The Philadelphia Eagles suffered their second loss of the season on Christmas Eve to the Dallas Cowboys, 40-34. It was a valiant effort with backup quarterback Gardner Minshew, but the Eagles ultimately succumbed to turnovers and defensive miscues. They still control their destiny in the race for the division and one seed, as they have two chances to get one win in the remaining two weeks.
Let’s look at the hungry dog (player/coach of the game) and bird in the doghouse (worst player/coach of the game) performances against the Dallas Cowboys. I’ll also be predicting the best and worst performers in the Eagles’ upcoming matchup with the New Orleans Saints.
Week 16 – Hungry Dog, Eagles @ Cowboys
I have to give the hungry dog to Gardner Minshew.
It was far from a spectacular performance, but he held his own against a stout Dallas Cowboys defense. His stat line is ultimately a good one for a backup quarterback. He went 24/40 with 355 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions. He averaged 8.9 yards per pass as well. Minshew was nearly perfect on 3rd down, going 8-of-12 for 109 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions, and had a passer rating of 100.3
The Eagles did not punt once, and they were able to move the ball up and down the field easily on the Cowboys’ defense. Minshew got rid of the ball quickly, delivering sharp passes to Dallas Goedert, Devonta Smith, and AJ Brown. Smith and Brown both had 100-yard games, respectively and Smith had two touchdowns. Ultimately Minshew did his job, and this was a performance good enough to deliver a win.
Unfortunately, Minshew’s good performance was also ruined by ill-timed Miles Sanders and Boston Scott miscues and fumbles in addition to the interceptions that could be blamed on Quez Watkins. This performance is a win and has to make Eagles fans feel great, as it’s more than enough to secure the one seed and division against the New Orleans Saints or New York Giants at home if Jalen Hurts is unavailable. Gardner Minshew also has a potential job and contract to play for, so there’s all the more reason to feel encouraged.
Week 16 – Bird In The Doghouse, Eagles @ Cowboys
I am normally a huge Jonathan Gannon defender, especially when going back and forth with the content manager of Iggles.com, Pete Amato.
Here’s what he had to say when I asked him why he’s so critical of Gannon:
“He continues to revert back to this simple soft, zone defense every time the Eagles face pressure situations. It’s like he freezes up and doesn’t know what to do. He goes back to that easy-to-read defense because he’s afraid of the play. That’s selfish if you ask me. He doesn’t seem to always play to win the game, more that he plays not to lose. That’s a problem. These bend-but-do-n’t-break schemes don’t work in the NFL when it comes to playoff time.”
He would throw Gannon in the Doghouse every week if he could! But, this week I can’t disagree with him. It was far from his best game plan. I will acknowledge that the Eagles’ offense turned it over four times and gave the defense a short field, which didn’t help. This is not the defense we’ve seen for the majority of the season, unfortunately. Injuries to Jordan Davis and Avonte Maddox did not help, and Gannon never adjusted to said injuries. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys offense were able to do exactly what they wanted.
This was one of the few games of the season where Gannon’s defense was worse in the second half than the first, allowing a season-high 40 points. The defense got a huge Prescott pick-6 to start the game but never recovered. An Avonte Maddox missed sack on 3rd down led to a Cowboys touchdown when the Cowboys should have punted instead. The defense also allowed a crucial 3rd and 30 to be converted, leading to a Cowboys score that tied the game with 5 minutes remaining. If the Eagles’ defense had gotten off the field, it’s likely they add another score and seal the game. I still believe this Eagles defense is a great unit and will rebound, but this performance will make fans and media wonder how they’ll do against better offenses in the postseason.
Week 17 – Hungry Dog Prediction, Saints @ Eagles
The New Orleans Saints offense is nothing special and is the literal definition of “mediocre” across the board. They have the 21st-ranked scoring offense, good for 20 points per game. Even with a running back as tremendous as Alvin Kamara in their backfield, they have the 20th-ranked rushing offense, good for 113 yards per game. Their passing offense is their best offensive unit, good for 232 yards per game. Despite the competent passing offense, Andy Dalton is nothing to fear, with 17 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
My hungry dog prediction for this matchup is the Eagles’ defense. They will be able to rebound from a horrible showing against the Cowboys and contain Alvin Kamara, who has not put up consistent numbers this season. He’s only had 1 100-yard rushing game this season, and 2 games over 90 yards rushing, averaging only 3.8 yards a carry. He’s still dangerous, but clearly not the same player this season.
With the run contained, the Eagles’ defensive backs will be able to contain the Saints’ receivers and pressure Andy Dalton into mistakes. This is a predictable non-flashy offense, which pretty much just requires a spy and containment on Taysom Hill. CJ Gardener Johson is likely to return from injury this week to help the unit, and it does not appear that Jordan Davis’ injury is long-term.
Week 17 – Bird In The Doghouse Prediction, Saints @ Eagles
Despite their flaws, the New Orleans Saints boast one of the better pass defenses in the NFL, allowing 195 passing yards a game. Even with the injury to Marshon Lattimore, Paulson Adebo, Alontae Taylor, Tyrann Mathieu, and Marcus Maye have stepped up tremendously, and represent the 5th best unit in that statistic. This will be a huge test for Shane Steichen, Jalen Hurts, and the Eagles’ wide receivers.
My bird in the doghouse prediction for this matchup is Shane Steichen, yet again. The Saints’ defense is 5th best against the pass, but 10th worst against the run. Shaine Steichen is likely to ignore this, and drop Jalen Hurts or Gardner Minshew back 60+ times and may not establish the run until late. This could make a very winnable game much more difficult than it should be, giving a below-average Saints team a chance for an upset. If Shane Steichen’s playcalling costs the Eagles a game and also ruins the position of their 1st round pick, it would be truly unforgivable behavior. I’d personally pack his bags and drive him to the airport.
So, how did I do?
- Who would be your hungry dog and bird in the doghouse picks for the Eagles’ game against the Dallas Cowboys?
- Who would you pick going into the week 17 matchup against the New Orleans Saints?