The NFC East race wont be decided on Sunday, but the Dallas Cowboys risk falling 2.5 games behind the Philadelphia Eagles with a loss in Week 9. That would leave little margin for error for the rest of the schedule, but Dallas has had Philly's number since Dak Prescott's second year as the starter in 2017.
This could be another high-scoring affair between the longtime rivals.
The Cowboys have scored 40 or more points in each of Prescott's last three starts against the Eagles. He's also coming off a 300-yard, 4-touchdown performance, while Jalen Hurts has six touchdowns to one interception in his last two games.
Stopping the Eagles' rushing attack will be paramount for Dallas, but slowing down wideout A.J. Brown, who's been virtually unstoppable this season, could be the single biggest X-factor for the Cowboys. That'll be easier said than done without Trevon Diggs, but FS1's Nick Wright posed an interesting pivot in that regard.
Wright believes the Cowboys should double team Brown and force Hurts to throw to his other receivers. The kicker? Hurts' numbers when targets his non-Brown pass-catchers pale in comparison to his numbers when linking with Brown.
Nick Wright thinks the Cowboys should double team Eagles WR A.J. Brown
Wright makes some great points here. At some point, a team is going to have enough of Brown torching secondaries for 125 yards and two touchdowns every week. Why shouldn't that be the Cowboys?
In Week 8, Brown broke Calvin Johnson's NFL record for the longest streak of consecutive games with 125 or more receiving yards with six in a row. He has six touchdowns and is averaging a whopping 17.3 yards per catch during that stretch.
With no Diggs, DaRon Bland projects to see a lot of Brown on Sunday. Why not throw bracket coverage at Brown and see what happens? In that scenario, Gilmore could match up against DeVonta Smith with Jayron Kearse/Markquese Bell/Donovan Wilson taking turns against tight end Dallas Goedert.
It's worth a shot, no? After all, Hurts averages 11.3 yards per attempt when targeting Brown compared to 6.1 YPA when targeting everyone else. He throws more interceptions, has a lower completion rate and his passer rating drops 35.3 points (!) this season when he targets Philly's non-Brown pass-catchers.
Brown's too good to not get his, but the Cowboys shouldn't bank on Bland and others to hold their own against Brown in single or zone coverage. The two-time Pro Bowler doesn't have the speed to sprint past bracket coverage by Tyreek Hill.
Brown has a propensity to get frustrated when he doesn't get the ball. Unlike CeeDee Lamb, though, he'll call out his QB and coaches when frustrated.
The Cowboys don't stand a chance at winning if they don't stop the run and allow the Eagles to control time of possession, but Philly's run game has stumbled a bit of late. Brown, however, has been unstoppable approaching two months now.
Make no mistake: Brown should be the focus of Dan Quinn's defensive game plan for Sunday.