Cowboys Countdown to Eagles

The Cowboys are taking on the Eagles for the last time of the season but the first time in 2017. As Dallas tries to escape Lincoln Financial Field healthy and in tact for the playoffs, here are some key stats to keep an eye on.

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10: The number of rushing touchdowns the Eagles defense has surrendered -- Philadelphia's defense coordinated by Jim Schwartz has been stingy when it comes to scoring by land with just 10 touchdowns surrendered, tied for the seventh-fewest in the NFL. The Cowboys offense has tallied 24 rushing touchdowns, the second-most in the league, which has largely been due to rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott combining for 21 scores. As the Cowboys have their sights on the divisional playoffs and don't want their youngsters to get unnecessarily injured, Prescott and Elliott won't be as available. The only other players to score rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys have been Alfred Morris with two and Lance Dunbar with one. With Morris demoted in favor of Darren McFadden, the 29-year-old running back will have to carry the Dallas run game.


9: The Eagles' rank in most takeaways -- Philadelphia is tied with Green Bay and Denver for the ninth-most takeaways in the NFL with 24, which is fascinating since the former is in a fight for their playoff lives and the other eliminated altogether. Nonetheless, Schwartz wants to show his defense was just a victim of a bad record, not that they themselves are a bad team. After a two-game drought without a takeaway, the Eagles have forced eight in the past four games. Whoever is under center for Prescott or carrying the ball in lieu of Elliott needs to protective of the football and not let the Eagles feast on turnovers.


8: Number of rushing touchdowns Ryan Mathews has -- The seventh-year pro out of Fresno State has eight rushing touchdowns on the season, which are good for 10th-most in the NFL. However, he was placed on injured reserve the night the Cowboys defeated the Lions 42-21 in the season finale of Monday Night Football. The Eagles will need to come up with some rushing offense somewhere, though it may not matter much given the Cowboys defense only surrenders 81.5 rushing yards per game and the seventh-fewest at 3.9 yards a carry. Rookie running back Wendell Smallwood and the 12-year veteran Darren Sproles will have a tough row to hoe.



7: The Cowboys offense's rank for most false starts -- Dallas has committed 14 false starts through 16 games, which ties them with Carolina for the seventh-most in the NFL. Factor in that starting left tackle Tyron Smith will be sidelined due to a variety of injuries ranging from his knee to his back and that Lincoln Financial Field has the 10th-most opponent false starts, and it could be a first-and-15 type of day for the Cowboys offense. Even the Dallas first-team offense has had trouble overcoming setbacks by penalty throughout December. So, the Cowboys second-team offense needs to be careful or else they will suffer the same fate.


6: Number of wins Tony Romo has at Lincoln Financial Field -- With a 6-2 record, this winning percentage is the best by an opposing quarterback in the history of Lincoln Financial Field with a minimum of three games. The wins alone tie Eli Manning for the most in that venue. In other words, Romo is never more at home than he is at Lincoln Financial Field. With rumors of Romo returning for his ostensible last under center action as a Dallas Cowboy, don't discount the 36-year-old Pro Bowler who has a 90.5 passer rating in the stadium. On average, Romo completes 21 passes on 33 attempts for 250 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and gets sacked three times.


5: Number of interceptions Carson Wentz has thrown on third down -- The second overall pick out of South Dakota State may have a promising future, but his present is that of a swashbuckling passer who doesn't know how to live for another drive. Five of his 14 interceptions, the seventh-most in the league, have come on third down. When a fire drill breaks out and Wentz is scrambling around, Cowboys defensive backs need to be in position to get another turnover from the rookie as they welcome him to the NFL, even as late as Week 17.


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4: The Cowboys' rank in both scoring offense and scoring defense -- The Dallas offense posting 27.2 points per game and ranking fourth in the NFL isn't too surprising given how dynamic the offense is and its abundance of Pro Bowlers. But the Cowboys defense surrendering just 18.6 points per game has been startling given that not one defensive player was voted to the Pro Bowl and Scout Twitter has panned the Cowboys defense going back to January 4, 2016. Consider that the Eagles offense is 17th in the NFL at 22.7 points per game and 12th on defense at 21.2 points per game. If the Cowboys can pull the Eagles offense down to the Dallas defensive average, even if the Cowboys offense gets pulled down to the Eagles defensive average, Dallas should be able to get to win 14, the most in Dallas single-season history.


3: The Philadelphia defense's red zone conversion rate -- Opponents facing off the Eagles in the red zone have only been able to get a touchdown out of the trip 44.9 percent of the time, which is the third-lowest in the NFL. Granted that the Cowboys will more than likely play their backups against the Eagles first-team defense, we can toss out Dallas offense's 67.3 percent conversion rate, which is the second-best in the NFL. When the Cowboys offense is Eagles territory inside the 20-yard line, they need to make the most of the trips and get touchdowns.


2: Number of pick-sixes Malcolm Jenkins has -- The eight-year veteran out of Ohio State has picked off two passes and returned them for touchdowns, a career high, which ties him with three other players for the most in the NFL this season. Jenkins was able to pick off Washington's Kirk Cousins on Oct. 16, and and New York's Eli Manning last week for his two scores of the year. While Prescott threw an interception on Oct. 30 versus Philadelphia, his interception was nabbed by linebacker Jordan Hicks and not returned very far. Whoever fills in for Prescott in Philadelphia needs to be mindful of where #27 is and not take needless gambles.


1: Number of games until the playoffs -- The Cowboys have something to play for. The Eagles don't. While Dallas may preach wanting to play to the integrity of the game, they won't do so if it costs them the ability to protect AT&T Stadium in the divisional playoffs and beyond. While Cowboys fans would relish a sweep of the Eagles, they need to consider they have swept the Eagles 18 times already in series history compared to 14 conference championship game appearances. Which matters more in January?

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