In the midst of this very difficult stretch of the season, everyone knew that December 10 would be extra, extra special. How often do the Eagles and Cowboys get together, both teams healthy, both teams with a gaudy record, and so much on the line?
Welcome to prime time. Again.
There are a bunch of storylines for this one – as far as the eye can see, really – but for the sake of brevity, let's narrow it down to six of them. To begin ...
- The Eagles' defense has a tall task
Dallas is crushing it on offense, to put it mildly. Quarterback Dak Prescott has 20 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in the last six games for the Cowboys, Dallas has won 14 straight games at home, and the Cowboys are averaging a league-best 32.3 points per game this season. Yes, it is a challenging 60 minutes ahead for the Eagles defense.
What is the right approach for the Eagles? There will be some specific tweaks for this game, but it's not like Sean Desai is going to revamp his defense with Dallas in mind. The Eagles did a good job against the Dallas running game in the November 5 game and pressured Prescott with five quarterback sacks, and the two red zone stops in the fourth quarter provided the difference in the 28-23 victory. The Eagles will have to tackle well, rally to the football, communicate well with their assignments, and play extremely physical football to get off the field on third down. Dallas ranks second in the league with a 49 percent conversion rate on third down, so that is a key statistic to watch throughout the game.
- What does the return of TE Dallas Goedert mean for the offense?
The Eagles hope that it means a lot. Dallas Goedert is one of the NFL's premier tight ends who is a catch-and-run nightmare for defenses, an excellent in-line blocker, and a weapon in the red zone. He does it all, in other words. The Eagles carved out two wins in the three games Goedert missed, but having him back offers quarterback Jalen Hurts another option and creates another favorable matchup for the Eagles.
It's going to be fascinating to see how the Eagles work Goedert back into the offensive equation, but you can be sure that the coaching staff would really like to get him involved in every way possible. Goedert said during the week that he feels great and that he will play as much as the coaches allow.
- The CeeDee Lamb Factor
A top-level receiver, CeeDee Lamb shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. He has 21 catches for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last two meetings with the Eagles, so he's a handful. Now, Prescott has been moving around the ball a bit in the passing game, with tight end Jake Ferguson (46 receptions, 5 touchdowns) a factor and wide receiver Brandin Cooks (20 receptions, 3 touchdowns in the last four games) much more a factor. The Eagles have to pay attention to Lamb, but there are other weapons as well.
- Winning in the red zone always helps
What we know for sure is how much of a difference touchdowns make in the red zone. Sunday night is no different.
The Eagles beat Dallas in November because the offense scored touchdowns in the red zone and the defense gained two stops inside the 20-yard line. Scoring an advantage like that on Sunday night will likely go a long way toward determining the winner.
- Never underestimate QB Jalen Hurts
How did quarterback Jalen Hurts respond this week to the tough loss to the 49ers? He didn't flinch. He never flinches. And that's exactly what the Eagles need on Sunday night and that's what they will get from a player who just goes out there ... and ... wins. No matter how it happens, Hurts wins and he produces touchdowns – he has produced 31 of them this season, second-highest in the league this season (behind Buffalo's Josh Allen).
This is the kind of game that we've seen before: Hurts put the team on his back and has a great performance and the Eagles rally around him.
- Keeping an eye on the score at halftime
The Eagles have trailed at halftime in each of the last five games and they were able to come back and win the first four of them. The goal, obviously, is to play a great 60 minutes against Dallas and take a commanding lead in the NFC East. Jumping out on Dallas and quieting the crowd – except for the Eagles fans we know will be in attendance – is the preferred option, so it is again something to watch. The Eagles want to start fast and finish strong and win a big, big game on the road. Dallas is a different team playing from behind, as we saw at Lincoln Financial Field in November.
The bitter rivals have played each other 128 times, starting the series in 1960. Relive the greatest games and moments from one of the most historic battles in the NFL before the two square off on Sunday afternoon.