Eagles at Cowboys: Our (cough) expert predictions

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Eagles at Cowboys: Our (cough) expert predictions

The Eagles, fresh off the bye week, clash with the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football at AT&T Stadium for a big NFC East showdown.

A win for the Eagles would put them back at .500 while handing Dallas its sixth straight loss. Will it happen?

Our experts offer their predictions:

Derrick Gunn (2-5)
The Eagles, coming out of the bye week, hope they play a lot better than they did prior to it. Both the Eagles and Cowboys are desperate for a win.

For the most part, the Eagles will be healthy going into this matchup, but Jason Peters (back) is out and DeMeco Ryans (hamstring) is questionable. Peters' absence is huge because Lane Johnson slides over to left tackle to face the Cowboys' Greg Hardy.

Dallas doesn't have much of a run game and the Eagles' defense has been pretty good against the run all season.

Sam Bradford has to get it going in a hurry, while Cowboys replacement QB Matt Cassel has been inconsistent at best in two starts.

Look for the Eagles to struggle but in the end survive in this divisional grudge match

Eagles 20, Cowboys 10

Ray Didinger (2-5)
The Dallas coaches spent this week watching the film of Carolina's smash mouth running game beating up on the Eagles to the tune of 204 yards. No doubt the Cowboys drew up the game plan for Sunday's showdown borrowing heavily on the Panthers' approach. With Matt Cassel (58.5 passer rating) at quarterback, the Cowboys would much prefer running the ball to passing it so that's what they will try to do. It is up to the Eagles' defense to stop it.

The Eagles missed DeMeco Ryans in Carolina and they will miss him again if he can't go Sunday, but the Cowboys are short on weapons. Dez Bryant is still limited by his foot injury and Darren McFadden came back down to earth last week (20 carries, 64 yards). Not much scoring in this one but I expect the Eagles to win ugly.

Eagles 20, Cowboys 14

John Gonzalez (4-3)
When last we saw the Cowboys, they were busy beating the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Much has happened since then. The Cowboys have lost every game they’ve played after upending the Eagles. That’s five in a row if you’re counting at home (and even if you’re not). After Tony Romo went down, Jerry Jones said Brandon Weeden would be a capable backup. Jerry Jones was wrong. Jerry Jones insisted Joseph Randle would help the running game take some of the pressure off the passing game. Jerry Jones was wrong. Jerry Jones also called Greg Hardy a leader. Oh boy was Jerry Jones wrong about that one. Jerry Jones is wrong a lot.

The Eagles are kind of a mess right now, but the Cowboys are much worse off. This is a default pick.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Corey Seidman (3-4)
There are many reasons I think the Eagles could or should win this game, but I just don't see this patchwork offensive line being able to contain Greg Hardy and the Cowboys' pass rush. Dallas has an underratedly solid defense, and unless the Eagles' receivers finally show an ability to consistently get open, Sam Bradford won't have the time in the pocket to find them.

Maybe the offense breaks through and makes major strides coming out of the bye. But through seven games the Eagles' offense has looked dangerous only once, really, against the Saints.

Cowboys 20, Eagles 16

Andrew Kulp (3-4)
The Cowboys are losers of five straight and recently turned to Matt Cassel to keep their season afloat. So far, no good. When Cassel's first or second read isn't there, he tends to flee a perfectly good pocket and run. I can't imagine the Eagles' front seven allowing that. It should harass the Dallas quarterback into plenty of sacks and maybe a few giveaways — after all, this is the most opportunistic defense in the NFL.

Meanwhile, it's on Sam Bradford to protect the football and mount one or two long drives against a tougher-than-advertised Cowboys defense. As long as the signal-caller isn't turning the ball over and the offense isn't constantly three-and-out, the Eagles' defense should put the team in some quality scoring positions. I see it being a bit of a field-position battle, with the Birds eventually coming out on top.

Eagles 23, Cowboys 16

Andy Schwartz (4-3)
Both teams have good defenses and suspect offenses. OK, right now, sans Tony Romo, the Cowboys' offense isn't just suspect; it's bad.

The Eagles are coming off a bye week and are motivated to make amends for the Week 2 debacle against Dallas at the Linc.

The defense will create a turnover or three, the receivers will actually catch a few passes, DeMarco Murray will score at least one TD against his former club, and the Birds will leave the monstrosity that is AT&T Stadium with a victory.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 20

Dave Zangaro (3-0)
The Cowboys are on their third quarterback this season. They're having blow-ups on the sideline. They just cut their opening-day starter at running back.

The Eagles better win this game. If they can't win this game, it says a lot more about them than it does the Cowboys.

I expect the defense to shut down Matt Cassel, a hobbled Dez Bryant and the rest of the Cowboys' offense. The Eagles' offense can't possibly be any worse than it was against the Cowboys in the first meeting between the two teams, even with Greg Hardy's being back.

Eagles 33, Cowboys 23

Doug Pederson won't commit, leaning towards activating Nelson Agholor

Doug Pederson won't commit, leaning towards activating Nelson Agholor

For whatever reason, Doug Pederson refused to commit to it on Friday morning, but it certainly seems like Nelson Agholor is going to be active this Sunday. 

When asked about Agholor, Pederson cited Jordan Matthews’ ankle injury -- Matthews is questionable heading into the game – as a reason he’s “keeping [Agholor] in the mix.”

Does “in the mix” mean active? 

“Yeah, there’s a good chance,” Pederson said. “I have to find out how Jordan does today and see really. Just getting on Nelson, his mind has been great, his attitude has been really good, he’s been working really hard. So right now, nothing says not keeping him up, keeping him out. Everything is leaning toward keeping him active.”

Agholor was a healthy scratch against the Packers on Monday Night Football after a dreadful performance against Seattle, after which he admitted he was in his own head. All last week, Pederson said it was a possibility he’d keep Agholor down and then he did. Agholor watched from the sideline as the Eagles lost 27-13.  

When pressed on Friday about his failure to commit to playing Agholor, Pederson said he didn’t want to rush into anything, because something unexpected could come up. 

“If I can wait until the last second, I’m going to wait until the last second and just see,” he said.  

On the last question of Friday’s press conference, Pederson seemed to possibly tip his hand. He was asked if there are things he can do as a play-caller, if Agholor plays, to build his confidence, perhaps getting him the ball early in the game. 

“Yeah, there’s always way to do that, obviously, play call, play design, specifically to get him going in the game, could help,” Pederson said. “Get him the ball early. It might just be a screen, just getting him the ball quick, let him get settled into the game. Those are all things I consider, especially putting the openers together, the first 15 (plays), let’s say, focusing on certain guys, wanting to get them touches early. And he’s definitely one of those guys.”

The Eagles have elected to keep just four receivers active on game days all season, while some other teams keep five up. Pederson said the reason for that is special teams. Instead of having a fifth receiver, the Eagles keep up core special teams players like reserve safety Terrence Brooks or reserve corner C.J. Smith. 

With Matthews’ injury and with Agholor’s situation, Pederson might have to consider activating five for the first time this season on Sunday. 

“That’s something, obviously, I have to consider,” Pederson said. “It really depends on today and how well Jordan comes out of today. And see where he’s at. Again, it’s a short week and getting back out there yesterday, (Thursday) was, I don’t want to say it hurt him, it was good to put him out there. The decision could come from how well he does or doesn’t come out of today.”

Eagles Injury Update: Ryan Mathews out; Jordan Matthews questionable

Eagles Injury Update: Ryan Mathews out; Jordan Matthews questionable

Running back Ryan Mathews (knee) and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati, while Jordan Matthews (ankle) is questionable. 

Mathews and Vaitai will both miss their second consecutive weeks after suffering MCL sprains against Seattle. Vaitai’s was immediately considered more serious, but Mathews isn’t back yet either. 

“He’s doing better,” head coach Doug Pederson said about Mathews. “He was actually able to do more running and more change of direction stuff, but we’re going to keep him out of this football game obviously on a short week.”

Meanwhile, Jordan Matthews missed practice on Wednesday before returning on Thursday in limited fashion. Matthews was visibly struggling with some ankle discomfort during the open portion of practice. He was not on the field at the start of practice on Friday.

“Jordan’s doing good,” Pederson said. “He got a little sore yesterday. We kept him on a limited basis yesterday and we’ll try to get more out of him today and see where he’s at. We’ll be outside, so he’ll get a chance on the grass.” 

Matthews hurt his ankle against the Packers on Monday night. X-rays came back negative, but his attempt to return to the game was unsuccessful. When he left the game, the Eagles were down to just three receivers – Dorial Green-Beckham, Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner. 

With Matthews’ injury, will Pederson think about keeping five receivers active -- which would include Nelson Agholor -- for the first time this season? 

“That’s something, obviously, I have to consider,” he said. “It really depends on today and how well Jordan comes out of today. And see where he’s at. Again, it’s a short week and getting back out there yesterday, (Thursday) was, I don’t want to say it hurt him, it was good to put him out there. The decision could come from how well he does or doesn’t come out of today.”