Published Dec. 22. Updated on 12/24/22 at 11:12 a.m. Eastern
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Line: Dallas -4.5
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
When: Saturday, 12/24 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Philadelphia has had a history of success with its backup quarterbacks, from Michael Vick to Nick Foles, and it will be relying on that trend to continue with Gardner Minshew on Christmas Eve against Dallas.
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts suffered a sprained shoulder in a 25-20 win over Chicago on Sunday and is ‘out’ on Saturday afternoon. Minshew will get the starting nod.
Philadelphia has a two-game lead over Minnesota for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. Dallas had its four-game winning streak snapped in a disastrous overtime loss to Jacksonville on Sunday.
There has been plenty of line movement after the spread initially opened with Dallas -1.5. The Cowboys surged to 6-point home favorites following the reports about Hurts, but the line dipped back down to -4.5 by Wednesday afternoon. Then it jumped back up to -6 by late Thursday morning, only to drop back down to 4.5 again.
Saturday’s total opened at 48.5 points and slide down 46.5 before bumping back up to 47.5.
Philadelphia rolled to a 26-17 win in the Week 6 meeting between these teams, cashing the ‘over’ for the fourth straight head-to-head contest. Dallas has won and covered the spread in five of its past six home games against Philadelphia, with each of its last three wins coming by double digits.
Minshew has seen minimal action for Philadelphia this year and has not made a start since Week 18 of last season. He threw touchdowns in both of his starts last year, completing 67.2% of his passes and throwing one interception. Minshew will need to quickly develop chemistry with wide receiver A.J. Brown, who racked up a season-high 181 yards last weekend.
Running back Miles Sanders should get plenty of touches if Hurts is held out, especially since he has topped 140 rushing yards twice over the past four weeks. The Eagles have the fourth-ranked rushing attack in the NFL, averaging 158.6 yards per game. They are facing a Dallas defense that ranks No. 25 against the run, allowing 133.1 yards per contest.
The Cowboys have been an outstanding offensive team, ranked ninth in the NFL in yards per game (362.3). Quarterback Dak Prescott has started to have some accuracy issues though, throwing seven interceptions in his last four games. He completed 76.7% of his passes and had three touchdowns against Jacksonville last week, but the Jaguars erased a 27-10 deficit and eventually won in overtime.
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating,” Prescott said. “It’s tough treading that line, trying to make a play, trying to be aggressive, and at the same time not putting the ball at risk.”
Dallas has one of the top rushing attacks in the league as well, with running back Ezekiel Elliott racking up nine touchdown runs in his last seven games and Tony Pollard adding four scores in his last three games. They are facing a Philadelphia defense that leads the league in passing yards allowed per game (172.4), but the Eagles are No. 19 against the run (121.1).
Prescott has been knocked down nine times, hurried 12 times and sacked five times over the past three weeks, which ranks second worst in the league during that stretch. Dallas has only covered the spread twice in its last six games, cashing the ‘over’ in six of its last seven games.
Philadelphia is 3-7 straight up and against the spread in the last 10 meetings between these teams. The Eagles are riding a seven-game road winning streak and have gone ‘over’ the total in seven of their last nine games.
The pick: Philadelphia +6
It feels weird saying that I am not overly worried about the status of an MVP candidate, but I think the Eagles are going to be fine even if Hurts misses this game. They have one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL and are facing a struggling run defense, which will allow Philadelphia to control the time of possession on the road. Minshew is a capable backup quarterback as well, and he has a wealth of starting experience to call on. Dallas is coming off a disastrous second half against Jacksonville, and Philadelphia will relish the opportunity to play as an underdog with a chance to clinch the top seed in the NFC.