September 24, 2021   7 MIN READ


Matchups, X-Factors, Injuries



This week, the Philadelphia Eagles travel to Arlington, Texas, for a prime-time matchup against the rival Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

The Cowboys (1-1) are coming off a white-knuckle 20-17 win over the Los Angeles Chargers while the Eagles (1-1) are eyeing a rebound after falling to the San Francisco 49ers, 17-11, in the home opener and losing two key veterans for the foreseeable future.

Though it seems an exaggeration to label a Week 3 matchup as “must win” on the surface, an Eagles victory could ultimately have big-picture ramifications, given the challenging slate of games ahead.

Here are the notable matchups to watch:

Eagles Offense vs. Cowboys Defense

WR DeVonta Smith vs. CB Trevon Diggs
Smith and Diggs know each other from their time in Tuscaloosa, Ala., so this matchup figures to be among the more prominent storylines to follow. The ever-physical Diggs has been stellar through two games and should travel with Smith, who has garnered a team-leading 15 pass targets so far. Expect this week’s offensive game plan to center around reestablishing his connection with quarterback Jalen Hurts. Though Diggs is hard-nosed, fluid, and technically sound, Smith’s route-running prowess should ultimately prevail. Anticipate a flurry of receptions from the Eagles’ No. 1 receiver and a stat line similar to his Week 1 output.

TE Dallas Goedert vs. Cowboys LBs
Goedert reeled in both of his targets for 24 yards against the 49ers but there were more opportunities to exploit the middle of the field. The Cowboys linebackers have underwhelmed when patrolling the middle of the field in coverage, so this week appears to be an opportune spot for Hurts to establish his mid-range passing game. The dynamic tight end should have an opportunity to work the seams while also providing a security blanket for Hurts. While Week 2 proved to be wide receiver-dominant in terms of target share, Goedert must be heavily involved this week to maximize the offense’s potential, especially in the red zone.

Eagles Defense vs. Cowboys Offense

DE Derek Barnett vs. Cowboys OTs
Between Josh Sweat, Ryan Kerrigan, and Barnett, it will take a collective effort to fill the void of fallen leader Brandon Graham (Achilles). The 24-year-old Sweat signed a three-year extension last week and presents the most upside, and Kerrigan has accounted for 95.5 career sacks, but keep a close eye on how Barnett handles the added scrutiny. Barnett drew another senseless personal foul last week and was held relatively in check in his 45 snaps. Now, the former first-round pick, who has 32 career starts, will essentially front a short-handed edge group. The 25-year-old figures to assume the most snaps of the aforementioned trio and is in the midst of a contract year, so monitor Barnett’s response to increased responsibility. I imagine Barnett will line up across from RT Terence Steele but could see snaps against both offensive tackles.

CB Steve Nelson vs. WR CeeDee Lamb
The physical perimeter defender has been solid in a supporting role opposite Darius Slay but look for Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to strike fast when he gets Nelson matched up against ascending second-year receiver CeeDee Lamb, who has yielded 15 catches for 185 receiving yards and a touchdown on a whopping 24 targets. Lamb should benefit from Nelson’s aggressive tendencies and lack of long speed. This matchup could very well decide the game if Prescott has adequate enough time to deliver the football.

Special Teams

The Cowboys kick returner is running back Tony Pollard and punt return duties have been split between wide receivers CeeDee Lamb and Cedric Wilson. Pollard has returned three kicks for 71 yards while Lamb and Wilson have combined for just 14 yards on two opportunities.

Veteran kicker Greg Zuerlein is 5-for-7 on field goal opportunities (71.4%) and 4-for-5 on extra point attempts (80 percent). Eight of his 11 kickoffs have been touchbacks. Punter Bryan Anger has logged 191 yards on four punts.

Linebacker Jabril Cox and cornerbacks Nahshon Wright and C.J. Goodwin lead special teams coordinator John Fassel’s unit with 32 snaps a piece.

For the Eagles, wide receiver Quez Watkins handles kick returns and wide receiver Jalen Reagor has fielded punts. Watkins has managed 60 yards on three returns while Reagor has mustered 32 yards on six opportunities.

Jake Elliott is 2-of-3 on field goal opportunities (66.7 percent) and 3-for-3 on extra point attempts. Six of his 9 kickoffs have been touchbacks. Punter Arryn Siposs has been outstanding through two games, accruing 393 yards on eight punts.

Rookie cornerback back Zech McPhearson (40 snaps), linebacker Shaun Bradley (39) and cornerback Andre Chachere (37) highlight special teams coordinator Michael Clay’s unit and serve as the nucleus.


The Eagles have accumulated a 9-3 record on Monday Night Football since 2013, giving them the fifth-highest MNF winning percentage in league history. They’ve also two of their previous three contests against Dallas since 2019. This week marks the first Monday Night Football meeting between the two teams since Sept. 15, 2008.

Trench Matchup to Watch

RG Landon Dickerson vs. DT Osa Odighizuwa
On Thursday, Nick Sirianni unsurprisingly named Dickerson the interim starter at right guard in place of an injured Brandon Brooks (pectoral). Dickerson, selected in the second-round last April, played his first professional snaps last week in relief of Brooks. In those 33 snaps, Dickerson’s innate athleticism occasionally flashed but the 22-year-old largely struggled from a power and leverage standpoint. Sunday marked the first time the Alabama product had appeared in a game since suffering a knee injury in the 2020 SEC Championship game nine months ago. Growing pains are to be expected.

Dickerson will likely tangle with fellow rookie Odighizuwa, a third-round pick, for much of the night. At 6-foot-2, 280 pounds, Odighizuwa is lightning-quick off the snap and plays with tremendous effort and proper pad level. However, the UCLA product sports a ‘tweener build, struggles to disengage at the point of attack and is probably more impactful as a No. 3 defensive tackle. Through two games, Odighizuwa has accounted for 58 percent of Dallas’ defensive snaps, notching three tackles and two quarterback hits.


Eagles WR Quez Watkins
Watkins was my X-factor last week as well. The second-year receiver collected two receptions for 117 yards on two targets against the 49ers, giving him five catches for 140 yards on five pass targets entering Week 3. Look for the Eagles to get Watkins involved early on short, quick passes to exploit his open field explosiveness and force the Cowboys defenders to bring him down in space. There should also be an opportunity to connect on a shot play to Watkins if isolated on veteran CB Anthony Brown, a handsy defender who lacks consistent technique and was victimized Week 1 by Bucs quarterback Tom Brady, surrendering nine catches for 134 yards a touchdown. Brown also badly whiffed on an open-field tackle against Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams on a 12-yard touchdown catch. A big play to Watkins could break the game wide open.

Cowboys RB Tony Pollard
While Ezekiel Elliott sits atop the Cowboys’ running back depth chart, Pollard has played his way into a bigger role. Pollard, a third-year pro from Memphis, played 21 snaps in the team’s 20-17 win against the Chargers, totaling 109 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and adding three receptions for 31 yards as a receiver. The 24-year-old appeared springy and explosive while Elliott plodded his way through a 16-carry, 71-yard, one-touchdown performance. Pollard should continue to work in concert with Elliott again this week, so look for Dallas to capitalize on Pollard’s receiving prowess and scheme plays that accent his burst and short-area quickness.


Coming off a deflating home-opening loss, the Eagles’ resolve will be tested early as they travel to AT&T Stadium for a prime-time tilt against a divisional rival. While the Eagles should be expected to respond favorably to last week’s adversity and return to Week 1 form, an experienced Cowboys offensive unit will ultimately make a play or two late in the contest that propels them to a narrow victory.

Cowboys 27, Eagles 24

– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for

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