Xs and Os: Eagles Start Rebuilding Process Against Dallas on Sunday Night Football

Background/Storylines: Eagles (3-8) and Cowboys (5-6)

The Philadelphia Eagles have officially hit rock-bottom, ranking 16th out 16 teams in the NFC with an atrocious 3-8 mark. Without starters LeSean McCoy, Michael Vick, Jason Peters, Jason Kelce, and Todd Herremans, the Eagles’ losing streak has been extended to seven as several tenures start to wind down. Most prominent among them is head coach Andy Reid’s who’s successful 14-year run here in Philadelphia will end without winning a Super Bowl as the Eagles look to start getting ready for next year.

The Dallas Cowboys, who knocked out Michael Vick in a 38-23 win three weeks ago, have been extremely inconsistent all season, having one multiple games in a row only once all season. With a loss to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys fell into a tie for second in the division. Luckily for them, however, the New York Giants have been unable to string any wins together lately either so the distance between the top three teams is only two games.

Fantasy Watch: Bryce Brown (PHI) and Tony Romo (DAL)

The Dallas Cowboys’ two prized offseason additions, cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, haven’t been studs by any means, but they are good enough cover corners to dissuade opposing offenses from targeting them too much. That, of course, is why they have the third-least amount of passes thrown their way this season. Marty Mornhinweg is no different, and while Bryce Brown won’t be able to repeat his 189-yard performance from a week ago, he’ll certainly get enough touches to get 70-plus yards and a touchdown (or two). Brown is an above-average RB2 in mid- to deep-level leagues.

My projected stats for Brown: 73 yards, 1 touchdown (13.3 points)

Just look at these fantasy totals for opposing quarterbacks against the Eagles over the past two weeks: 37.4 (Cam Newton) and 32.4 (Robert Griffin III). Those guys are definitely better fantasy options because of their running ability, but Romo has the receivers and talent to go off against a defense that has all but given up. He’s a strong option in any league; in fact, I’d take him over anyone in the league except for maybe the top five or six QBs.

My projected stats for Romo: 272 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 INT, 8 yards rushing (23.66 points)

Key Matchup: Demetress Bell/King Dunlap vs Demarcus Ware

Whomever ends up starting at left tackle will have their hands full against one of the league’s elite pass rushers, Demarcus Ware. If the Eagles want to actually get a rhythm on offense, they need to give Marty Mornhinweg confidence in allowing rookie QB Nick Foles to drop back and take a shot downfield. Sure, running the ball well with Brown is a plus, but last week Foles only threw for 119 yards and took only one downfield shot. If the Eagles want to make up offensively for their poor defense, they’re going to need to start making more big plays through the air.

That all starts with pass protection, and whenever you go up against a guy like Ware, 1-on-1 matchups are key. Bell/Dunlap will have to improve his footwork and get upfield quicker than Ware on passing downs, making sure that he doesn’t just rush upfield and force Foles to step up into the oncoming pressure up the middle.

X-Factor: Kurt Coleman/Nate Allen (PHI) and Dez Bryant (DAL)

The Eagles have been bad as a team, but no position has been more hapless than safety. Remember Gary Barnidge running down the middle of the field wide open for a touchdown last week after a Nate Allen blown coverage? Remember Santana Moss wrestling the ball away from an overmatched Kurt Coleman two weeks ago? Those are just two of many examples when Eagles safeties have been overmatched in coverage, blown the coverage, or crucial easy open-field tackles. Sweeping changes can be expected next year at the position, but for now the young pair needs to step things up and stop making mistakes. Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie haven’t been superstars, but they’ve looked foolish at times because of a safety’s mistakes.

Dez Bryant had been looking more and more like a disappointment heading into Dallas’ Week 10 matchup with the Eagles, but then things changed when he beat several Eagles defenders for a long touchdown and ended with 87 yards and one touchdown. Over the past two weeks, he’s continued that incredible production with 290 yards and three touchdowns. If the Eagles aren’t able to contain him, it will open up things over the middle for Jason Witten and Miles Austin which would be too much to handle for Todd Bowles’ defense.

Prediction: Cowboys 28, Eagles 26

I like the Eagles’ offensive strategy last week: run, run, and run some more. Bryce Brown is clearly the backup of the future, and he can do almost as much damage as a healthy LeSean McCoy. I think their success running the ball will continue, but Foles’ inability to make plays coupled with Romo’s ability to make plays will continue the Eagles’ woes.


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Categories: Eagles, Editorial

Author:Manav Khandelwal

I am the founder of Khandyman Sports, and follow all Philadelphia pro sports teams religiously. I also write for the Hoop76, covering the Sixers for ESPN, and am a credentialed Flyers reporter for Main Line Media News.

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