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Position battleground (offense): Cowboys vs. Eagles head-to-head breakdown of the offensive positions

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A positional head-to-head breakdown of the Week 16 matchup between the Cowboys and Eagles to find the strengths and weaknesses of each offensive position.

Everyone in Cowboys Nation is feeling huge heartbreak right now. The failure against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week is the second time this season the Dallas Cowboys have blown a double-digit lead to a team with a losing record. But this is the season of hope, and this Christmas Eve it’s the Cowboys facing the one-loss Philadelphia Eagles. Who doesn’t love a good NFC East contest before Santa’s arrival? The NFC East can have a crowned champion this week if the Eagles win, but despite the loss last week, the Cowboys have still clinched a playoff spot. So how does each offensive position on both teams fare in a head-to-head battle?

QUARTERBACK

Dak Prescott vs Jalen Hurts/Gardner Minshew

There’s a lot to blame on last week’s loss, but to put it all on Dak would be unwise. That’s not to say he’s immune from accountability, he played his part in the Cowboy’s second-half disappearance. His overthrow of Dalton Schultz that got picked off forced serious momentum damage. Some of the play-calling is debatable for sure, certainly in the final quarter. But you can’t condemn Dak on the pick-six that led to the Jaguar’s victory in overtime. For three quarters Dak looked confident making some stunning passes with good touch. The dime Dak threw in the endzone for the touchdown to Peyton Hendershot, along with a handful of other skillful throws that had rapidly closing windows, will all be disregarded thanks to the unfortunate loss. If the Chicago Bears exhibited anything last week playing the Eagles, is how a rushing quarterback can prove problematic for a defense trying hard to lock down against the pass.

As for Jalen Hurts, he’s been a menace both in the air and on the ground the last few weeks. In games where it looks as though the team is going to get its next defeat, they claw back in and scurry out a victory. In the last four games, Hurts has averaged 266 passing yards per game, 77 rush yards per game, and a healthy three touchdowns per game. The race for the NFL MVP honor was a two-headed race between Hurts and Patrick Mahomes, but with play time about to become an issue for Hurts, this will be the separator. The big news on Hurts is he’s doubtful to play due to an injury to this throwing shoulder. With Gardner Minshew getting prepared to dress this week, the head-to-head battle here would go to Dallas.

Win: Cowboys (unless Hurts plays)

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

RUNNING BACK

Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard vs Miles Sanders/Boston Scott

Both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard were effective last week. But there were also a handful of negative plays from both Zeke and Tony that led to problems in maintaining drives. They both had good days and played the way we would anticipate, but the Jaguar’s defense was prepared for them at the right times. Should the play call have been a run on third down in the final minutes of the game to force the Jaguars to use its last timeout? Yes, everyone would settle on that one. But to declare the Cowboys running game was dominating and would have gotten the first down is a tough take. The duo last week averaged 3.8 yards per carry between them, and Zeke rolled in for another touchdown. Pollard had a major role in the passing game for another week, and having a good day as receiver with Pollard is always a fun watch. They will have some work to do this week though as the Eagle’s defense in the last three games has proven itself able in stopping the opposing running backs from dominating the game.

Miles Sanders is having an exemplary season so far, and if Hurts does miss time over the next couple of weeks, it will be Sanders taking more of the claim in rushing yards. Sanders is already over 1,000 yards for the season, he’s currently fifth in total rush yards. He’s fourth in average yards per carry at 5.2 (Pollard is first). Then the cherry on top for Sanders is having the fourth-most rushing touchdowns in the league, now with 11. Sanders in current form is playing well, in his last four games eclipsing over 100 yards twice and scoring five touchdowns. The Cowboys will need to find their tackling fuel again this week, after having a tough time stopping the run and allowing 192 yards on the ground against Jacksonville.

Win: Cowboys (but taking into account teams run stopping, Sanders has the individual advantage)

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

WIDE RECEIVERS

Lamb/Gallup/Brown vs AJ Brown/DeV Smith/Q.Watkins

Last week was a game of high’s and low’s for Noah Brown. For the high, Brown scored twice as well as being instrumental on catches to maintain drives. But for the low, it has to be the botched catch during overtime that led to the pick-six. It was an unlucky play and those moments happen in football. We’ll see how Brown bounces back from a horrible ending. CeeDee Lamb was practically perfect last week. He caught seven receptions with zero drops, and he recorded his second-most receiving yards for the season. Sure you could argue the Cowboys should have used him more, and if that final play was Lamb on the crossing route instead of Brown, we would have more than likely seen a different result. As for Michael Gallup, he’s been unproductive the last two games. He’s managed to only catch three receptions and rack up 42 yards for no scores.

In the last three games, the Eagles rank fifth in receiving yards per game. The main factor of that is A.J Brown, who also ranks fifth in receiving yards among wide receivers. Brown has accounted for 21 receptions and 370 receiving yards, adding three touchdowns to his stat line in the last three weeks. Only Davante Adams has more touchdowns than Brown among wide receivers, showing he’s the primary threat all over the field. DeVontae Smith is the team’s sneaky quick go-to guy. He’s having a good second year and should finish the season better than his rookie season. He does however join Brown in having five drops this year, which is the fifth most.

Win: Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

TIGHT END

Dalton Schultz vs Dallas Goedert

Early in the game last week, Dak was finding his tight ends. The touchdown to Peyton Hendershot was the perfect throw and catch, an amazing skillfully made play. Dak tried to get Dalton Schultz in on some plays, and Dalton had his moment dropping the pass as well. The momentum shift happened after Schultz made a nine-yard reception which led to the Dallas field goal. On the following drive, Dak tried to find Schultz again only to be intercepted, then on the next series getting forced to punt. Dak loves his tight ends, and his connection with Schultz cannot be underestimated.

The Eagles get Dallas Goedert back from injury this week. He’s officially back off IR, but how much they ease him back this week to not aggravate any injury and lose him for the playoffs we will see. But Goedert is a quality tight end, and if he is ready for a full load, he can be a handful for the Cowboys defense.

Win: Push

Dallas Cowboys v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images

OFFENSIVE LINE

Let’s just stop and smile at the fact we got to see Zack Martin and Tyron Smith play side-by-side last week. It was a fun look. For Tyron Smith’s first game back, playing on the wrong side, it wasn’t bad at all and he did a fair job. He allowed two pressures all game and was efficient in run blocking. But both Tyler Smith and Jason Peters had their struggles. But let’s see how much better this line can get after playing together in practice for a full week.

The Eagle’s line is efficient. They have the second-fewest pressures allowed, and are first in the league with the fewest sacks allowed. Their offensive tackle Lane Johnson, center Jason Kelce and guard Landon Dickerson all combine for a total of 31 pressures and one sack all season. In fact, Johnson has allowed only two pressures since Week 10. With the lack of pressure coming from the defensive line at Dallas, especially from inside, this defense has a hard climb this week.

Win: Eagles


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