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Game Preview: Cowboys vs. Eagles

The Eagles and the Cowboys have officially met four times in the postseason, including the 1980 NFC Championship Game when Wilbert Montgomery gashed the Dallas defense for a 42-yard rushing touchdown on the second offensive play.

But that doesn't include when the Eagles beat the Cowboys 44-6 on the final day of the 2008 regular season to earn a Wild Card berth over Dallas or the Week 17 win-or-go-home game in Dallas that determined the NFC East Champion in 2013.

Nor will it include this afternoon's showdown, the 122nd meeting between these despised rivals that will go a long way in determining the NFC East Champion.

The Eagles and the Cowboys played on October 20 in a game won by Dallas, 37-10. Philadelphia was without three key players on defense who are expected to suit up today: linebacker Nigel Bradham, cornerback Ronald Darby, and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan. A fourth, cornerback Avonte Maddox, is questionable.

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott had 111 yards and a touchdown on the ground, while wide receiver Amari Cooper caught five passes for 106 yards.

The Eagles never gave themselves a shot on the road as they fumbled the ball away on their first two possessions, which led to Cowboys touchdowns. The Eagles trailed 14-0 and then it was 27-7 at halftime.

Since that game, the Cowboys are 3-4, including last Sunday's 44-21 demolition of the Los Angeles Rams that snapped a three-game losing streak. Quarterback Dak Prescott was efficient throwing for 212 yards on 23 attempts for two touchdowns and a 123.8 passer rating. However, it was the ground game powered by Elliott (131 yards and a touchdown) and rookie Tony Pollard (117 yards and two scores) that powered the offense. Dallas crossed the goal line on four consecutive possessions in the first half to put the game out of reach early.

During the three-game losing streak, the Cowboys' defense allowed 356 yards to the Buffalo Bills and 382 total yards to the Chicago Bears. Special teams miscues hurt Dallas in the loss to New England as a blocked punt and a missed field goal put the Cowboys in an early 10-0 bind.

Against the Rams, the Cowboys held running back Todd Gurley to 20 yards on the ground, at an average of 1.8 yards per carry. Linebacker Sean Lee, an Eagles nemesis in the past, had a career game with a sack and an interception.

For the season, Prescott is second in the NFL with 4,334 passing yards. He also has thrown 26 touchdowns against 11 interceptions for a 99.3 passer rating. Elliott is fifth in the league with 1,188 rushing yards to go along with 11 touchdowns. Cooper is tied for eighth with 1,073 receiving yards on 71 catches and eight touchdowns.

Defensively, defensive end Robert Quinn paces the Cowboys with 9.5 sacks on the year while fellow end DeMarcus Lawrence has five. All-Pro tackle Lane Johnson's status is out and Halapoulivaati Vaitai will start for a second straight week. Lee's resurgence is critical as the Cowboys have been without star linebacker Leighton Vander Esch due to a neck injury that he initially suffered in the first matchup with the Eagles.

The Eagles will have home-field advantage, which cannot be overstated in this matchup. Dallas Week is always extra special for Eagles fans. This Sunday, with the season on the line, Lincoln Financial Field will be rockin' with the chance to spoil the Cowboys' potential playoff hopes.

Even if the Eagles win, however, they must either beat the Giants in Week 17 or cheer for Dallas to stumble at home against Washington to clinch the NFC East. A Dallas win today will clinch the division title for the Cowboys. The Eagles must finish with a better record than the Cowboys as they will lose based on tiebreakers regardless of today's outcome.

The biggest game of Carson Wentz's career?

When asked if he thought Sunday was the "biggest" of his career, given everything around it, Carson Wentz said this week, "You could probably say that.

"I mean, it's definitely a big game. We know the situation. We know what's going on. At the same time, we're treating it as another game and we're aware of everything. We're real excited and for one, I'm real excited that we're at home. I know these fans are going to show up and be loud. I can't wait until Sunday afternoon."

The season to this point hasn't been what the Eagles envisioned when they put together a roster that appeared to include every bit of talent needed to be an explosive, versatile, beat-you-in-a-lot-of-ways attack. Injuries chipped away, chipped away, chipped away … and Wentz has been throwing to young and inexperienced wide receivers the last two weeks.

And he's been winning.

The Eagles are incorporating their running backs in the passing game, using their tight ends as wide receivers, and putting first-year receiver Greg Ward into the role of go-to pass catcher in late-season, critical drives.

And they're winning.

Wentz has thrown five touchdown passes and zero interceptions the last two weeks. He's been brilliant in the fourth quarter (and overtime against New York) with late-game drives to win. That's got to continue on Sunday against a Dallas defense that flummoxed the Eagles in October, limiting Wentz to 191 passing yards, forcing a Wentz fumble, an interception, and sacking No. 11 three times.

"Honestly for Carson, I think it's just going to be another game for him," Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks said. "I get it, it's the Cowboys and everything's on the line. One thing about him is that I don't think any moment is too big for him. And I don't think Sunday is going to be any different. What he's been able to do and overcome and weather through, not just this year but for years really, is a testament to him. Come Sunday I know he's going to ball out. I expect big things just like he's been doing all year. I look forward to it."

Said tight end Zach Ertz, another Pro Bowl player, of Wentz: "Obviously, he's a heck of a football player. He understands what's at stake. He'll be playing phenomenal, in my opinion. He'll be at his best when his best is needed on Sunday, just like hopefully all of us are.

"It's not going to fall solely on No. 11's shoulders. He can't have that mindset. We can't have that mindset as a football team. We have a lot of really talented players on this football team, so all of us have to step up. He shouldn't feel like he has to carry us and we shouldn't expect that."

T.J. Edwards steps into a bigger role with Kamu Grugier-Hill placed on Injured Reserve

The Eagles placed linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Wednesday morning. Per head coach Doug Pederson, rookie linebacker T.J. Edwards will have a bigger role in ultimately the biggest game of the season. Veteran middle linebacker Nigel Bradham spoke highly of Edwards as he plans to take on more responsibility.

"He's extremely ready," Bradham said. "A guy who has been motivated all year. He's been tremendous for us. He's stepped in each and every time we've needed him. He's only a rookie, but he doesn't play that way. He's pretty much an all-around linebacker and we're lucky to have him. I tell him all the time, 'It's crazy that you were undrafted.' I just don't understand it."

Edwards has played in 14 games this season and has made 15 total tackles (10 solo and 5 assists). Mainly a force on special teams, he has contributed 98 snaps on defense with that number expecting to increase this Sunday. As the Wisconsin product has his sights set on attacking Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott, he reflects on the advice he has received to help him get to this moment.

"I try to take it one day at a time, ever since I got here," Edwards said. "Those are some words I got from the vets. They are just telling me to focus on getting one percent better every day. I'm not trying to do too much, not trying to go outside my role, but just try to find my role and do it to the best of my abilities. I think I'm still trying to do that, but I've definitely come a long way."

A different defense home and away

Here's a look at the numbers posted by the Eagles' defense in home games as compared to road contests in 2019. There's only one key stat where the Eagles are better away from the Linc.

Table inside Article
Home Away
Points per Game 17.9 29
Total Yards per Game 268.2 390.1
Rushing Yards per Game 80.6 100.3
Passing Yards per Game 187.7 289.9
Turnovers 6 11

In addition, the Eagles haven't allowed more than 17 points at home since Week 3.

By the numbers: Carson Wentz

2.08: Carson Wentz is third in the league in passing touchdowns per game since 2017. He also has thrown a touchdown pass in 17 straight games, the longest active streak in the league.

105.2: Wentz is second in the league in third-down passer rating since 2017. He is also second in red zone passer rating (107.2) in the past three years.

8: Wentz is tied for third in the NFL in passing touchdowns since Week 13. He leads the league in third-down and red zone passing touchdowns.

By the numbers: Miles Sanders

1,434: Miles Sanders leads all NFL rookies with 1,434 all-purpose yards. He is 145 yards away from having the most all-purpose yards in Eagles rookie history.

1,120: Sanders set the franchise rookie record for scrimmage yards, breaking the previous mark of 1,008 set by DeSean Jackson in 2008.

687: Sanders broke LeSean McCoy's team rookie rushing record in Week 15 following his career-high 122-yard rushing performance.

172: Sanders was the first Eagles rookie to produce at least 170 yards from scrimmage with one rushing and one receiving touchdown in the same game.

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