Golden Tate's role, Darren Sproles' injury, an unforgettable play from the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry and much more in a Cowboys Week edition of Roob's 10 random Eagles observations!
There's nothing quite like Cowboys week!
Complete coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and their NFL rivals from NBC Sports Philadelphia.
1. Must-wins often aren't legitimately must-wins. You never know how the season is going to play out, and the Eagles find themselves in a division in which mediocrity reigns and 9-7 could be enough to finish first.
But come on now, this one actually is a must-win. You can't lose at home to a Cowboys team that's averaging 13½ points per game on the road, that's coming off a 14-point home loss to the Titans, that's a seven-point underdog coming off a short week. The Eagles haven't won back-to-back games yet this year, and they've lost their last two at home. They are clearly a superior team and they're coming off a bye in their own building against their biggest rivals.
I'd like to see this one become a blowout. The Eagles are world champions, and it's time they start playing like world champions.
2. Speaking of blowouts … the Cowboys have lost 15 games by 26 or more points since 2000. More than half of those losses - eight of them - have been to the Eagles.
3. One thing to keep an eye on Sunday night: The Cowboys are the best in the NFL at not allowing big plays. They've allowed an NFL-low 24 offensive plays of 20 yards or more and just three plays of 40 yards, third fewest in the league. Oddly, the Eagles haven't hit a play longer than 22 yards in their last four games against the Cowboys. Carson Wentz had five completions of at least 30 yards against the Jaguars, and the Eagles need to continue to mine that mid-range to have offensive success.
4. Cameron Johnston's 49.9 punting average is highest in NFL history by a rookie after his first eight games. The previous record was set in 1966 by David Lee of the Colts, who averaged 49.8 yards in his first eight games.
5. When you think about it, it's really incredible that the Eagles' defense is allowing just 18.6 points per game - fifth fewest in the league - despite just seven takeaways, which is just one out of last place and the fewest in Eagles history after eight games. The 149 points the defense has allowed is actually the sixth-fewest points in NFL history by a team with seven or fewer takeaways in its first eight games. Imagine if it started getting takeaways? This would be an elite unit.
6. Tate is going to make a big difference immediately. Not next month, not next week. Now. Sunday night. Special player.
7. I feel terrible for Sproles. The guy has had such a brilliant career, and he's such a class act. For it to end like this is just a shame. Just hope he can get on the field at some point before the end of the season.
8. Interesting to note that of the Eagles' seven players who are 32 or older - Jason Peters, Sproles, Haloti Ngata, Michael Bennett, Corey Graham, Chris Long and Mike Wallace - only Long and Bennett have stayed healthy the first half of the season.
9. It's amazing how quickly life moves in the NFL. There are now 19 players on the Eagles' 53-man roster who weren't part of the Super Bowl team. That's 36 percent. Because of injuries, the salary cap and declining abilities, change is constant in the National Football League. It's why it's so darn hard to stay good. And why it's so crucial to have an elite quarterback to build around.
10. On my latest Roob Knows podcast, I count down my top-10 plays in Eagles-Cowboys history, and like many of you guys, it includes the play that went on forever - Donovan McNabb's scramble to the far right sideline, then all the way to the far left sideline, before an off-balance, cross-the-body 60-yard bomb to Freddie Mitchell on a Monday night at Texas Stadium in 2004.
You've watched the play a thousand times, but here's something you've probably never noticed: After he escapes Leonardo Carson's grasp and rolls to the right, No. 5 runs onto the actual numeral 1 that's part of the "10" marking the 10-yard line near the right sideline. The numerals were actually slippier than the field surface at Texas Stadium, and you can see McNabb slip and almost lose his balance as he changes directions on the "1," while Greg Ellis closes in on him. But he righted himself, ran back the other way across the field and then unloaded to Mitchell.
It was an astounding play for a number of reasons, but my favorite part is how he regains his balance after almost wiping out on the number 1.
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