Football analyst Bucky Brooks, a former NFL player and scout who now works for NFL Network and serves as an analyst for DallasCowboys.com, gives his weekly keys to the game Sunday, providing specific points of emphasis for both the Cowboys and Eagles.
The Cowboys will win if…
The winning script has been the same since Cooper Rush took over as the starting quarterback following Dak Prescott's injury. The team must commit to playing complementary football with an opportunistic offense supplementing a strong effort from a defense that is playing lights-out football.
Against the Eagles, the defense must contain Jalen Hurts as a runner to force the league's only unbeaten team into a one-dimensional offensive plan that makes the third-year pro play primarily from the pocket. Although he has torched opponents as a passer, Hurts remains a work in progress as a thrower, and mistakes could result in a critical turnover. To contain Hurts and Co., the Cowboys must play with enough physicality and discipline to control the line of scrimmage while dealing with the misdirection and deception of the read-option running game. In addition, the defensive backfield must handle AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith in one-on-one matchups to snuff out the RPOs that terrorize opponents attempting to stop the offense with zone coverage.
Offensively, the Cowboys' ground-and-pound plan with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard must be effective to keep the Eagles from attacking Cooper Rush with a myriad of pressures and games. The dynamic 1-2 punch needs to tally 130-plus rushing yards as part of a run-heavy attack that moves the chains and controls the clock. If the Cowboys can take the air out of the ball with a time of possession that tops the 32-minute mark, Mike McCarthy will have the game played on his terms and likely chalk up another win.
The Eagles will win if…
The Eagles are all about jumping out to a fast start to force their opponents to chase points against an opportunistic defense. Jalen Hurts wants to dictate the action as a dynamic dual-threat playmaker with the capacity to produce big plays as a runner or thrower. He sets the tone for the offense with his rugged running style, but his improved passing skills have made the Eagles' offense one of the most difficult units to defend. If he is able to grind out yardage on designed QB runs and impromptu scrambles, Hurts creates opportunities for others on option plays and play-action passes. With his combination of skills putting defenders in a bind, the Eagles must push the envelope with a variety of collegiate concepts to keep the Cowboys from dictating the terms. If the Eagles establish an offensive rhythm early, the unit can light up the scoreboard against a stingy defense that has played great football to date.
On defense, the Eagles must sell out to stop the Cowboys' running game. Elliott and Pollard have steadied the offense as a ground-and-pound combination that mixes power with finesse between the tackles and on the edges. The Eagles will need to play with outstanding physicality and gap discipline to keep No.21 and No.20 from creasing the defense on a variety of power-based runs that produce big gains when opponents grow weary from the constant pounding. If the Eagles can slow down the run and put the pressure on Rush to make plays against an opportunistic defense that features an A-plus pass rush and coverage, the Cowboys could find themselves facing an uphill battle against a team that is built to make a championship run.