Eagles vs. Cowboys, part 2: Everything to know about SNF

ByTodd Archer and Tim McManus ESPN logo
Saturday, December 9, 2023

When the Dallas Cowboys exited Lincoln Financial Field on Nov. 5, they left with a 28-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. But they have not lost since.

When these teams meet for Sunday's rematch at AT&T Stadium, the Eagles arrive coming off a 42-19 dismantling by the San Francisco 49ers, their worst since a 25-point loss to the Cowboys in the 2021 finale, but still holders of the NFL's best record.

Sunday's contest will not settle the NFC East, but it could tell the story of both teams' seasons.

"It's always one of the biggest games in football, if not the biggest," Cowboys LB Micah Parsons said. "The intensity is always high, the emotions high, everyone wants to win. It's a brawl. It's always one where you got to get the ice bags ready."

A Philadelphia win would all but lock up the division crown, becoming the first team to win consecutive NFC East titles since the 2003-04 Eagles. A Dallas win would at least temporarily put them first in the division because of tiebreaker rules, but more importantly, display that they can hang with the NFL's best.

"We are looking forward to it. It's the Cowboys and Eagles," Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't think you need to say anything more than that."

McCarthy doesn't, but NFL Nation reporters Tim McManus and Todd Archer take a longer look at Sunday's rematch:

What's changed since the last time these teams played?

Cowboys:The Cowboys are 4-0 since that loss. Quibble with the competition because the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers, Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks are a combined 15-34, but the Cowboys have scored at least 33 points in each game, with an average margin of victory of 24 points. Entering the first meeting, the Cowboys' offensive line -- Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, Tyler Biadasz, Zack Martin, Terence Steele -- had played just two games together. They have now played the past five together and McCarthy believes offensive line continuity is a direct result to wins.

Eagles: The habit of falling behind early continued, as they tied a record with four consecutive wins when trailing at halftime. The high-wire act came crashing down against the 49ers, who throttled Philly after building a 14-6 lead at intermission. The defense has sunk to 32nd on third down and 29th in the red zone. Even its bread and butter, the run defense, has faltered of late, yielding 162 yards on average over its past three outings. The addition of linebacker Shaquille Leonard -- who was also considering signing with the Cowboys -- should help. On offense, the run game has hit a rough patch, with running backs managing just 20 yards on nine carries against the 49ers. The coaches have been emphasizing the need to get D'Andre Swift& Co. going starting this week.

The quarterbacks

Dak Prescott: He has never played this well for this long and has put himself at the top of the MVP list, along with Jalen Hurts. In his past seven games, he completed 177 of 252 passes for 2,173 yards (70.5%) with 21 touchdown passes and two interceptions. He threw for 374 yards against the Eagles in the first meeting. Only Washington's Sam Howell threw for more yards against the Eagles this season. For his career, Prescott is 5-1 against the Eagles at AT&T Stadium with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

Jalen Hurts: He has posted some strong numbers against quality opponents (Niners, Bills, Chiefs) since the last time these two teams met, totaling nine touchdowns (four passing, five rushing) to two interceptions. However, his completion rate (59.8%) went down from the season average of 66.5%, while his time to throw increased to 3.31 seconds -- second highest to Justin Fields -- from a season average of 3.07 seconds. The game plans have left a little to be desired of late, with the offense often not coming to life until Hurts clicks into playmaker mode. Tight end Dallas Goedert, who suffered a fractured forearm in the first meeting with the Cowboys, is expected to return this week, which should benefit Hurts.

The defenses

Cowboys: No team, it seems, puts Parsons in a bind more than the Eagles. In four games, he has two sacks, with 1.5 coming in the first meeting. Good numbers, but not otherworldly like he has been against other teams. The Eagles' offensive line is stout across the board, from tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata to the interior with center Jason Kelce. Hurts' ability to run has caused Parsons problems, too, either hesitating or biting on the play fakes. Parsons has moved off the ball more in recent weeks, since Leighton Vander Esch's neck injury, so perhaps that opens up more opportunities in certain matchups.

Eagles: Receiver CeeDee Lamb gave Philly fits in the first matchup, going off for 11 catches and 191 yards. A lot of his damage was done over the middle, which has been an area of weakness for this defense. "He had a lot of catch-and-run yards on us, underneath stuff and catch-and-run stuff," said defensive coordinator Sean Desai. "Make sure there's bodies underneath that can help us. We did a good job overall in terms of limiting them in the red zone and keeping points off the board, but we've got to do a better job earlier and just get around him a little bit more." Prescott tossed three touchdowns against the Eagles in Week 9. That's been a problem area for Philadelphia, which has given up the second-most passing touchdowns on the season (27).

Key player people should be talking about

Cowboys: LB Markquese Bell. He went to training camp as a safety and left as a linebacker after rookie DeMarvion Overshown suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. Bell is second on the Cowboys in tackles. With Leonard choosing the Eagles over Dallas, even more eyes will be on Bell, who plays bigger than his 215-pound frame. The Eagles have an offensive line that can dominate on the second level and will press Bell to make plays in the run game. If there's still a question about the Cowboys' defense, it is how they play the run. If Bell is able to cut through and make plays, then the Cowboys have a chance.

Eagles: DT Jordan Davis. The 6-foot-6, 336-pound Georgia product ranks first among defensive tackles in run stop win rate (47%) despite being double-teamed on nearly half the plays. Coming off a career-high 62 snaps against the Bills and working through a hamstring injury, Davis wasn't quite as effective as normal against the Niners, and the same thing could be said for the defensive front at large. When he's at his best, everybody's job gets easier in slowing the run.

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