Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
Monday November 20th, 01:30 GMT
TV - Live on Sky Sports Main Event
Cowboys in for a rough ride
The Cowboys were humbled last week by the Falcons. Ezekiel Elliott was suspended, and Dak Prescott was beaten up as his line failed to protect him without left tackle Tyron Smith. Dallas lost their most important defensive player, linebacker Sean Lee, to a hamstring injury, and Atlanta thrashed them in the second half because of it.
Smith's absence was expected, but the impact of it was not, least of all by the Dallas coaching staff judging by how little they did to help his replacement Chaz Green. Dallas had a week to prepare without Smith, an All-Pro offensive linesman, for Atlanta's average pass-rush and Green was still the definition of a turnstile throughout the game.
Troy Aikman, not known for his outspoken commentary, described Green's play as "about as bad as I've seen anyone get beat in a football game in all my years." Ouch.
Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn learned what it felt like to be Reggie White for a day, and he should thank Dallas coach Jason Garrett for any bonuses that accrued from his six sack performance.
Green's difficulties earlier in the season saw him dropped to the bench, and that the Cowboys did not make any allowance for the downgrade at left tackle going into Atlanta is staggering. Some adjustments were made at half-time, but Green needed more help than he got, and he needed it from the start of the game.
Now, without Elliott until Week 16, and likely without Smith and Lee for at least this week, almost everything to like about this team has disappeared. With Lee missing, the worry is they can't stop opponents scoring, and without Smith, they won't be able to retaliate based on last week's performance.
Even their kicker Dan Bailey is injured. Everything seems to have gone wrong for the Cowboys since Week Nine.
Ajayi can lift Eagles higher
By contrast, everything is falling perfectly for the Eagles. Carson Wentz looks like a veteran in only his second season, Alshon Jeffrey has given their receiving game greater depth, LeGarette Blount has made their running game tougher, and their defence is shutting down opponents. Their latest addition is possibly the most threatening of all.
Jay Ajayi, traded from the Dolphins just before the deadline, impressed on debut in limited action. Rushing just eight times, he picked up 77 yards and a touchdown against the Broncos before the bye. Miami allowed him to leave due to "locker room concerns" and, more specifically, doubts about the long-term health of his knee.
For now, Ajayi looks a great addition if his health holds up. After more time to work with his new teammates, he can only improve what was already a strong run game in Philly. His addition poses more questions for defences facing the elusive Carson Wentz at QB and his array of dangerous targets.
Green and mean Philly defence
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles can exploit the difficulties the Cowboys suffered through last week.
Philadelphia have given up only one 100-yard rushing performance this season, to the Chiefs in Week 2. The state of the Cowboy running game is unknown given the key players they're without and the limited amount of running last week because of the game situation.
Alfred Morris did average 4.8 yards against Atlanta on his limited touches, Dak also ran - because he had to - for yards, and even Rod Smith looked good. However, the Eagles line presents a much tougher prospect than Atlanta.
If Dallas couldn't protect Prescott against the Falcons, you begin to wonder what harm they could do to the young quarterback if last week's problems persist. Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, Fletcher Cox and impressive rookie Derek Barnett can shut down the run and, if Dallas cannot run the ball, it could be open season on Prescott.
Tyron Smith's game status is still up in the air, but the likelihood is he won't play. Whether he does or not, Sean Lee's confirmed absence is as concerning because the Cowboys defence fell to pieces last week when he left the game. The Eagles offence can do the same as Atlanta's, and, though I don't love the line moving from -3.5 to -5 in the last few days, I still would fancy Philadelphia to cover at 1.9720/21 on the Handicap market given Dallas's problems. The Eagles -3.5 is available on the Sportsbook at just over 5/6.
The Eagles should be able to score on this Dallas defence minus Lee. One concern would be that they may not need to, but they have a lot of momentum going into this game, will be motivated as this is a divisional game, and now have explosive running back in Ajayi. As such, I like Over 26.5 points on the Away Team Total Points market on the Sportsbook at 5/6.
If the Eagles on the Handicap are too dicey a proposition, the Jay Ajayi/Eagles option in the Any Time TD/Match Winner Double at 12/5 on Sportsbook might offer better value, as Ajayi looked good versus Denver, will be motivated to impress on his new team, and the Eagles should win this game coming off the bye week and with Dallas in disarray.
1pt Philadelphia Eagles (-5) on the Handicap market @ 1.9720/21
1pt on Over 26.5 on the Away Team Total Points market @ 5/6
1pt on Jay Ajayi/Eagles on the Any Time TD/Match Winner Double market @ 12/5