Jalen's Year 2 Jump

Dallas defense faces tough test; Hurts improving weekly

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (1-1) AT DALLAS COWBOYS (1-1) 8:15PM ET

LINE: COWBOYS -3.5, TOTAL: 51.5

ONE THING THAT EVERY FAN NEEDS TO KNOW

  • Where, Oh Where, Has the Defense Gone

Last season, the Cowboys set a dubious team record by allowing 473 points, which ranked 5th-worst in the NFL, topped only by the Lions (519), Jaguars (492), Raiders (478) and Vikings (476). The defensive unit, led by former coordinator Mike Nolan, surrendered 54 offensive touchdowns, and finished with fewer sacks (31) than TD passes allowed (34). That performance got Nolan canned, and two games into 2021 -- with a new coordinator, former Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn -- only the Ravens (376.0) are allowing more passing yards per game (346.0). Dallas is down defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (broken foot, out 6-8 weeks), arguably their best defensive player, and linebacker Keanu Neal tested positive for COVID; he also will not play this week.

In the first two games, the Cowboys registered two sacks, tied for second-fewest in the league (Green Bay had just 1), while surrendering 5 TD passes. They were able to hold Justin Herbert and the Chargers to just 17 points and one TD last week, thanks in part to two Herbert picks and a missed field goal -- the Chargers did not punt in the game. Dallas leads the NFL with 6 takeaways (4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries), and they are Top 10 in percentage of defensive red-zone drives resulting in touchdowns (44%). Essentially, they’ve been playing a “bend-don’t-break” style. The question is whether they can keep relying on turnovers and red-zone stands as they continue to give up yards in bunches.

They’ll get tested this week because the Eagles have scored touchdowns on 80% of their red-zone drives (tied for 7th in the NFL) and are the only team in the league that has yet to turn the ball over.

TRENDS THAT EVERY SPORTS BETTOR NEEDS TO KNOW

  • Even Action, But Sharps Leaning Eagles

Bettors overall are split on this one -- 55% of the bets are on Dallas, 51% of the money is on Philadelphia, according to Action Network. However, Action has reported sharp action on Philly, which is the primary reason for this line sliding from an opening Dallas -4 to -3.5.

The total in this game (51.5) features a very interesting ticket/money split: Though the over is getting 62% of the tickets, the under has attracted 74% of the handle, according to Action.

ANALYTICAL ANALYSIS THAT EVERY SPORTS NERD NEEDS TO KNOW

  • Jalen’s Job Security

In the off-season, there was a lot of talk about the Eagles’ quarterback position. First, they moved on from Carson Wentz by trading him to the Colts. Then, there was a lot of discussion about whether they should draft a quarterback, sign a veteran, or make another trade. Ultimately, they decided to stick with former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts as the guy -- and so far, they haven’t regretted it. According to Pro Football Focus, Hurts was the second-highest-graded QB in the NFL through two weeks (87.5 out of 100), behind only Tom Brady (93.0). The dual-threat ability that the Philly signal-caller possesses has been a major factor -- he’s the only QB who PFF has graded at higher than 80.0 in both passing and rushing.

According to Next Gen Stats, Hurts’ accuracy has improved a lot from last season. In 2020, Hurts’ 52% completion percentage (COMP%) was 3.4 points below his expected completion percentage (xCOMP%). That difference of -3.4 was fifth-worst in the NFL. This season, however, Hurts’ 67.2 COMP% is 3.9 points higher than his 63.3 xCOMP%. And, after throwing 4 interceptions in 148 attempts in 2020, Hurts has yet to throw a pick in his 58 attempts through two weeks this season.