The Eagles (13-1) are on the road to face the Cowboys (10-4) in a Christmas Eve showdown in North Texas.
To the predictions:
Reuben Frank (12-2)
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This is such a fascinating game. Can’t wait till 4:25 p.m. Saturday. Mathematically, it’s not even that important for the Eagles. If they win, they lock up the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoff bracket. If they lose, their chances of securing the top seed go from 97 percent to 96 percent, according to the 538. But whatever the numbers say, it’s the Cowboys. And it’s Christmas Eve. And the Eagles haven’t swept the Cowboys since 2011. And I’m sure that 51-26 Cowboys win over the Eagles’ backups last January didn’t sit real well with a few people in the organization. The Eagles are going to be the top seed one way or another, but they would love to lock it up this weekend and rest as many people as they can against the Saints and Giants. While the Eagles have been rolling along – five straight wins since their only loss – the Cowboys barely beat the one-win Texans two weeks ago and then blew a 17-point lead in Jacksonville last weekend. I keep coming back to this: Jalen Hurts is a great quarterback, and the Eagles will miss him, but to me it’s about the team, and the Eagles have a better team, a better organization, a better culture than the Cowboys. It’s why the Eagles have won 14 playoff games since the mid-1990s and the Cowboys have won three and haven’t gotten to an NFC Championship Game since the days of Emmitt, Troy and Michael. The Cowboys are definitely talented on both sides of the ball. But if it’s Star Power vs. Dawg Mentality, I’m going with Dawg Mentality every time.
Eagles 26, Cowboys 23
Dave Zangaro (12-2)
This game is obviously harder without Jalen Hurts. No doubt about it. But it’s still a very winnable game against a Cowboys team that has been hit pretty hard by injuries this season. Maybe I’m crazy or maybe I’ve been too close to a really good team all season, but I think the Eagles can and will win this game. Now, that won’t be easy.
The fear is that Dak Prescott has a really good game and the Eagles aren’t able to force him into turning the football over. If that happens, then the Cowboys might be able to march down the field against the Eagles. But there’s no reason to think the Eagles offense won’t be able to work with Gardner Minshew at quarterback, especially with the return Dallas Goedert, who had 105 yards and 2 touchdowns in Minshew’s start against the Jets last year. It’ll be close, it’ll be a nail-biter, it might come down to the final possession. But I think the Eagles wrap up the NFC East and the No. 1 seed on Christmas Eve.
Eagles 26, Cowboys 23
Barrett Brooks (12-2)
It's Dallas Week, baby! This is the most heated rivalry I experienced throughout my 12-year NFL career. I literally have a deep dislike (Mom said never hate) for the Cowboys’ star!
This game is set up on a platter for Gardner Minshew to have a great game. He is playing with house money. The expectation is that he is a backup QB that is playing against the 3rd best pass rush in the league. OC Shane Steichen will have to call an entirely different offense than he is used to calling. I think that puts all the pressure on Dallas' defense. The Bird's O-line will dominate the line of scrimmage. Minshew will throw the ball constantly and hand off to Pro-Bowl RB Miles Sanders all night.
Defensively, the Birds will have to stop the run. Cowboys’ RBs Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott are definitely a good tandem. They both set up Dak Prescott well, to run play action very effectively. I believe the Eagles’ run defense has gotten immensely better in stopping the run with the addition of DL Linval Joseph and DL Ndamukong Suh.
This game is what football players live for! A chance to beat your division rival and lock up the No. 1 stop in the conference!
Eagles 32, Cowboys 20
Mike Mulhern (13-1)
I count five teams Gardner Minshew would be the starter for and a handful of others, who if they were being honest with themselves, should prefer the ‘stache to their current situations. He won 7 games with a poor Jaguars team in 2019 and has posted remarkably good career numbers (41 TD, 12 INT, 93.9 rating). Last year in his start against the Jets he led 8 drives, 7 of which ended up in points. He put up 26 points on the Cowboys starters in week 18 despite playing alongside all backups. Suffice it to say, he’s been more than capable with far lesser supporting casts. And while Jalen Hurts has played like an MVP this season, I don’t expect the offense as a whole to drop off much.
The Birds haven’t won in Dallas since 2017. And just like that season, the rest of the Eagles will be out to prove it’s not just about the quarterback.
Eagles 27, Cowboys 23
Adam Hermann (13-1)
For the first time this season, I’m picking against the Eagles. And it’s not their fault.
I think they’re probably the most well-rounded team in the league, so an Eagles win on Christmas Eve against the Cowboys wouldn’t completely shock me. Lane Johnson can stifle Micah Parsons, Darius Slay can successfully battle with CeeDee Lamb, and the Eagles’ elite WR corps against Trevon Diggs & Co. is a winning matchup for the Birds.
However… the drop-off from Jalen Hurts to Gardner Minshew is severe. Minshew is a perfect backup QB, capable of winning a game in a pinch and expertly mistake-adverse. But I think anyone who questioned Hurts’ value is going to learn in real time this weekend how crucial he is to the offense.
Between Hurts’ big-play arm and his dynamic rushing ability, he’s been the engine driving the NFL’s best offense all year long. Nick Sirianni will likely lean more on Miles Sanders than he did last week, but even the run game benefits from Hurts’ talents. Minshew simply isn’t Hurts.
The return of Dallas Goedert is almost enough for me to believe that Minshew can pull off the upset. Goedert is simultaneously a perfect safety valve and a sneaky playmaker, and with the receiving trio of Brown, Smith, and Goedert you have to like the chances of a Minshew-led offense to move the ball up and down the field.
But it will likely have to be methodical than explosive, which leaves you open to more opportunities for something to go wrong.
The Eagles’ best shot is to force Dak Prescott into bad turnovers (he has 7 INTs in his last four games) while minimizing their own mistakes. It’s not a bad formula, and one I think this team is capable of executing.
I think it will be a close game, but ultimately the Cowboys will have the better QB on Saturday and that’s often the difference in the NFL.
Cowboys 27, Eagles 24
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