HomeOpinionSeason comes down to game against hated rival

Season comes down to game against hated rival

That the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field with first place in the NFC East on the line is not a surprise. Both teams are the class of a historically bad division and both were expected to be Super Bowl contenders when those lists were made prior to the 2019 season. Now, the question is: How do the Eagles win this game?

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“We have to play our best football in every capacity,” right offensive guard Brandon Brooks said. “We know what kind of team they are. We know they beat us up in the first time we played this year. It’s a playoff game. We have to play a great game.”

In no particular order, here is the Eagles’ to-do list for Sunday to get a win and take command of the NFC East …

• Control WR Amari Cooper

All Cooper has done in three games against the Eagles since he joined Dallas is catch 21 passes for 398 yards (19 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. The Eagles just haven’t had an answer for Cooper, acquired in a trade by Dallas during the 2018 regular season. The Eagles would be well advised to change up the strategy from previous games, because they haven’t had an answer, as the Cowboys have won all three games. Double team Cooper? Bang him around? Bracket cover him? It’s a huge challenge.

• Establish the running game on offense

The Eagles hope that Jordan Howard will be good to play, which would help re-establish the Thunder (Howard) and Lightning (Miles Sanders) combination that worked so well before Howard suffered a shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined since early November. Sanders has done a terrific job with Howard sidelined, and Boston Scott has made a nice contribution, so the Eagles need to lean on their running backs and offensive line. Ball-control offense is a good defense to keep Cooper on the sidelines, too.

• Win the turnover battle

This is just simple football. The Eagles have turned the ball over four times in their seven victories and they’ve been a disaster in their seven losses. Dallas thrives on taking the football away, as the Cowboys did twice in the early-season win in Texas. Right off the bat, the Eagles were in a 14-0 hole. They gave the football away four times. That’s not going to cut it in this game.

• Carson has to be better than Dak

Generally, the better quarterback wins games like this, right? Carson Wentz has played great football lately working with backups catching the football. He’s been resourceful and timely and clutch. The Eagles need more of it on Sunday. Dak Prescott has big numbers, some of which have come at the end of games when Dallas has been hopelessly behind. When Prescott has been good this year, he’s really been great. The best quarterback wins on Sunday. That’s a prediction. Sort of.

• Score touchdowns in the red zone

The Eagles rank sixth in the NFL in red zone (inside the opponents’ 20-yard line) touchdown efficiency, at 64.3 percent. They have converted 70 percent of their trips in the red zone into touchdowns the last three weeks, a great trend. Dallas ranks 17th in the NFL in the red zone, converting 56.5 percent of the time inside opponents’ 20-yard lines. It’s a touchdown vs. a field goal. It’s huge. In a game with so much meaning, the team that gets into the end zone is going to win the game. ••

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