Coming into the 2018 NFL season, I looked at the Dallas Cowboys and saw them as a team that would fairly easily win 10 games and make the playoffs. Questions centered around Dak Prescott and the offense, but I like many, thought the defense was going to be elite.
Well, after five games, it's safe to say that the defense is not elite.
The Dallas Cowboys' defense wasn't the entire problem on Sunday night in their 19-16 loss to the Houston Texans, but to say that they didn't have their own struggles on Sunday would be an understatement.
We've seen what this defense is, and what they are is not good enough.
As a unit, they haven't been bad, but they aren't a unit that is capable of carrying an offense as bad as the Dallas Cowboys offense is. And I can't kid myself anymore, this Cowboys offense is a bad offense.
The Texans moved the ball at will on the Dallas Cowboys. They hit the Cowboys for big gains in both the passing game and running game. The Cowboys allowed 462 yards of total offense. Houston Texans Quarterback Deshaun Watson throwing for 375 and running for another 40.
The Cowboys defense pressured him 17 times, but were only able to come away with one sack. This against the team that had given up the second most sacks in the NFL coming into week five.
Running Back Alfred Blue rushed for 46 yards on the day, but had 47 yards after contact. Though Blue only ran for 2.3 yards per carry, he was able to do enough to keep the Texans in favorable down and distances on Sunday night.
The Dallas Cowboys were able to force the Texans to kick field goals inside the five yard line three times. The Texans also failed to convert on fourth and goal from inside the five yard line at the end of the second half. Imagine what the score would be like if the Texans were able to score on even half of their inside the five yard line attempts. Were they lucky or were they good in their ability to limit the Texans to field goals from inside the five? Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good and I think the Cowboys were more lucky. They were lucky to hold the Texans to 19. They could have easily given up 30 or more if not for the play of the Linebacker Jaylon Smith.
Other than the red zone defense, which was stingier than a Dave and Buster's claw machine, the Dallas Cowboys couldn't do anything to stop Houston. Deshaun Watson was slinging the ball around like an in his prime Drew Brees and the Cowboys had no answer for it on the defensive side of the football.
When the Texans got the ball in overtime, I didn't have a good feeling about their ability to prevent Houston from kicking the game winning field goal. There had been too much evidence in the previous 60 minutes -- 3 games -- of play that Dallas is struggling on defense.
The Cowboys defense has now struggled three weeks in a row after starting the season strong against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants. They've now allowed an average of 22.33 points per game over the last three weeks and the pass defense has seen their passing yards against increase each of the last three weeks. In their last two weeks, they've allowed 318 passing yards per game to Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, who are good passing quarterbacks, but aren't the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
Kris Richard, Rod Marinelli, and the defensive coaching staff attempted to make a personnel adjustment in the middle of the game by going with Anthony Brown at left corner back and inserting Jourdan Lewis into the lineup as the slot corner. The results were better in the second half compared to the first half, but they were still giving up a lot of yards to the Texans.
Someone on the defensive line has to start turning pressures into sacks. DeMarcus Lawrence as good as he is, can't do it all, and week after week, he's going to be asked to try to beat multiple blockers when rushing the quarterback. Very few players in the NFL can play against double teams on every snap and win consistently. So, someone along the defensive line is going to have to give opposing quarterbacks something to think about. Whether it's Taco Charlton, Randy Gregory, or the returning David Irving, someone has to help Lawrence out.
I hate to say it, but the 2018 season is heading to an unfortunate place. The Dallas Cowboys are looking down the barrel of a sub-.500 season because this defense isn't good enough to carry the offense.
At this point, we know what this team is and on both sides of the football, they aren't very good.
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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