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X Factors

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X Factors: 10 game-changers for Cowboys & Eagles


FRISCO, Texas – It doesn't get much bigger than this when it comes to the regular-season games.

The Eagles are 7-1 with the NFL's best record but the Cowboys aren't too far behind and can virtually pull into a tie with Philly with a win.

Since the Super Bowl is always the goal for every team, we decided to rank the Top 10 X-factors for the Cowboys and Rams, using roman numerals, since 10 = X.

Here we go, these 10 guys will likely be big difference-makers one way or another.

X – Lane Johnson – The Eagles' Pro Bowl right tackle has been one of the reasons Philly has kept Micah Parsons in check during his games against them. Parsons will line up all over the place, including over the center and at linebacker. But he'll likely have plenty of face-offs with Johnson. That should determine how often Parsons moves around.

IX – Darius Slay – Just like the Cowboys' cornerbacks will have their hands full with the Eagles receivers, Philly's cornerbacks won't have an easy time with guys like CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks. Slay is a veteran corner who has two interceptions this year, including a 70-yard pick-six TD against the Patriots.

VIII – Jalen Hurts – We all know how effective Hurts can be when he wants to run, whether it's on a scramble, RPO or the Tush-Push play. Hurts has six touchdowns but he's also throwing more interceptions this year with eight. Last season, he had just six interceptions in 15 games.

VII – A.J. Brown – He's dominating the league right now, especially iin the last six games. He's the first player in NFL history to have six straight games of 125+ receiving yards. He'll be a tough matchup for any cornerback, especially because he's got the combination of a possession receiver with a vertical deep threat as well.

VI - Osa Odighizuwa – It goes without being said that the Philadelphia offensive line will pose a significant challenge to Dallas' defensive line efforts on Sunday afternoon, but one hole that could be exposed is at right guard with Sua Opeta's lack of experience and his 17 pressures allowed in six games in 2023. As a result, an opportunity for Osa Odighizuwa to get back on the sack total as well as help minimize a new-look running game for the Eagles is on the table. If Odighizuwa has his best game of the season thus far, expect the entire defensive line to be able to feed off of his production.

V - CeeDee Lamb – One week after setting career-highs in receptions and receiving yards, CeeDee Lamb will enter Philadelphia with another opportunity to take advantage of a secondary with some holes. There aren't nearly as many opportunities as there were against the Rams, but Lamb's speed and release off the line could create a lot of separation on quick routes that this offense has specialized in this season.

IV - Tyler Smith – Philadelphia arrives in this matchup with one of the stronger interior defensive lines in the entire NFL, but a similarly strong Dallas interior offensive line awaits. Zack Martin has been strong once again in 2023, Tyler Biadasz has had his wins and losses, but an argument could be made that Tyler Smith is the most reliable in the interior line going into this matchup. If the Cowboys want to halt Fletcher Cox, Milton Williams, Jalen Carter and others, it starts with Tyler Smith generating push from the left guard position.

III - Dak Prescott - He followed up his best game of the season in LA with yet another best game of his 2023 season (versus the other LA team), this time using his legs — yet again — to move the chains in critical situations and to set up explosive plays in what became the first offensive onslaught of the season. CeeDee Lamb had another massive day for Prescott and Cooks was again involved in putting up points, as were the tight ends, and this is the type of arsenal that gives Prescott an excellent shot at upsetting Philly, so pour honey on him.

II - Micah Parsons - Make no mistake about it, Parsons will need to help facilitate a very long day for Jalen Hurts, and that has to either come by way of his own pressures and sacks and/or the Eagles keying in on him and freeing up others across the defensive line — e.g., Osa Odighizuwa and DeMarcus Lawrence. Hurts is mobile, strong and ready for the fight at-hand, but so is the Lion; though only one will walk away with the spoils on Sunday.

I - DaRon Bland - Circle this matchup and then circle it again: DaRon Bland vs. A.J. Brown. Both are playing at an insane level right now and it's quite literally the immovable object meets the unstoppable force. Brown is going to be a handful for the Cowboys' secondary, but they are uniquely designed to potentially contain him. And if the pressure forces Hurts into making mistakes with his throws, as he's been known to do this season, Bland will need to make him pay in a big way, like maybe getting his fourth pick-six of the season?

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