American Football

5 things to watch when the Cowboys host the Eagles on Christmas Eve


NFL: Dallas Cowboys at New Orleans Saints
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Santa Claus is coming to town, but so are those bad boys from Philly!

It’s the matchup we’ve been waiting all year for, the Dallas Cowboys against the Philadelphia Eagles. At least, that was the case before last Sunday happened. An upset loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars has put the Cowboys three games behind the Eagles, meaning a Cowboys win-out/Eagles lose-out would be needed for Dallas to win the NFC East. And to make it even less juicy, the Eagles will be without their star quarterback Jalen Hurts. So much for a measuring stick game for the Cowboys.

Some of the excitement may have been removed from this game, but there are still plenty of things to keep an eye on when these two teams meet on Christmas Eve, including the following five.

1. Santa’s Jalen’s little helpers

The Eagles’ third-year quarterback, Jalen Hurts has been in the MVP conversation for most of the year, but he won’t play in this one as he is dealing with a shoulder injury. There has been some discussion about whether Hurts is “the” reason why the Eagles are having so much success or if he’s just part of a great system that features a great team around him.

The Eagles’ offense scores the most touchdowns per game (3.8) and has the highest red zone scoring percentage in the league (73%). With backup Gardner Minshew behind center, just how much different will this offense look? If Philly brings the fight to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium with their supposed MVP-like star missing, that won’t exactly inspire confidence going forward.

2. Feliz Navi-Dak!

Dak Prescott is having a weird year as he’s not playing badly, but statistically, his numbers are one of the worst of his career. His yards per game are lower, his interception percentage is higher, and his passer rating is second-worst to only his 2017 season when people labeled him a bus driver.

Prescott has thrown seven interceptions over his last four games, a stretch he’s never had before in his career. Mike McCarthy has gone on record saying he wants Dak to let it rip and make the throws he is making as many of the picks aren’t related to a poor decision from the quarterback. The question becomes, how long do they keep firing away, or do they ever take a more cautious approach?

The Cowboys lost to the Eagles in the first meeting largely due to Cooper Rush’s three interceptions. Having Prescott back makes the team better without question, but turnovers, regardless of whose fault it is, will make it difficult for the Cowboys to win football games.

3. Rockin around the Christmas D

The Cowboys’ defense started off red hot averaging 14.8 points a game over their first six games of the year. They have since cooled off, allowing their opponents to score 22.7 points per game. That’s over a touchdown more per game. The defense is coming off one of their worst games of the year, surrendering their first 500 yards performance and allowing a season-high 34 points. Former BTB writer Michael Strawn has been tracking the Cowboys’ defense and the results aren’t favorable.

The Cowboys need to get their defense back to playing at a high level. They are a little banged up as starters Anthony Brown, Leighton Vander Esch, and Johnathan Hankins are out with injuries, but they need their replacements to step up. If they struggle yet again while playing against the Eagles’ backup quarterback, that’s going to make Cowboys Nation feel a little unnerved as we approach the playoffs.

4. Reddick the red-nose edge rusher

We all know about Micah Parsons’ “is it Hurts or the system” question to Von Miller that seemed to stir everyone up, but he’s not the only outside linebacker to publicly say something directed at his division rival. Free agent acquisition Haason Reddick wasted no time embracing the villain role for Cowboys fans when he had this to say on Twitter back in May:

Reddick may have talked the talk, but he’s been walking the walk since joining the Eagles. A former first-round pick from Arizona, the Cardinals didn’t exercise his fifth-year option and he ended up signing a one-year deal with Carolina last season. The Eagles signed him to a three-year, $45 million deal this offseason and he hasn’t disappointed. Reddick already has 12 sacks this season and just earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He’s a big reason why Philadelphia is no. 1 in the league with a 10.7% sack rate. He’ll get a chance to attack Tyron Smith and possibly former Eagles’ tackle, Jason Peters.

5. Save some presents for later

I’ve always been raised that Christmas Day is when the presents are revealed with the lone exception of being able to open one gift on Christmas Eve. That all changed when my Christmases started including a wife and children that lack any ability to wait until that special day. That typically means everyone goes ballistic on Christmas Eve in my household. Oh well.

With this game no longer expected to have divisional champ implications, one has to wonder just how much each team will be willing to show each other. Will a team wave the white flag a little earlier in this game if they sense a win is not coming for them? Will team’s opt in favor of playing backups sooner to preserve their health? Or, will this be some type of statement game that could end up rather lopsided? It’s tough to say how this one will go down as there are so many factors in play, but don’t be surprised if a team taps out earlier and saves some of the good stuff for a possible January rematch.

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