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Cowboys at Titans: 3 Interesting Matchups to Watch

Tonight's game between the and is being billed as an easy win for the Cowboys; such an easy win that it's even fallen outside the parameters of the “trap game” rhetoric that's been heard as of late. Other reasons this competition seems to lack that “trap game” feel include:

Still, NFL fans have seen several examples this season of games that seem incredibly unbalanced on paper but turn out to be close competitions on the field. There have also been instances of backups on both sides of the ball showing up and performing unexpectedly well. There is potential tonight to see a few players step up and put on a surprising performance. At worst, some matchups may just be fun to watch, especially for .


Micah Parsons vs Dennis Staley

This is one of those matchups that could be fun to watch for Cowboys fans assuming takes the field. Parsons is currently listed as questionable because of a hand , but in Tuesday's locker room interview he said of the injury, “I'm good, though,” and proceeded to discuss the upcoming game.

Micah's speed and agility set him apart from almost any defensive player in the league, but he's logged only 1 sack in the past four games which is a low number for him.

Micah is projected to make up for his low sack numbers tonight as he's expected to be up against Dennis Daley who has been described as the worst offensive tackle in the NFL.

According to stats gathered by PFF, Staley has allowed more and pressures this season than any other in the NFL. Meanwhile, even with this recent “slump,” Pro Football Reference still lists Micah Parsons among the Top 5 in QB sacks and pressures.

Unless the Titans have some unforeseen alternate plan to put in place, this could end up being a nightmare of a matchup for Tennessee.

DeMarcus Lawrence vs Malik Willis

The Titans' rookie , Malik Willis, will be making his fourth start against the Cowboys tonight. Since taking over for the injured , he's become known more for his running ability than his pass plays. During Saturday's game between the Tennessee Titans and , Willis ran the ball 7 times for 42 yards and a touchdown. His during that game, however, was 34.5. Willis completed 14 of 23 passing attempts for 99 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times.

Although has not disappointed fans this season by any stretch of the imagination, he has struggled against mobile quarterbacks in the past. While Lawrence is not expected to have any major problems with Willis, it will be interesting to watch his approach to handling Willis as a component of slowing down the Titans ground game. As the Cowboys commit to gaining momentum for the post season, this matchup might show us whether or not DeMarcus Lawrence has managed to improve in a couple of areas since earlier this season.

Dak Prescott vs Dak Prescott

The most recent Sounds from the Sideline released by the Dallas Cowboys captures a moment following Dak Prescott's first and only interception during Saturday's game against the Eagles. The Cowboys QB is heard saying, “That's on me. It ain't gonna [expletive] happen again. That's on me. That [expletive] stops after that.” Fans will find out tonight if that promise extends into tonight's game.

Dak's interceptions this season have been cited as one of the team's biggest weaknesses, the theory being that teams who seem very beatable on paper are able to keep a game close or even win due to mistakes made by the quarterback. A look at the statistics from this season shows that the more Dak throws the ball, especially when pass attempts exceed the number of run plays, the more interceptions occur.

The temptation will definitely be there tonight to pass the ball perhaps more than we've seen in any other game. The Tennessee Titans have the 31st ranked pass defense in the NFL. They also use zone coverage 68.6% of the time, and Dak just had a historic performance against zone coverage on Saturday, becoming the only player with a perfect 99 NGS passing score against zone coverage since 2018.

Additionally, even though their may be less effective with starters out, stopping the run is still expected to be their focus. Combine all of this with a potent and versatile Cowboys passing attack, especially with what's yet to be seen from , and it's easy to see why leaning into the would make sense.

Impact on the Game

Tonight will be an opportunity for Dak Prescott to continue on his journey of being more aggressive but smarter as he's spoken on a couple of times this year. With the temptation to be the most aggressive he's been all season, will he still have enough restraint to avoid costly mistakes?

Dak Prescott has placed a lot of emphasis on self accountability this season. He's preached about the importance of the Cowboys making a statement to themselves. He even spoke about his own mental toughness before putting it on full display against the Eagles. He clearly understands the importance of building on his strengths and minimizing the impact of his own weaknesses. That's why, although this “matchup” is an unconventional one, it is one that he himself seems to recognize as impacting the performance of the offense as a whole.

Analysts have recently criticized the Cowboys of playing down to the level of their competition. After such a strong performance against the Eagles, tonight is a chance for the Cowboys to prove that they can maintain that high level of play even when the seem to weigh so heavily in their favor. In a game like this one, with the Cowboys being a 12-point favorite against a team with almost no notable threats to their passing game, the only person who can ruin Dak's night is Dak. With the narrative currently surrounding this game, even a close win will draw criticism and doubt.  It will be up to him to play a smart and clean, albeit aggressive, game to show what this offense is capable of whether the stakes are high or not.

Jazz Monet
Jazz Monet
Sports culture analyst. Sports competition enthusiast. Host of Bitches Love Sports podcast. Personal trainer. Roller derby athlete and trainer.

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