The Dallas Cowboys are now 1-1 after last night's victory over the New York Giants. Despite the record, though, their defense has put in two winning efforts. This young group, already viewed as an emerging entity before the season, appears to have officially arrived.
After two weeks, the Cowboys defense ranks third in yards (274 per game) and points (14.5 per game) allowed. They currently the lead the NFL with nine team sacks, though Chicago and Seattle still have to play tonight.
There are still some situational issues, such as the team's difficulty stopping short-yardage runs. But overall, the Dallas defense has already emerged as one of top units in the league.
The premise of this article was inspired by a tweet from one of my Inside The Star colleagues last night:
Week one vs Jacksonville Odell Beckham Jr. 11 catches on 15 targets for 111 yards. Week to vs the #DallasCowboys 4 catches on 9 targets for 51 yards. Jacksonville allowed 15 points to the #Giants. Dallas allowed 13 points. Jacksonville had two sacks. Dallas 6.
The comparative analysis of how the Giants fared against the Jaguars defense, arguably the best in the NFL, and the Cowboys is strong evidence. Granted, they were on the road in Dallas and at home against Jacksonville. But doesn't account for all of the statistical disparity.
Along with the stats provided by John, you can look at the difference rushing yards. Dallas gave up just 35 total yards on the ground, not allowing Saquon Barkley to follow up last week's big game. The Jaguars surrendered 114 rushing yards last week, although 68 did come on a single big play.
In total offensive yardage, the Giants had 324 against Jacksonville and just 255 in Dallas. If that wasn't enough, 108 of last night's yards came in garbage time against soft, prevent-style coverage.
Granted, outside of Barkley, this Giants offense is very familiar to the Cowboys. They should be better versed in how to deal with it. But keep in mind that New York has a new offensive-minded head coach in Pat Shurmur and a new OC in Mike Shula.
In fact, the familiarity argument goes out the window when you look at how Dallas' Week 1 opponent performed yesterday.
The Carolina Panthers fell 31-24 to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday after beating Dallas 16-8 a week ago. They scored eight more points on the road against a division rival than they had at home against the Cowboys.
The Panthers amassed 439 offensive yards against the Falcons yesterday. They had just 293 yards against Dallas. The Cowboys sacked Cam Newton three times and allowed an 82.4 passer rating. Atlanta had two sacks and Newton's passer rating rose to 105.3.
Of course, two games don't make a season. Dallas' defensive performance may not hold by the end of December, either due to injuries or teams figuring things out from film study.
But so far, so great.
The really exciting thing is how much better this team could get. Xavier Woods' return should be an upgrade at safety, which would also allow Jeff Heath to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Randy Gregory should be back next week after sitting out yesterday from concussion issues.
And then there's David Irving. If he comes back from suspension in Week 5 as the same player we saw last year, the dynamic capability of the defensive front goes up dramatically.
Along with those talented players returning, just the general growth and development of young talent across the defense should yield results. Chidobe Awuzie, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and others should all be better players by December they are now.
Dallas should be 2-0 right now based on their defensive play. The offense did its part last night, as opposed to Week 1, to avoid wasting the effort. As long as that continues, the Cowboys defense could carry this team into the postseason.
Brett Maher’s 62-yard FG Gives Cowboys 6-0 Halftime Lead over Eagles
Brett Maher drilled a 62-yard field goal, a new Dallas Cowboys record, to give his team a 6-0 lead over the Philadelphia Eagles at halftime.
A holding penalty by Tyron Smith seemingly took the team out of field goal range, but Maher bailed him out with the monster kick.
The lead could be bigger it not for some Dallas mistakes. Dak Prescott threw an interception on an otherwise strong drive, and Maher ended another drive with a missed field goal.
However, the Eagles have also struggled. A strip sack by Tyrone Crawford ended their last drive of the half. Randy Gregory also got a sack on Carson Wentz earlier in the game.
Overall, though, Philadelphia just isn't converting downs and being stifled by this exceptional Cowboys defense. They only have 70 total offensive yards at the half.
Ezekiel Elliott is putting together a big day, already with 72 rushing yards and another 20 yards receiving. Rod Smith also has 24 yards of offense, adding to the major production from the RB position.
Speaking of position production, the Cowboys tight ends have already accounted for six catches for 37 yards. Blake Jarwin has four of those receptions, which is a new career high.
The Eagles will get the ball to start the second half.
Cowboys Vs Eagles Leads NFL in Playoff Leverage for Week 14
The Dallas Cowboys are certainly playing like a playoff team as of late, but aren't in the clear yet when it comes to holding off Sunday's opponent -- nor the Washington Redskins -- in the NFC East. At 7-5, the Eagles and Redskins sit a game behind the Cowboys with identical 6-6 records.
The Cowboys going 5-0 from their first win at the Eagles in week 10 to their third divisional game of this stretch would go a very long way in cementing the Cowboys mid-season turnaround. As has always seemingly been the case in this division though, the same is said of the defending Super Bowl champs.
With a loss, the Cowboys stand just over a 50% chance at the postseason. A win would add 42 percentage points to this figure, setting up the Cowboys favorably through a December schedule that features the Colts, Buccaneers, and Giants.
NFL playoff leverage week 14
The only team with more at stake today is the visitors of AT&T Stadium. The Eagles gain 47 percentage points on their playoff hopes with a win, though even this marginally moves the needle over 50% for them. An Eagles loss all but ends their chances of repeating as NFC East winners.
Though the Redskins are reduced to their third quarterback in Mark Sanchez, their early kickoff at the 4-8 Giants provides hope that they'll remain in contention through the regular season. In a division that will be dictated by the moves made at the trade deadline, it sure feels like the Cowboys and Eagles are pulling away however - with Dallas in prime position to lap the competition starting Sunday.
If the Cowboys and the Giants win today, Dallas would have to lose out, and the Redskins or Eagles would have to win out in order for the Cowboys to lose the division. In other words, Dallas and NYG winning today would mean one more victory and the Cowboys clinch the NFC East.
Wide Receiver Amari Cooper has made a bigger difference than Dallas could have ever hoped for. With the Eagles secondary banged up again for their meeting with the Cowboys, a home team with sights set on playoff football could begin to fine tune their offense to match a defense that set the tone against Philadelphia last time out.
National pundits may be forecasting a "classic" late season collapse for the Cowboys, but fans know better than this. It was in fact early season losses that dug the hole the Cowboys are viciously fighting out of. Asking for this opportunity against the Eagles is as good as it gets for Jason Garrett's young team, once 3-5 after eight weeks that feel like ages ago.
So does any dominant stretch of football from the Eagles, though the Cowboys shouldn't be quick to find out just how much Philly wants to play spoiler.
Cowboys Wishlist: Dak Prescott Exploits Eagles’ Secondary
It's rivalry weekend for the Dallas Cowboys as they get ready to host the Philadelphia Eagles. It will undoubtedly be a special game since the Eagles are practically playing to save their season this time around. Tables have turned for these two teams with now the Cowboys as home favorites for this fun matchup.
As always, here's this week's edition of Cowboys Wishlist. Enjoy!
Wish #1: Get Jourdan Lewis Playing Time
Cornerback Jourdan Lewis did a fantastic job versus the New Orleans Saints last week and I'm intrigued to see if the Cowboys will continue to find a job for him and get him on the field. Lewis had an interception and some other key plays in just eight snaps. Lewis has been an interesting narrative this year.
He's a good player and getting him more involved could result in good things for this team. We'll see if the Cowboys use him in this important divisional game.
Wish #2: Get The Early Big Lead, Rest Elliott
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott has done an amazing job for the Cowboys over the past four weeks. Both in the passing and running game, Zeke has been able to consistently move the chains as he's received a huge workload to carry the offense and control the time of possession. He currently leads the league in touches per game.
If the Cowboys are able to get a big lead early, I wish we get to see a lot of backup RB Rod Smith. As much as we all love to watch Zeke be fed, this time Cowboys Nation should appreciate seeing him on the sideline a bit more than usual. For that to happen, though, an early considerable lead is required.
Wish #3: Improve on Red Zone
So far, the Dallas Cowboys have been able to efficiently move the ball and get first downs. What they have struggled with though, is the red zone. Many times, we've seen the offense settle for three instead of getting seven.
This Saturday I argued why, if the Cowboys are able to improve on red zone, this could be a playoff caliber unit. This team shouldn't struggle as much in this area. With Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, Amari Cooper lined up and a mobile QB, Scott Linehan's squad simply needs to do better.
Wish #4: Dak Prescott Gets 300 Yards
The Philadelphia Eagles have placed CB Jalen Mills on IR. With Ronald Darby out already, the Cowboys are about to face a very injured secondary. Philadelphia ranks 26th in passing defense. Dak Prescott's stats have greatly improved since week 7.
However, a big 300-yard performance has yet to occur. I wish he gets just that against the Eagles. For this, he'll certainly need help from his receivers, including Amari Cooper, who has been outstanding with a Star on his helmet.
What are your wishes for this week's matchup versus the Eagles?
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