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Cowboys vs Packers Game Picks, ITS Staff Notes

Bryson Treece

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Cowboys vs Packers Game Picks, ITS Staff Notes

Your 2-2 Dallas Cowboys host the 3-1 Green Bay Packers Sunday at 3:25 CDT, and it feels as if the Cowboys’ entire season hinges on this one NFC game. There’s certainly precedent as the Packers have made a habit of sending the Cowboys home early the last three years, but this isn’t the post-season. The Cowboys will survive the Packers and enjoy a week off afterward.

Perhaps the best thing about this week is that it’s followed by a bye week for Dallas. The team is in growing need of some time off for injuries to heal.

Left tackle Tyron Smith has been added to the injury report with a sore back—an area of concern for him last season as well—and while it looks as though he’ll be ready to play Sunday, the same can’t be said for Sean Lee.

The Cowboys defense looked flat against the Rams in Lee’s absence. Though the team struggled in almost every area of the defense last week, Lee’s sure tackling and quickness to the ball was sorely missed.

While listed as questionable on the team's injury report Friday, I suspect Sean Lee will be held out of this game in order to give his hamstring time to heal fully through the bye week.

The Packers aren’t without injuries off their own, as Davante Adams is questionable after a brutal blow to the head against NFC North division rivals, the Chicago Bears in week three. Additionally, the team’s primary running back—a wide receiver turned running back last season—Ty Montgomery is listed as doubtful this week.

On offense, the Cowboys are mostly whole. The battle for left guard is still brewing between Chaz Green and Jonathan Cooper, and that adds instability to what should be the best offensive line in the NFL. Hopefully, these guys find a rhythm, and fast.

Dak Prescott left many fans groaning about missed opportunities last week, and really, this whole season. His accuracy has come into question and like never before too. Head coach Jason Garrett said in a presser this week that Dak’s accuracy isn’t a concern. He said every throw is different and that they are reviewing each situation independently to address the issues.

Ezekiel Elliott has improved since his 8-yard outing in Denver, but still lacks the consistency we enjoyed in 2016. It’s tough to filter the offensive line’s issues from Elliott’s, but it seems like he could be more involved in the game plan.

Running backs in the NFL are increasingly relied on in the passing game and there’s merit to the argument that Zeke doesn’t get enough targets. He’s our most dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands, after all, so why not work harder to get him the ball in space and let him do his thing?

A nice side benefit of Elliott catching more passes is added dimension, giving opposing defenses more pre-snap confusion.

The Cowboys have slowly started to utilize rookie wide out Ryan Switzer of late, but his lone target through the air was flagged as defensive pass interference, against Denver. Instead, he’s begun to take over plays previously run by Lucky Whitehead, and had marginal success so far.

Cole Beasley is another player who fans are desperate to see more involved. After leading the team in 2016, he’s all but been phased out in 2017. Cole recorded his lowest numbers of the year in weeks three and four with one for four yards and three for 17 yards, respectively. This is down from seven catches for 65 yards the first two weeks.

In 2016, Cole never recorded less than two catches in a game, and that was only in week 13 against the Vikings.

Beasley is a game-changer when he’s getting targets and must be included more in the passing game. Against Green Bay in week six last season, Beasley hauled in six passes for 58 yards and two touchdowns.

Jason Witten has also been underutilized these last two weeks. Through week two, Witten had 17 catches for 156 yards and scored two touchdowns. But since then, he has just two receptions, 12 yards, and no scores.

It’s fair to say that this team just hasn’t been the same since being routed by the Broncos.

In some ways that’s a good thing.

We all saw the Cowboys basically abandon their running game against the Broncos; they just weren’t able to move the ball on the ground. But after Prescott threw the ball 50 times in week two alone, he’s only thrown the ball 54 times in the two weeks since. His passer rating has been higher the last two weeks, and his completion percentage has climbed slightly to 63.9% these last two games, up from 60.75% the first two weeks of the season.

But while Dallas has regained some of their focus on the ground attack, Elliott is averaging just 3.8 yards per game over the last two weeks, for a total of 165 yards on 43 carries.

The plan of attack is slowly getting on track but the Cowboys still need some work to find a groove anywhere near that of 2016.

In my opinion, the offensive woes begin and end with the offensive line. If they can be better, this team can be better, and that is exactly what we need if our defense continues to play as badly as they have.

Regarding our defense, I have just one word for you: tackling.

Tackling, or the lack thereof, seems to be plaguing this defense right now. Coverage hasn’t been great, and stopping the run has been hit or miss, but the tackling has been atrocious. These guys have to improve their tackling.

David Irving’s return this week should help the pass rush, as he’s been a key factor against the Packers for us before. With the way DeMarcus Lawrence is playing this year—a contract year for him—an extra threat on the defensive line could be just what cracks this defense’s potential wide open.

In addition, while I think Sean Lee sits this one out, Anthony Hitchens has been cleared from the injury report and looks like a lock to suit up against the Packers. Good thing too.

As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.

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Dallas' Defensive Reinforcements Not Enough

The Dallas Cowboys aren't able to rebound defensively after a poor second half against the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas suffers its first two-game losing streak since 2015. John Williams – @john9williams

Cowboys 23 – Packers 27

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Green Bay Might Just Have Their Number

Both the Packers and Cowboys enter this game with pretty prolific offenses, and not much to write home about on the defensive side of things. Aaron Rodgers has made a habit of crushing the Cowboys' back-seven due to a lack of pass rush up front, and to be honest, I can't see why that shouldn't happen on Sunday. I still like Dak and company to put up some points, but they fall short in a shootout this week. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88

Cowboys 28 – Packers 34

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Cowboys Pull Off an Upset Over the Packers

I know I'm going to be in the minority here, but I'm going to go with the Dallas Cowboys in a close win over the Packers. This isn't the same Green Bay team we have seen dominate the past several years. They have several injuries at key positions and I think the Cowboys can take advantage of that. I'm expecting Ezekiel Elliott to have a big game on the ground and the Cowboys defense to do just enough to secure the victory. Brian Martin – @bmart0204

Cowboys 37 – Packers 34

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A Defense Without Sean Lee

I think the Cowboys offense will put a lot of points on the board. However, with Sean Lee missing practices, I'm not sure that this defense will be able to stop Aaron Rodgers. Without Lee, this defense is far from good. I'm not proud of my pick... sorry, Cowboys Nation. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99

Cowboys 31 – Packers 35

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Aaron Rodgers Again and Again

Just feeling out the mood around Cowboys Nation this week off of the home loss to the Rams, it feels that even picking the Cowboys to lose this game at the very end is optimistic. This is exactly what I have happening though, as the offense gets on track and provides hope for what's ahead...preparing for week six at 2-3 after Aaron Rodgers leads another game-winning drive. Sean Martin – @ShoreSportsNJ

Cowboys 31 – Packers 34

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Cowboys Stay Above Water as Packers Fall Short

Nothing would make me happier right now than seeing the Cowboys whoop Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. It will be a hard-fought game, through and through, but with Hitchens and Irving back for the D, even without expecting Lee to play, the Cowboys upset Green Bay to stay above .500 going into the bye. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece

Cowboys 34 – Packers 27

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The Packers lead the all time series against the Cowboys by one game. Here's to tying up that score Sunday! Share your game picks below and, as always, Go Cowboys!



Nothing gives me greater joy than the experience of being a Dallas Cowboys fan come time to check another victory on the schedule every Sunday. I live Inside the Star everyday and blog on it occasionally, as well. Follow us on Twitter - @InsideTheStarDC

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3 Comments
  • Russ_Te

    If at GB, pretty worried in this spot. Cowboys D and OL, not settled at all.

    But they have to be in a bad mood after losing at home to the Rams, so GB bears the brunt of that > Dallas 31-24

    Btw Bryson; 1 vote against that auto-loading Fox video screen. This machine is a Win 7 laptop with 10 mbps connection, and that thing is bogging down the site load. Plus, who cares about their content?

    • https://InsideTheStar.com/ Bryson Treece

      Understood. Thanks for the feedback. I’ve been wondering specifically about that.

  • dallas1966

    I’ve been a Cowboys fan since 1966. I went to the Broncos game, and witness the woodshed whooping . I was optimistic that it was only a bump in the road. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, Rod Marinell is overrated, and that includes, Scott Linehan as well. Neither make halftime adjustments to counter what the opposition is doing in the second half. It appears that Jason Garrett doesn’t override them to make adjustments.
    The Cowboys scored only 10 points in the second half, while the Packers scored 23 points in the second half to win the game.

    Teams have spent the off season, to study the Cowboys, yet the Cowboys have no answers to counter attack, despite having the off season, to expect the opposition to change up the schemes to attack both the offense and defense.
    If the Cowboys coaching staff don’t figure it out, it’s going to be a long season, with another year in the wilderness.

    Marinelli, needs to adjust his defense to the talent, instead of forcing a round peg into a square hole.

    It appears it’s going to be few years, before the Cowboys even sniff a playoffs, if the Cowboys continues with THIS coaching staff, we Cowboys fans, will continue to wonder into the wilderness, living on the organization legacy of the 70’s and 90’s.

    Just venting……

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check
(Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports)

Coming into their week two match up against the New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys knew they could control the game with -- for the first time in years against Eli Manning -- their pass rush and strong secondary. Exposing a weak Giants offensive line went well beyond the Cowboys front four in this win though.

The Cowboys put Manning on the turf six times, with Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard relentlessly dialing up pressure. With the depth at linebacker to match up with Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram, along with Byron Jones' efforts on Odell Beckham Jr., it's no secret how the Cowboys defense forced Manning to dump the ball to his running back for 14 receptions.

Barkley's longest catch going for ten yards, this was a nearly flawless game for Rod Marinelli's defense to even the Cowboys record at 1-1. Expecting much of the same from their front seven against a poor Seahawks OL, now is a good time to look back at some of the pressure packages the Cowboys used in week two.

With a core of versatile linebackers they can trust, the Cowboys deployed Jaylon Smith, Sean Lee, Damien Wilson, and Leighton Vander Esch all over the field to present the Giants with different looks. What made the Cowboys defensive play calling so successful was their LBs ability to cover ground quickly and create depth in coverage.

By doing so, the Giants could not take any chances down the field, their longest passing play going for 37 yards.

Blitz1

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

On this play, even with the Giants looking to get the ball out quickly, the pressure from Smith and Wilson disrupt the timing. Sean Lee, the only Cowboys linebacker not sent after Manning on the play, ends up rallying from his starting WILL position to get in on the tackle. The Giants did not have the numbers up front to block Damien Wilson attacking from SAM, although more impressively, Smith was able to rip through a partial block from the right guard and get ahead of Wilson on their rush.

Blitz2

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

This next blitz shows off the Cowboys strong coverage downfield against the Giants. Cornerback Anthony Brown had his fingerprints all over this game in the back end for Dallas, but on this play comes out of the slot after Manning. Sensing the pressure at his feet, Manning steps up and actually puts himself in position to deliver a good ball, but is forced into yet another check down.

While linebacker blitzes are part of the "Richard effect" on the Cowboys defense, a well-timed slot blitz is a staple of Rod Marinelli's scheme. Using Brown a number of times in this role off the strong side, the Giants had no answers for the different pressures Dallas sent their way against Ereck Flowers at right tackle.

Blitz3

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Even when Smith was picked up, as he was in the above play, the Cowboys capitalized on missed blocking assignments to get home with their front four. Taco Charlton the benefactor at RDE here, watch as Barkley rushes to keep Lee from having a straight run at his QB - allowing Charlton to do the same off the edge. Running untouched on the play, Charlton does a nice job taking a sharp angle to Manning and chasing him to the ground.

Blitz4

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

As much as the Cowboys cornerbacks were a huge part of the team's confidence in sending pressure, their safeties also performed well in coverage. I wrote about the above play on Monday morning in my Sean's Scout that immediately follows every Cowboys game:

"That's a fantastic play by Jeff Heath to run across the field and tackle Evan Engram short of the line to gain on third down.

The Giants drive would continue with a fourth down conversion, but the Cowboys defense did eventually force a punt.

The Cowboys safeties were primarily called upon to play in run support in this game, a role Heath has struggled in previously. Showing off his strengths as an athletic and rangy defensive back on this play, Heath didn't get pushed up the field by Engram on his release, hunting him down after the catch in front of a fired up Dallas bench."

Heath picking up Engram is just one example of a Cowboys defender exceeding expectations in coverage. Smith was able to run with Beckham Jr., as was Charlton on separate plays later in the game.

Blitz6

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The only fitting way to conclude this film study is with a DeMarcus Lawrence sack. The Cowboys best individual defender, Lawrence had his way with Flowers as we all expected. Playing to another one of Tank's strengths here though, Lawrence rushes to the inside off a well-executed T/E stunt with Tyrone Crawford.

Also sending Brown at Manning again, the Giants pass pro leaves Lawrence unabated to the quarterback. Unlikely to escape the grasp of Lawrence on such a free rush, Manning does try to abort the pocket, but had Brown crashing down on him to collapse things.

Lawrence might not earn many easier sacks this season. None of the Cowboys starters on defense are more capable of using their own ability to get to the QB than Lawrence still, who is getting all the help he needs from Richard as his play caller.

Through just two games, the Cowboys commitment to forcing the issue on defense has potential to keep this team atop the NFC East as the offense comes into its own.

Depending on the development of their own passing game, this may have to be a defense that can win Dallas games. The only way to do so is with sacks and turnovers.

The latter is something Marinelli's defenses have always excelled at when at full strength (the Cowboys are expecting Randy Gregory back as early as this week and DT David Irving comes off suspension in week five). The former is something the Cowboys are creating with a deeply talented front seven, orchestrated by one of the best in the business.

The Cowboys will look to build on their nine sacks this season against the Seahawks on Sunday, a team that's allowed the most in the league at 12. Their timing to go after Russell Wilson will be tested more than it was against the Giants, with Richard also better positioned to aid the Cowboys against his former team.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Blitzes Keep Giants Play Makers in Check" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys’ Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

John Williams

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Dallas Cowboys' Path to Victory Over the Seattle Seahawks

In every game, whether it's a sporting event or a board game there is a path -- and sometimes more than one -- to victory. For the Dallas Cowboys, it's no different. As they get set to face a Seattle Seahawks team that is 0-2 for the first time since 2015, they'll have to win in several areas to bring home the W.

After starting out 0-2 in 2015, the Seahawks finished the season with a 10-6 record and won their wild card game over the Minnesota Vikings before falling in the divisional round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Seahawks are one of those teams that you can get down, but can never count out. If the Dallas Cowboys want to come out on top in their trip to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to have to come ready to play.

In particular, these are the things that the Dallas Cowboys have to achieve to be the victors on Sunday.

Limit Big Plays

The Seattle Seahawks are a very interesting offensive case study. They have one of the better quarterbacks in the league, but have invested very little in trying to protect their most important asset.

They rely on Russell Wilson's improvisational ability and penchant for big plays.

In 2017, Wilson had a quarterback rating of 100.9 on attempts greater than 20 yards down the field, per Pro Football Focus. He threw the ball "deep" 91 times, completing 31 passes for 1,134 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions. He had the most deep attempts in the league last season and tied with Alex Smith with the most touchdowns on deep attempts. Wilson's yardage was nearly 200 yards more than the next best in the NFL on deep passing.

Wilson's going to take some deep shots. If you watched the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Chicago Bears, you noticed that even though Wilson was getting battered, it didn't deter him from taking shots deep down the field. Sometimes into unfavorable coverages.

The secondary has an advantage over the Seattle Seahawks group of wide receivers, but they'll have to stay disciplined and not allow the big pass plays to beat them.

In a game where they were being dominated for more than three quarters, the Seahawks were able to hang around and had a chance at the end because of their penchant for big plays.

Don't get beat deep.

Wrangling Russell Wilson

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed the most sacks in the league through two weeks. They've allowed six in each of their first two games this season. The Dallas Cowboys are going to have opportunities to sack Russell Wilson this week.

They have to take advantage.

Like Cam Newton in week one, Russell Wilson is a very elusive quarterback. Not only is he really good at making plays with his legs, he can be difficult to bring down. The Dallas Cowboys will have to work to keep Wilson in the pocket and finish when they get an opportunity to bring him down. He's not a physical presence like Newton is, but he's slippery and has some of that Tony Romo elusiveness to him.

If the potential tackler doesn't get Wilson down on first contact, it could lead to big plays both through the air and on the ground. Wilson averages 33.6 yards per game on the ground in his career and 5.7 yards per attempt. In order to get off the field on third down, they're going to have to prevent Wilson from using his legs to pick up third downs.

Establishing the Pass to Set Up the Run

At this point in the Dallas Cowboys offensive approach, everyone in the world knows what the Dallas Cowboys want to do on offense. They want to run the ball.

The Dallas Cowboys did a great job using this knowledge to their advantage on the first series of the game against the New York Giants.

On the first play of the game, they used a Run-Pass Option, with a clear out to the flat by Tight End Geoff Swaim, and found Allen Hurns on a slant to set up a second and short. Then after picking up that second and short with a run by Ezekiel Elliott, they used a straight play action out of a two running back, one tight end set, and hit Tavon Austin for the 64 yard touchdown.

Dak's willingness to throw the ball deep on a couple other occasions helped open up the run. The deep ball has to be a threat in order to back defenses off the line of scrimmage and do what you do best: Run the Ball. If they aren't going to back off, then you have to keep throwing it until you hit the deep ball enough that it forces them to do so.

The Dallas Cowboys were able to run the ball pretty effectively for the rest of the game, even if they didn't hit a lot of big plays. With the New York Giants interior defensive line, it was going to be tough sledding anyway. Getting things going through the air, helped out immensely.

The Seattle Seahawks are going to try to do what everyone does; put the ball in Dak Prescott's hands. If they're going to win on Sunday, it's going to be because Prescott had another efficient game throwing the ball.

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This game sets up really well for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their record to 2-1 and keep pace with the upper tier teams in the NFC. Every win matters, but these NFC games matter even a bit more. No game in the NFL is a cakewalk and this game is no different. If the Dallas Cowboys aren't able to do the above, it could be a long day for America's Team. 



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Game Notes

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.

Trends

  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.

Prediction

While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.



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