Aug 11, 2022; Englewood, CO, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Nahshon Wright (25) during training camp at the UCHealth Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys (10-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (13-1)
Game time: Saturday, 3:25 p.m. CST
TV/radio: FOX / SiriusXM 82 or 227, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande (Spanish)
What’s at stake: Not much more is at stake than simple bragging rights between the two teams after the Cowboys clinched a playoff berth last Sunday, but that should be more than enough to bring out the best from these NFC East rivals on Christmas Eve. While the Cowboys will have all their healthy players suited up and ready to go, the Eagles will be without quarterback Jalen Hurts after he hurt his throwing shoulder in last week’s win over Chicago. A Cowboys win locks them in as the NFC’s No. 5 seed with two games left in the regular season to prepare for the playoffs.
When the Cowboys have the ball: With nothing really at stake, the Cowboys need to spend their final three games cleaning up their offensive miscues. That starts with the play of quarterback Dak Prescott on Saturday against the Eagles. After missing the first game between the two this season, Prescott brings a 7-3 record against the Eagles into the game. Prescott will have to be sharp against the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense that has 15 interceptions this season to lead the league. The Cowboys need to lean on a running game that has produced over 150 yards rushing in six of the last seven games against a defense that has allowed over 100 yards to nine opponents this season, including 157 last week to the Bears.
When the Eagles have the ball: With quarterback Jalen Hurts already ruled out for Saturday, the Eagles turn to Gardner Minshew to run the show. Minshew and the Cowboys are familiar with each other after they faced off in the final regular-season game of the 2021-22 season. Minshew completed 19-of-33 passes for 186 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in that 51-26 Dallas win. Saturday, Minshew will have a better cast of teammates around him to be successful, led by wide receiver A.J. Brown and running back Miles Sanders. Brown had five catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Sanders added 71 yards rushing and a touchdown in the first meeting between the two teams this season.
Key Cowboys to watch:
CB Nahshon Wright – It looks to be Nahshon Wright time as the Cowboys continue to look for a solution at the starting cornerback spot opposite Trevon Diggs. Last week Wright took over for Kelvin Joseph, who started and got torched for two big touchdowns, and played 19 snaps, the most this season. He should get the first opportunity on Saturday but will have a short leash with recent signees Mackensie Alexander, Trayvon Mullen, and Kendall Sheffield waiting for their shot if he falters.
CB Kendall Sheffield – If Nahshon Wright falters, Sheffield should be the next man up trying to claim the starting corner spot opposite Diggs. Since losing Anthony Brown, the Cowboys have struggled to find a solution. Sheffield, whom the Cowboys signed off the street on Oct. 25, is very familiar with Dan Quinn’s defense after playing for the Dallas D-Coordinator while he was the head coach in Atlanta. Sheffield started 20 games over Quinn’s final two seasons with the Falcons.
LB Micah Parsons – Without middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch in the lineup on Saturday, the Cowboys will be forced to move Parsons back to linebacker in certain situations. In a season that has seen Parsons used more as a pass rusher, the Cowboys will be forced to move him around against the Eagles. He was used similarly in Dallas’ first meeting against Philadelphia, when he finished with seven tackles, including one for loss, and two passes defensed while playing mostly at linebacker.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence – It has been one of Lawrence’s quieter seasons, but the Cowboys’ defensive end has still recorded 54 total tackles. His biggest game of the season came in Week 6 against the Eagles, when he recorded a season-high eight tackles, one for loss while playing 44 snaps. Lawrence, who has six sacks this season, will need to repeat his performance on Christmas Eve for the Cowboys to keep the Eagles’ offense in check.
The bottom line: If the Cowboys are to be a threat to whomever they play in the playoffs, they need to show why on Saturday against a Philadelphia team that is lacking its MVP candidate at quarterback. With nothing on the line but a win, the Cowboys need to take this opportunity to find a solution for the second cornerback job with just a couple of weeks before opening the postseason on the road. With a second-straight loss, the voices of concern and displeasure will grow louder.