The Patriots return home for a late afternoon matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. It has been an up and down season in Dallas, but right now the Cowboys are on a roll offensively. Dak Prescott behind a superb offensive line and a talented and deep group of receivers is lighting it up in 2019. They also have Ezekiel Elliot in the running game and a fast, flowing to the ball defense.
Dallas is trying to be the first team since the 2003-2004 Eagles to win the NFC East back-to-back times. Right now at 6-4, they are a game up on Philly with six to go, but hold the tiebreaker after crushing Philly 37-10 about a month ago.
So, let’s take a look at the 2019 version of the Cowboys and what’s happening in Jerry’s World down in “Big D” as we approach Week 12
The Offense Is Riding Prescott’s Hot Hand:
The Cowboys entered the 2019 season with some question marks as RB Ezekiel Elliott was a holdout and after a stellar rookie season, QB Dak Prescott had two so-so years in 2017-18. Any doubts about Prescott are now in the rearview mirror as he’s been outstanding in 2019 and nearing career highs in yards and touchdown passes only 10 games in.
Prescott has completed 247 of 365 passes (67.7 %) for 3221 yards with 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. In the Cowboys’ last three games against the Giants, Vikings, and the Lions, he’s completed 79 of 122 passes for 1098 yards with 9 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Prescott is now considered an MVP candidate and has a plethora of good targets to throw to. And he’s been spreading the ball around. In the Cowboys win over Detroit, Prescott targeted Michael Gallup, Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, and Jason Witten seven or more times each as they rolled up 444 passing yards.
Stopping Elliott Will Present a Tough Matchup:
Despite Prescott’s very high numbers in the passing game, one of the toughest matchups, and a key one for the Patriots defense on Sunday will be trying to slow down the Dallas running game behind Ezekiel Elliott.
Elliott runs behind one of the premier offensive lines in the NFL and he’s enjoyed great success in his career up to this point. So far in 2019, Elliott has rushed 194 times for 833 yards (4.3-yard avg) with 7 touchdowns. He’s also caught 28 passes out of the backfield for 220 yards and a score.
His numbers receiving are way down from a year ago but that has to do with two main factors. The Cowboys have so many talented receivers, they’re just spreading the ball around more and keeping everyone involved and secondly, they’re putting him on a pitch count a bit to keep him fresh for a stretch run that they hope will lead to a deep playoff run.
But with the passing game hot right now, Elliott isn’t sweating seeing his touches go down the past two weeks. “The passing game is rolling right now so you’ve got to ride it and ride it while it’s hot,” Elliott said. Slowing him down and forcing the Cowboys into obvious passing situations will be a tough task on Sunday.
Watch the Dallas Pass Rush Closely:
Dallas, as we stated earlier has a very fast and athletic defense. And the Cowboys’ pass rush will bear consistent watching this week as they take on a Patriots offense where the offensive line is struggling.
The Cowboys have 26 sacks and are led by Robert Quinn who has 8.5 already this season. Quinn is enjoying a career renaissance in Dallas and besides his sack total has 30 QB pressures on the season. Not bad numbers for a guy who missed the first two games of the season.
Quinn has been an absolute steal for the Cowboys, Dallas got him for a 6th round draft pick from the Dolphins. His speed rush is his patented move and Isaiah Wynn, in his first game back will have his hands full. Marshall Newhouse, who filled in for Wynn while he was injured struggled mightily with speed rushers. Welcome back Isaiah, your plate is filled already.
Quinn isn’t even the Cowboys best defensive lineman, that title belongs to DeMarcus Lawrence, who although he has just 4.5 sacks is a load to handle. Lawrence banged up a shoulder against the Lions and may be limited this week.
Dallas picked up Michael Bennett from the Patriots a few weeks ago and Bennett has 3 sacks in 3 games with Big D. It will be interesting to see how Rod Marinelli the Dallas defensive coordinator game plans this week. I look for the Cowboys to be uber-aggressive in coming after Tom Brady.
Jason Witten Calls Sunday “A Defining Game” For the Cowboys:
The Cowboys veteran tight end who has been around the block a few times and spent time in the broadcast booth after a brief one-year retirement isn’t one to make statements lightly.
That’s why it was interesting to see his comments on the upcoming game. Witten was asked if Sunday’s game is a type of measuring-stick affair for the Cowboys.
“Yeah, I think it is,” Witten said. “These are defining games that happen. You look at last year’s season … and you beat a good New Orleans team. This is one of those games. There’s still a lot of games out there, so I don’t think it’s “make or break”. But at the same time, to be able to go on the road and play against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and their team — they’re 9-1 like they are. A great opportunity for us.”
Expect Dallas to bring their A-Game on Sunday.
We’ll have our keys to the game and key matchups later tomorrow. Stay tuned…
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