Week 17 Tale of the Tape: Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles
- QuarterbackThe Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 16 by the Seattle Seahawks, and that’s a huge disappointment after coming into the season as favorites to win the NFC East and potentially represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Dak Prescott is a solid quarterback, but he has struggled more in 2017 with 21 TDs and 13 interceptions than he did last year.The Eagles were rolling along and looked like the best team in the NFL until quarterback Carson Wentz went down with an ACL injury in Week 14 against the Rams. The Eagles may still be the best team in the league, but it’s up to Nick Foles to keep the machine rolling for head coach Doug Pederson. Foles is an accurate passer who reads defenses well, but he struggled in Week 16 against the Oakland Raiders.
- OffenseThe Cowboys went into their Week 16 game against the Seahawks with plenty of confidence because running back Ezekiel Elliott returned from his suspension and the team was still in contention. However, the Cowboys could not come through. Elliott has the talent to pierce any defense, while wideout Dez Bryant is a big playmaker. Tight end Jason Witten will catch nearly anything he can touch.The Eagles have been a successful offensive team largely because of their diversity that have allowed them to get the job done on the ground as well as through the air. LeGarrette Blount is one of the best power backs in the league, while Jay Ajayi has the speed to break long plays. Wideout Alshon Jeffery will win the battle on the 50-50 ball and Nelson Agholor is one of the NFL’s most improved players.
- DefenseThe Cowboys have solid personnel on defense and they are at their best when middle linebacker Sean Lee is in the lineup. Lee missed five games due to injuries, but he still leads the team with 94 stops and he excels at directing the defense. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence has been a major force with 14.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.The Eagles’ success this season is largely based on the play of the defense. Even though this team does not have an assortment of superstars, the defense has played cohesively. Outside linebacker Nigel Bradham has a team-high 80 tackles and eight passes defensed, while defensive end Brandon Graham has 9.5 sacks and has shown he can get to the quarterback at the most important moments.
- Special TeamsThe Cowboys have improved on special teams as the season has progressed, and much of that is due to the return ability of Ryan Switzer. He has demonstrated the quickness to break long returns and the Cowboys do an excellent job in coverage. Placekicker Dan Bailey has had an injury-plagued season.The Eagles have done a decent job on special team, but they don’t seem likely to break a long return on punts or kickoffs. PK Jake Elliott has been a major find, and he has been exceptional on long FG attempts, making 5-of-6 from 50 yards and beyond.
The Eagles don’t have much motivation after clinching home field advantage in Week 16. However, the Cowboys have been eliminated and have nothing to play for. Look for Philadelphia to beat their hated rival rather easily.