchdowns while completing 68 percent of his passes. That's not a great trend, especially considering Dak Prescott enters this matchup with the second-most passing yardage in the league.
  • The Eagles are one of the very best teams in the NFL on third downs, converting exactly 47 percent of their attempts. The only team better than that is the one they'll be facing Sunday in the Cowboys, who lead the league at 48.7 percent.

Dallas

  • The Cowboys have added a Super Bowl MVP to their roster. That might be the most glamorous part of the situation, but the team is adding some depth in Malcolm Smith, a veteran linebacker who started his career with Seattle and played under Kris Richard. Smith was the Super Bowl MVP against Denver, returning a pick for a touchdown and recovering a fumble. Smith can help at a position that has been hit with injuries, including a broken arm for Luke Gifford, who was moved to injured reserve. Leighton Vander Esch continues to be out with a neck injury.
  • The Cowboys can win consecutive NFC East titles for the first time in 23 years. Not since the 1996 season, which was actually the fifth straight year of winning the division, have the Cowboys won it back-to-back. The Cowboys claimed the NFC East last year with a 10-6 record and can clinch the division on Sunday by beating the Eagles, who also sit at 7-7. A win over Philly would give the Cowboys the season sweep, meaning they would own the tiebreaker if both teams were to still end up 8-8.
  • What a time to play their best game of the season. The Cowboys controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball in their 44-21 win over the Rams. That was the first win of the year against a team with a winning record and the first victory by the Cowboys against a top-10 defense. Ironically, after rushing for 50 yards against the Rams in their playoff loss last January, the Cowboys out-rushed the Rams, 263-22.
  • This will be Jason Garrett's 10th trip to Philadelphia as head coach of the Cowboys. History says his teams have played well on the road, especially against the Eagles. Garrett is 7-2 as the head coach of games in Philadelphia, with wins in the last two matchups. In fact, the Cowboys have won five of their last six games at Philly, with the only loss occurring at the end of the 2016 season when the Cowboys pulled started Dak Prescott out at halftime and finished the game with Mark Sanchez.
  • This will be a rematch of the Cowboys' 37-10 domination of the Eagles back on Oct. 20. That game stands as the team's largest margin of victory in any game this season. The Cowboys' magic number seems to be 30 points. In the seven games in which they've reached that plateau, the Cowboys are 7-0. When they fail to score 30 points, it's 0-7.

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