Hurts won’t play in the Christmas Eve rematch, but he is the biggest threat to Prescott’s reign in the NFC East moving forward.
Prescott has owned the division in the seven years since he entered the league with an overall record of 26-6. He’s 7-3 against the Eagles, completing 66.6 percent of his passes for 2,410 yards with 16 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.
“Well I mean, as we talk all the time, these are the most important games and quarterback differential is a big part of it,’’ Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said of the NFC East. “I mean if you just look at the last 10, 11 games against the Eagles, the big obvious is our turnover differential, our time of possession and the one that jumps out is quarterback differential. So quarterback differential factors.
“And it’s not really just the performance statistically of the quarterbacks. It’s all the things that lead into that. That really reflects too. Our pass rush. Are we getting it done on their quarterback vs. protecting our quarterback? Obviously, the run defense for both sides will be a huge focal point in this game.
“I think we all recognize that. Stats point to that. So all those things go into helping the quarterback be successful.’’
Prescott has led the Cowboys to three division titles since ‘16. Hurts is the biggest threat to his reign going forward. He’s been phenomenal this season.
Hurts has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 3,472 yards and has thrown 22 touchdown passes to only five interceptions. He’s rushed for 747 yards and another 13 touchdowns.
“In my opinion he’s played better than anybody in this league so far this year,’’ Eagles coach Nick Sirianni told reporters in Philadelphia this week. “He’s in that MVP race because of his dual-threat ability, with his ability to not only do what he’s been doing passing the ball but also what he’s been doing running the football.’’
Gardner Minshew will take over for Hurts and is capable of beating the Cowboys on Christmas Eve. But he’s not nearly as dangerous a runner as Hurts. He won’t stress the Dallas defense on third-and-short the way Hurts did when the teams met earlier this season.
The Eagles will clinch the division with a win Saturday. But that will happen before the regular season is done. Beating Dallas isn’t imperative.
Making sure Hurts recovers from a sprained throwing shoulder to be at his best for the postseason is imperative.
“We’re always going to think about his safety first,’’ Sirianni said. “I know you guys (media) are probably like, ‘well, he got hurt (running).’ Well, he also ran for 180 yards against Green Bay.
“I get that’s going to be part of the scrutiny. I understand that.
“But we are who we are as an offense, explosively, scoring-wise, all those different things, because Jalen can do so many things, both running the football and passing the football.’’
The Cowboys lost the first meeting of the season 26-17. Dallas fell behind by 20 points early when Cooper Rush had just 36 yards passing, two interceptions and a quarterback rating of one.
Philadelphia should not expect Prescott to duplicate that performance.
“I think everybody in this locker room is looking forward to this rematch,’’ Prescott said. “When you play a team that’s a division rival, understanding the long history that comes with these two teams, understanding that they’re playing their asses off.
“They’re having a helluva season. You just want to get in and get another shot and make sure you put your best foot forward in doing so.’’
And make a statement if these teams face each other again next month.
“Yeah, for sure,’’ Prescott said. “If anything, it’s about making a statement to ourselves.
“As you look at the season, we’ve had some games where we played really well and some games where we bit ourselves in the foot. So yeah, this is about putting our best foot forward, putting our best effort out there and proving it to ourselves in all three phases that we’re a hell of a team and we can go get it done against one of the best teams in the league whether they’re in our division or not.’’
Who knows? If these teams do meet for a third time, maybe Prescott and Hurts will both find a way to play to take this rivalry to the next level.
Catch David Moore on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) with the Musers at 9:35 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and The Hardline every Tuesday and Friday at 4:30 p.m. during Cowboys season.