FIVE KEYS TO EAGLES WIN: Establishing the Ground Game is No. 1

The Cowboys have the worst run defense in the NFL, and the Eagles will be short-handed on defense with two players being put on IR
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The season is over for defensive end Josh Sweat and cornerback Kevon Seymour after both Eagles defenders were placed on Injured Reserve on Saturday.

Sweat showed plenty of promise in the 14 games he played this year, collecting a career-high six sacks with 19 quarterback hits, 45 tackles, and two forced fumbles.

Seymour was just getting revved up after being out of the NFL for nearly two years. He played in two games and had seven tackles.

While the season ends for them, the Eagles’ season, sitting at 4-9-1, still has a bit of life left. If they lose in Dallas on Sunday, they are done. If Washington beats Carolina, they are also done.

Here are five keys to an Eagles victory:

RUN. With all the hullabaloo over the Eagles activating receiver DeSean Jackson from the IR, making him eligible to play for the first time since Oct. 22, the Eagles need to run the ball to win because the Cowboys possess the worst run defense in the NFL, giving up more than 161.8 yards per game.

Head coach Doug Pederson seems to be making more of a commitment to the ground game, with Miles Sanders getting 31 carries for 179 yards and two touchdowns since Jalen Hurts became the starting quarterback two games ago.

The Eagles even elevated Jordan Howard to help in that regard.

Then there's Hurts, who ran for 106 and 63 yards in his first two starts. He gives the Eagles an added dimension on the ground.

SCORE EARLY, SCORE OFTEN. Slow starts have been one of the biggest problems for this team all season long. They went from Oct. 4 to Dec. 13 without holding a halftime lead. While scoring early is a challenge, scoring often my not be, since the Cowboys have given up 433 points this year, which is the second-most in the NFL behind the 435 allowed by the Detroit Lions, who added another 47 to that total after Saturday’s blowout, 47-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

PRESSURE. The backup to Dak Prescott can’t be allowed to have time to find his talented trio of pass-catchers: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. The Eagles, however, are thin at the defensive end spot, with Sweat out, and also Derek Barnett did not make the trip to Dallas with a calf injury.

Look for the Eagles to elevate Joe Ostman from the practice squad for the second time this season to rotate in with Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry, and Genard Avery, who has played just 80 defensive snaps this season.

Graham’s last sack came against Dallas all the way back in the Week 8, 23-9 win on Nov. 1.

Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox is also questionable with a neck injury and T.Y. McGill has been promoted from the practice squad.

TURNOVERS. Neither team is good at it, with the Cowboys sitting at minus-6 in the takeaway/giveaway department to the Eagles’ minus-7. Only the 49ers are worse at minus-11.

The Cowboys had been terrible all season getting them, but they were able to get off to fast starts by forcing them early during their two-game winning streak. They have forced seven of them in that time. The Eagles have done a better job of holding onto the ball since Hurts took over, turning it over only once in his two starts.

The Eagles got three turnovers last week against Arizona, but still have just five interceptions.

SPECIAL TEAMS. The Eagles are coming off their worst special teams play in recent memory last week, allowing a blocked punt, a 26-yard gain on a fake punt, a botched PAT, and some shoddy kickoff-return blocking. These units simply have to be better, and the challenge could be that kicker Jake Elliott may have to do double duty as a punter if Cameron Johnston cannot clear the final concussion protocols.

PREDICTION: Eagles 27, Cowboys 24

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