FRISCO, Texas – Here's my weekly look at what I think are the two biggest keys to this week's matchup.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
Defensively, the Cowboys were outstanding in the secondary against the Saints. They were able to frustrate Drew Brees and those Saints receivers unlike at any point during the season.
This week against the Eagles presents a different challenge for this Cowboys secondary. This will be a much deeper group overall -- and with Zach Ertz being a more difficult player to defend. The size and receiving ability of this group is impressive. If the Cowboys have an advantage in this matchup it is that they battled this group only five weeks ago, so that experience is still fresh in their minds as they prepare for this game.
If there is something that will be different for the Cowboys, it's the emergence of Anthony Brown and the hero from the Saints game, Jourdan Lewis. Not only do you have to be able to battle the Eagles' numbers, you need to be able to handle their numbers. It's a group that continues to come at you, down after down. There is really no easy way out or rest when you face this bunch.
For the Cowboys to win this game, they must win those one-on-one battles in the secondary. Carson Wentz might not make you pay for mistakes like Drew Brees would -- but make no mistake about it, the ball is going to be in the air a bunch. This is not going to be an easy matchup, but if they continue to play with that focus and trust their technique in limiting these Eagles receivers down the field, it will affect the outcome of this game.
Philadelphia Eagles Win If:
I believe Jim Schwartz's game plan is pretty simple: force the Cowboys to have to pass with Dak Prescott and see if their offensive line can hold up well enough to protect him.
Schwartz is coming into the matchup with his secondary compromised by injury, so if the pass rush doesn't get home, then his guys will likely pay the price -- but it's a gamble he has to go with. Other than what has happened to the Cowboys in the red zone and when they get near the goal line, the protection has been their next-biggest issue. As a unit, they're on a record pace to surpass the sacks allowed total from 1986. What has been even more troubling for the offense is not when the sacks have occurred but the tendency for Prescott to not protect the ball when he's hit in the pocket.
Look for Schwartz to move his rush around in certain down and distance situations. With the likelihood of Tyron Smith playing, he'll want to keep Michael Bennett away from him to rush so look for him to kick Bennett inside over the guard along with Fletcher Cox and put him to Chris Long's side to force you to block them one-on-one.
If the Eagles are to win this game, not only will they need to create some pass rush but also create some of those turnovers in the pocket to give their offense short-field drives or convert those turnovers into a scoop and score opportunity.