On the morning of each Cowboys game, you'll get a chance to take a sip of Joe's gridiron insights with our 'Morning Cup of Joe.' He'll offer five storylines to follow when the Cowboys take the field and his thoughts on what to expect.
1.Marquee Matchup: Dak vs Carson
They are two of the young gunslingers in the league and they'll likely be trying to out-duel each other for years to come.
There was no question who had the better rookie season; it was Prescott, hands down. But this season Wentz has helped propel the Eagles to the top of the NFC food chain with an 8-1 record.
Wentz has thrown for 23 touchdowns and had the Eagles ranked second the NFL in points per game (31.4), and they're the top-ranked team in the league in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns 72.4% of the time.
The graphic below compares both quarterbacks for their careers so far.
Prescott has the edge in career QB rating with a 101.6 mark versus Wentz at 87.3. But that's the last thing on Prescott's mind. He's much more focused on getting more productivity out of the Cowboys offense without his running mate Zeke Elliott. The Cowboys mustered just one touchdown against the Falcons and that was on a short field. Prescott trails only Steve Young with a 38.7% of his rush and pass attempts result in first downs. He'll have to be at his chain-moving best to have a shot against the Eagles top-10 ranked defense.
Is how head coach Jason Garrett like to characterize how his players need to get things done. Despite the circumstance, the Cowboys call on their players to fight and claw to get the job done at any given time.
Well, I'm going to use that phrase for the Cowboys offensive coaching staff and I'll include Garrett in that number as well. Somehow, someway that coaching staff needs to manufacture a way for the Cowboys offensive line to protect Prescott. We found out last Sunday that perhaps besides Prescott himself Tyron Smith is the most important offensive player on the roster.
Byron Bell gets the start at left tackle this week after Chaz Green gave up five of eight sacks the Cowboys surrendered to the Falcons. Whether it's chipping with backs or tight ends, moving the pocket, or working the quick-game. The Cowboys have to give Prescott some level of comfort to operate. If not, they don't have a shot.
3.Hitch and go
Anthony Hitchens will take over the weakside linebacker spot with Sean Lee missing the game. The Cowboys defense normally falls apart when Lee isn't there to get everyone lined up and in their right gaps. That responsibility belongs to Hitchens now and he'll have to be ready to go.
Hitchens played a great game against the Falcons, but didn't have much help. Cowboys defenders have to get over the psychological hurdle of playing their best without Lee. They failed to be assignment sound when Lee left the Falcon game, and Cowboys fans have to hope that the desperation effect will have them more than prepared from a mental standpoint.
4.The ball, the ball, the ball
The Cowboys forced an interception that led to their first score of the game in Atlanta. They'll need more of the same to have a chance against the Eagles. Xavier Woods made a nice play to grab that pick and he'll get the start this week in place of Jeff Heath whose in the concussion protocol.
Wentz likes to drop down and throw from a lower arm slot at times, so Cowboys defensive linemen have to be prepared to get their hands up and try to force some tipped balls that could result in turnovers. The Eagles are one of the best teams in the leagues in terms of turnover differential at +6. So, this week more than most there is even more of a premium on taking care of the football.
5.Ruin Jay's homecoming
Eagles running back Jay Ajayi says he's bought about 20 tickets for the game but expects many more friends and family to be there. Ajayi attended Frisco Liberty High School before going to Boise St. He's played in AT&T Stadium before when he was in high school, but this will mark the first time he's played against the Cowboys.
The Eagles traded for Ajayi just 2-and-a-half weeks ago. He averages 9.6-yards/carry in his Philadelphia debut. He's was the league's fourth-best rusher in his breakout Pro Bowl campaign last season. Cowboys defenders have to get their run fits right, or Ajayi will romp in his homecoming.
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