Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys
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Eagles under fire
After hitting on all five (yes, five!) picks last week in the Chargers-Steelers game, the football gods have sent a real conundrum this week. Both teams are dealing with a whole lot of injuries before Sunday night's meeting and that makes it a very difficult match-up to call.
Both were also heavily touted in the preseason as likely Super Bowl contenders. At times, they've justified those claims, but their 3-3 records tell us it's not been plain sailing. Dallas have lost three straight, while Philly have generally been competitive, but just can't stop opponents scoring.
And while most football watchers expect Dallas to underwhelm, their NFC East rivals are more surprising in their inconsistency. Or rather, their consistently bad passing defence is a potentially fatal wound to their title hopes.
They were scorched by Kirk Cousins last week. The conventional wisdom on the Vikings QB is that he doesn't show up against good teams. After his 333-yard, four-touchdown display, should we conclude that this assumption about him is flawed, or that the Eagles just aren't as good as we thought they were?
It doesn't make sense to give up on Doug Pederson's team just yet though. In Carson Wentz they have QB playing at a very high level - he led them to a very impressive win at Lambeau Field in Week 4 and has 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions so far.
They have depth at skill positions and are strong along both lines, but it is in the secondary that their problems lie. Their strategy has been to go cheap on defensive backs and load up on pass-rushers, but having lost several contributors there, their thin resources in pass defence has been exposed.
The only team they've held to fewer than 24 points this season is the Jets - and that was with Luke Falk at QB.
They may get Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills back this week. That'll give them some hope of improving, though more encouraging is the limp Cowboys offence.
Eagles under fire
If we blow our trumpet when we win, we must fess up when lose. After three weeks, we may have been taken in by a 3-0 Dallas team that had only beaten the Giants with Eli Manning still starting, the soon-to-be coachless Redskins, and the abominable Dolphins.
They've lost their three games since, including an absolute stunner in the Meadowlands last week when they were heavy favourites against the Jets. The Kellen Moore bandwagon has careened off a cliff.
They've endured significant injury problems. Amari Cooper is in doubt for this game. Michael Gallup's been hurt, as has Randall Cobb. That meant that Tavon Austin led their receivers last week.
That's a sentence no one could've expected to read or write a few weeks ago.
Along their offensive line, there have also been problems. Based on how the Cowboys collapse whenever he's unavailable, Tyron Smith must be just about the most important player in the league. La'el Collins has also been hurt. Both could return this week after missing last week's Big Apple embarrassment.
If they don't, it's hard to have confidence in Dallas.
With the status of so many important players still to be confirmed, it's difficult to take a strong position on the line. Indications are that the Eagles defence will be strengthened by the return of their defensive backs, and while it's possible Dallas will get their linemen back, but they won't be at full strength - Smith is dealing with a high ankle sprain and they generally linger.
If that comes to pass, you'd have to lean towards the visitors on the handicap. They'll be without linebacker Nigel Bradham and lineman Timmy Jernigan, but they ought to be able to restrict Dallas' run game even if the missing o-linemen return as they've done it to most other opponents this season. If you can bottle up Zeke Elliott it's not clear you've to worry about many other aspects of the Cowboys offence.
The Eagles may not progress through this season as smoothly as some of us expected, but they are still capable of rising to the occasion. If taking a side in this, the Eagles look a stronger proposition, so I'd take them +2.5 on the Handicap market at 2.021/1.
There's a lot of ifs and buts there, so the better bet is probably to look at the total. The line on the Sportsbook is currently 49.5, and I'd be inclined to consider the over given how both these defences struggled last week.
For a touchdown scorer interest, it's worth looking at the Philly back-up tight end Dallas Goedert. He's getting a lot of snaps despite the presence of Zach Ertz and represents some value at 25/1 for the first touchdown in this game.
For a safer play, Jordan Howard has five scores from scrimmage so far this season. He's 5/4 to add another, and if you add that to the Total and Handicap plays in a Same Game Multi on the Betfair Sportsbook, you'll get odds of over 6/1.