Friday, November 16, 2018

NFL Week 10 matchups to watch: Will Golden Tate burn Cowboys in Eagles debut?

As he looks to find his place within the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense, Golden Tate has the benefit of making his debut against a team he knows how to burn.

Playing in his first game with Philadelphia since he was traded to the defending champions last Tuesday, Tate will be squaring off against the same Dallas Cowboys team against which he recorded eight catches for 134 yards and two touchdowns in October as a member of the Detroit Lions. In his second of what will be three turns against the Cowboys this year, Tate might hold the key to how both Sunday’s NFC East tilt and the rest of the divisional race will unfold.

Adding another weapon for the second half of the season was a crucial move for an Eagles offense that has been uneven. Running back Darren Sproles was expected to make his return this week, but he aggravated a hamstring injury and has already been ruled out.

Tate, however, can step in and turn short throws into big gains. Long viewed as one of the game’s most dynamic threats with the ball in his hands, he ranks second among all wide receivers with 289 yards after the catch this season. 

Using Tate on an assortment of screens and run-pass options should help integrate him into the offense and afford him opportunities without relying on him to master all the complexities of the playbook after just a week and a half. His skill set should also be welcome for an attack that has had protection issues (giving up 26 sacks in eight games) and could be without right tackle Lane Johnson, who is listed as questionable.

Dallas ranks fifth against the pass (217 yards allowed per game) and has mostly fared well in preventing big gains, having given up the fewest plays of at least 20 yards (24) of any team in the NFL. Yet the Cowboys have plenty of evidence of what not to do with Tate after this season’s first matchup. 

One of the key takeaways will be not affording him room underneath to operate, as the Eagles are likely content to get the ball in his hands on early downs and let him make a play in the open field. Tate got the best of cornerbacks Chidobie Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis as well as safety Xavier Woods, so Dallas might have to consider using breakout cornerback Byron Jones on him if he once again proves to be a problem. But the Cowboys also have to account for Alshon Jeffery. 

Here are four other matchups that will define Week 10 in the NFL:

Patriots’ wide receivers vs. Titans CB Malcolm Butler

Ahead of a showdown with his former team, Butler is in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The cornerback who rapidly rose to fame has experienced a similarly accelerated tailspin this season, ranking last at his position with the most catches (39), receiving yards (618) and touchdowns (seven) allowed, according to Pro Football Focus. Monday night’s showing against the Cowboys was particularly trying, as he gave up two scores while in coverage.

Even though Butler appears to be the weak link on the league’s stingiest scoring defense (17.6 points per game), Titans coach Mike Vrabel is sticking by his starter. Yet that decision could be exploited by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Josh Gordon is coming off season best totals for New England (five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown in a 31-17 win over the Packers), and Tom Brady might be inclined to pick on Butler rather than repeatedly take chances against Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan, another former Patriot.

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