The Philadelphia Eagles (4-4) return to the football field after a Week 9 bye to take on the Dallas Cowboys (3-5) on Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC10). Even though they did not play last week, the Eagles are in prime position to make a playoff push and win the NFC East.
In their last eight games of the season, the Eagles have five of them within the division. If they can sweep the Cowboys and finish off the New York Giants, who they beat back in Week 6, their only competition left to face is the Washington Redskins.
Speaking of Washington, they did the Eagles a huge favor last week, losing to the Atlanta Falcons. If Washington loses again on Sunday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philly beats the Cowboys, both teams will be tied at 5-4 atop of the division.
Therefore, what do the Eagles need to do to secure the victory at the Linc? Here are three things to watch out for in this huge Week 10 matchup.
1. Which new WR will make an impact?
Before the trade deadline commenced last month, both the Cowboys and Eagles made trades for a wide receiver. Dallas acquired Amari Cooper from Oakland in exchange for a 2019 first-round pick, while the Eagles gave up a 2019 third-round pick to acquire Golden Tate from Detroit.
Cooper made his Cowboys’ debut on Monday against the Titans and had a solid game with five receptions (eight targets) for 58 yards and a touchdown. However, this will be Tate’s first game as an Eagle and unlike Cooper, he might be in store for a huge game.
The reason why I say this is because Tate played against Dallas earlier this season. Back in Week 4, Tate by himself destroyed the Cowboys’ secondary, racking up eight receptions (eight targets) for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Can he replicate this same performance on Sunday night? It is possible, especially with the weapons that he now has surrounding him.
2. Forcing Dak Prescott into mistakes
This season has not been good for Carson Wentz’s draft classmate, Dak Prescott. The young gunslinger has struggled to make the correct reads, which has led to a modest 10 touchdown passes in 149 completions.
However, Prescott only has thrown five interceptions, which is good in the grand scheme of things. But the Cowboys’ offensive line has allowed the former fourth-round pick to be sacked an enormous 28 times through eight games.
With all that being known, the Eagles’ defensive game plan should be fairly simple: contain Ezekiel Elliott and force Prescott to beat them. When Prescott has to throw the ball more than 28 times, the Cowboys have a record of 0-5.
In their last two losses, the young quarterback has thrown the football 31 and 35 times, respectively, while Elliott has only racked up 15 and 17 carries. If Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz brings the blitz as he did against Blake Bortles a couple of weeks ago, then there should be more than a few opportunities for the Eagles to capitalize off of.
3. Sproles sidelined again, who steps up now at RB?
The Eagles’ running game has been in a state of flux for most of the season due to injuries. Jay Ajayi suffered a season-ending knee injury back in Week 5, while Darren Sproles has been out with a nagging hamstring injury since Week 1.
Philly thought they were going to get a huge boost for Sunday’s game as all signs pointed to Sproles returning to the field. One of those signs was the team releasing wide receiver DeAndre Carter, who was handling kick return duties.
But on Thursday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Sproles aggravated his hamstring during practice and will be sidelined. This is devastating news because Sproles could have helped the Eagles in the return, running and passing games to a certain extent.
However, that is not the case now, as the Eagles will have to make a decision on whom to put at punt returner. Furthermore, they will also have to figure out who will be lead back for Sunday night’s game.
Undrafted free agent Josh Adams is an option, especially after his 61-yard performance on nine carries against the Jaguars, but it depends on what he does with his first few carries. Wendell Smallwood could be the hot-hand at running back as he has three total touchdowns this season. And then there’s Corey Clement, who could also be used for return duties too.
Regardless of who it is, the Eagles should have some success against Dallas’s run defense, which is giving up 99.9 yards per game (10th in the NFL).