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Spadaro: 6 storylines that will help determine Cowboys-Eagles

Haason Reddick
Haason Reddick

This is a beauty, the 7-1 Eagles playing the 5-2 Dallas Cowboys with both teams vying for the top of the NFC and both teams playing good football. It is a game of matchups and matchups within matchups and a rivalry that is second to none in the NFL renewed on a beautiful fall afternoon and evening at Lincoln Financial Field.

Here are some storylines to follow in a game that could go a long way toward determining how things play out in the conference postseason picture ...

1. How to get Dak Prescott off his game

In the Cowboys' five wins, quarterback Dak Prescott has 8 touchdown passes and only one interception. In their two losses, Prescott has thrown four interceptions and just two touchdowns. He is excellent when able to get outside the pocket and throw on the run and Prescott understands what he's seeing from defenses.

So, what do the Eagles do to take him out of his rhythm? Philadelphia doesn't blitz a whole lot, but it has been effective when called. The risk is giving up big plays down the field, so it's a calculated call that Defensive Coordinator Sean Desai will have to make. This much is clear, though: The Eagles cannot allow Prescott to have a comfortable pocket. They have to hurry him into mistakes and take the Dallas offense out of its game.

2. Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Co. are here to make life miserable for Jalen Hurts

Micah Parsons against the Eagles: 3 games, 0.5 quarterback sacks, 8 tackles, 2 tackles for loss

DeMarcus Lawrence against the Eagles: 16 games, 3 quarterback sacks, 10 quarterback hits, 10 tackles for loss

The Eagles have done a pretty good job against both of these outstanding defensive players, so whatever they have done in the past, they need to do again on Sunday. Dallas has an aggressive, take-the-ball away defense and the Eagles can't let Parsons and Lawrence play all game in the backfield.

It's Cowboys-Eagles in South Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon. Before this nationally televised showdown between the bitter NFC East rivals, the Eagles made sure to put the work in with the goal of going 1-0 this week. Take a look at some of the best shots from the NovaCare Complex.

3. Special teams are a huge part of this game

It has been discussed this week just how good Dallas is on special teams and it is very much going to be a focus on Sunday night. Pay attention to the hidden yardage, the swing in field position, the wins and losses in the kicking game. The weather forecast is for a nice night and so that shouldn't be a huge factor.

This comes down to two good special teams battling it out and it could very well determine the game.

4. What is the plan for WR CeeDee Lamb?

As hot as A.J. Brown is for the Eagles, and there is nobody on more of a tear, Cowboys receiver CeeDee Lamb is really productive. Two games ago he had 7 receptions for 112 yards in a win over the Chargers and then on Sunday he destroyed the Rams with 12 catches, 158 yards, and a pair of scores.

The Eagles know all about Lamb, who caught 10 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets last December in the Dallas win. He moves around the formation, but is absolutely lethal from the slot. Lamb has the whole package and the Eagles need to find a way to slow him down.

5. The chess match of adjustments

Starting fast is always important and the Eagles have done it well this year except in the two games against Washington. Dallas has struggled in the two losses when it has fallen behind and the Eagles want to make that the situation on Sunday. But it's going to be a back-and-forth affair and the team that adjusts the best and that can stop the bleeding or attack a weakness is going to have a major advantage.

Just getting a stop or two at key moments in this game could make the difference. The minutes before and after the half are so critical. The final quarter of the game, of course, means everything.

Not a whole lot of people consider the coaching decisions and adjustments that win games. Nick Sirianni and his staff are excellent and that is one of the reasons the Eagles have had so much success. This is a big test on Sunday.

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.

6. Statistics that mean something

As if you need to be reminded ... turnovers and red zone play are so darn critical. The Eagles are an uncharacteristic -3 in the giveaway/takeaway department and Dallas is a +6. Huge. The Eagles overcame a fumble in the red zone against Miami and two inside the 5-yard line against Washington to win both games.

There is always an emphasis on ball security and against a team like Dallas that is so proficient in taking the football away, it is even more critical.

Both teams are statistically equal matches in the red zone and both have been in these big moments. This is the kind of game where the slimmest of margins will make a difference.

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