The Philadelphia Eagles made the city sweat a little bit before earning their fifth consecutive win to start the season on Sunday against the Cardinals. This was by far their worst performance of the year, in my opinion, and they really did not look good at all in the second half. Nevertheless, the Eagles spent a huge chunk of the fourth quarter driving down the field to kick the go-ahead field goal inside the two-minute warning, and then a couple crucial errors from Kyler Murray forced Arizona to kick the field goal earlier than they would have liked to try to send the game to overtime. The Cardinals did not do as good of a job finding a backup kicker as the Eagles did, however, as Matt Amendola hooked his attempt way to the right to help the Eagles squeak out a win and move to 5-0.

While far from pretty, I actually think this game further validates the Eagles as legitimate contenders. This team has shown time and time again that they can overcome poor starts and late-game scares while simultaneously dealing with injuries to starting players. The ability to overcome these adverse moments is, in my view, what separates the good teams from the not-as-good ones. The Eagles just find a way every week, and that to me represents a team that is going to be a really tough out in the playoffs.

With that being said, the Eagles probably need to play better if they want to win on Sunday night, and it is a big one to say the least, as the 4-1 Cowboys go to Philadelphia for the right to be considered the favorites in the division. Many (self-included) thought that Dallas was toast after Dak Prescott broke his hand during a Week 1 game where the Cowboys offense looked pathetic. However, backup quarterback Cooper Rush has gone 4-0 in his starts, and it is very clear that the Eagles are not going to be able to wrap up the division early. Rush certainly has not been spectacular, but he is playing smart, solid, mistake-free football and Dallas’s defense has performed at an extremely high level. Is a game manager getting carried by a strong defense enough to win a Super Bowl? Probably not, but it is exactly what you need to buy time while Prescott continues to make a full recovery.

Offensively, as previously stated, the Rush-led Cowboys have been far from dynamic, but he has yet to turn the ball over or put the defense in a difficult spot. Ezekiel Elliott is a shell of his 2016 self, but Tony Pollard has become a legitimate explosive playmaker and is someone the Eagles have to account for. In the passing game, Michael Gallup is a very solid player back from his January torn ACL, and CeeDee Lamb is an uber-talented playmaker who lines up all over the field and can win at all three levels. The offensive line is a far cry from what it was five years ago, so Jonathan Gannon needs to figure out a way to make Cooper Rush uncomfortable and not let the aforementioned skill players find open space. The defensive line needs to have a great game.

Defensively, the Cowboys are very strong, especially their pass-rush. Dallas is second in the NFL with 20 sacks, and for the first time in seemingly forever they appear to be incredibly deep at pass-rusher, as they already have four players with multiple sacks. This group is of course led by 2021 first-round pick Micah Parsons, who has very quickly become one of the best defensive players in the NFL. Parsons is an outrageous athlete who had 13 sacks in his rookie year and already has 6 in just five games so far this year. He is just too explosive for most offensive tackles to be able to handle, and while he might be playing through an injury this week, he is still going to be an extremely tough assignment for Jordan Mailata (who is also injured) or Jack Driscoll. If Mailata can not play, they are going to need to give Driscoll help on obvious passing downs. The Cowboys also have Trevon Diggs in the secondary, who is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL as someone who generates a lot of turnovers while also surrendering numerous big plays due to his extreme and often reckless aggressiveness in coverage. I personally am not the biggest fan of his playstyle, but Jalen Hurts still needs to exercise at least some caution when throwing in his direction, as he more than anyone will make you pay for putting the ball in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This will not be the easy game I thought it would be four weeks ago, as the Cowboys have been resilient despite their dismal season opener and injury to their starting quarterback. However, this Eagles roster is just more talented than Dallas’s, they have a better coaching staff, and to say that Lincoln Financial Field will be amped up for this game is probably a severe understatement. If Cooper Rush can go into this environment and win a game of this magnitude on national television, then he is the real deal, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

Prediction: Eagles win 24-19, but do not cover the spread.

 

 

Photo: Kevin Jairaj/USA Today Sports

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