The Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule certainly looks a lot tougher on paper than it did just a season ago. That's typically what happens in the NFL when you finish dead last in your division one year and then first the next. The Cowboys won't have the benefit of a fourth-place schedule in 2017, but that shouldn't have any bearing on how they prepare for the upcoming season.
The Dallas Cowboys will be playing against the AFC South and the NFC South in 2017, which means they will be making multiple trips to the West Coast to play the 49ers, Raiders, and Cardinals.
The toughest part of the Cowboys 2017 schedule is definitely the last five games of the season. They play four of the last five games on the road and their only home game during that stretch is against the Seattle Seahawks. But, it's not all bad. The Cowboys play a lot of their tougher opponents at home including the Packers, Chiefs, and the aforementioned Seahawks.
The Dallas Cowboys 2017 schedule is certainly nothing to scoff at, but that doesn't mean we should be disheartened at their chances to be even better than they were in 2016. In fact, if you keep reading below to see my game by game predictions, you might even get a little bit more excited for the start of the 2017 season.
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Week 1: Cowboys Vs. Giants
Once again, the NFL schedule makers have the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants facing off against one another to open up the season. This marks the third year in a row these two teams will be squaring off against one another in Week 1 and the 10th time in franchise history. The Cowboys have the advantage of being 8-1 in those contest, with the only loss coming in 2016.
The New York Giants narrowly escaped with the 20-19 victory in 2016 due to some questionable decision-making by Terrance Williams, but I don't expect history to repeat itself.
The Giants added WR Brandon Marshall to hopefully take some pressure off of Odell Beckham Jr. and improve their offense. That certainly doesn't sound too good for the Cowboys defense, who could field an entirely new secondary 2017. But, the Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL to pave the way for Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who should be even better in their second years.
If you add everything up, it certainly shapes up to be another slugfest. But, Dallas has the best kicker in the NFL, Dan Bailey, and I think it's his foot that secures the victory for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-21
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Week 2: Cowboys @ Broncos
In their first road game of the season, the Dallas Cowboys will travel to Denver to take on the Broncos. The Cowboys have lost five straight games to the Broncos, dating back to 1995. But, the last time these two teams faced off against each other was when Peyton Manning and Tony Romo put up historic numbers throwing for a combined 960 yards and nine touchdowns.
The Broncos won that contest 51-48, but both QBs in that matchup have retired. Dak Prescott and Trevor Simeon don't quite have the drawing power as Manning and Romo have had in their careers, but this still shapes up to be an exciting game nonetheless.
This will be a strength against strength for the Broncos and Cowboys. The Broncos have one of the best defenses in the entire NFL, while the Cowboys have one of the best offenses. The deciding factor in this game will probably be how the Cowboys offensive line handles the Broncos loaded front seven.
This will probably be a relatively low-scoring contest, but I think the Cowboys will make just enough plays to come away with the victory and end their five-game losing streak against the Broncos.
Prediction: Cowboys, 17-14
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Week 3: Cowboys @ Cardinals
This marks the first back-to-back road games of the 2017 season for the Dallas Cowboys, when they travel to Arizona to take on the troublesome Cardinals. The Cowboys have lost the last four meetings against Arizona, which doesn't bode well for their chances in Week 3.
However, the Cowboys have one of the best young rosters in the entire NFL, while the Cardinals are at the opposite end of the spectrum with quite a few aging veterans.
The Cardinals still have a high-powered offense and a solid defense despite their aging roster, but I don't think it will be enough for them to keep up with the Cowboys young/talented roster. This could turn into a shootout kind of game, but I think the Cowboys offensive line will end up wearing down the Cardinals defense.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-28
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Week 4: Cowboys Vs. Rams
The Dallas Cowboys have won three straight regular-season games against the Rams, and I don't see any reason why that shouldn't continue in the Week 4.
The Los Angeles Rams have completely overhauled their coaching staff and are rebuilding their roster. The Cowboys should be able to impose their will from the get-go, likely making this one of the easier matchups on their schedule.
I do expect the Rams to battle this thing out to the bitter end, and you can bet that former Cowboys head coach/current Rams defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, will have something up his sleeve for the Cowboys offense. But, it won't be enough in the end.
The Cowboys will control the time of possession and easily come away with their fourth straight victory.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-14
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Week 5: Cowboys Vs. Packers
Although the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers always seem to put on an exciting performance when the two teams face off, I'm getting a little tired of seeing these two teams play one another. This is especially true this year since the Cowboys are expected to have a lot of youth infused into their secondary against the Packers dangerous passing.
I expect the Cowboys to try and control the time of possession and keep Aaron Rodgers and his offense off the field as much as possible. But, that strategy will only work as long as the Cowboys defense can keep the Packers out of the end zone.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys youth on the defensive side of the ball doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence they can get the better of Rogers for the majority of the game. I think this will be a close game, but I have the Packers handing the Cowboys their first loss of the season.
Prediction: Packers, 35-31
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Week 6: Bye Week
If things turn out the way I predicted so far, the Dallas Cowboys are headed into their bye week with a 4-1 winning record. I don't know about you, but I've would be happy with that considering the teams they have played so far.
The Cowboys haven't had a bye week this late since 2015. It could actually be a good thing considering how difficult their December opponents look thus far.
This extra time off will not only let them recuperate from any bumps and bruises they have acquired so far, but it also gives them a little extra time to prepare for their back-to-back road games.
Everyone needs take full advantage of this break in the schedule, because there are a lot of regular-season games left on the schedule and perhaps the playoffs to get through.
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Week 7: Cowboys @ 49ers
Coming off their bye week, the Dallas Cowboys travel back to the West Coast to take on the San Francisco 49ers. I previously stated how the Los Angeles Rams might be the most winnable game on the Cowboys schedule 2017, but the 49ers are right there with them.
The Cowboys have won the last four out of five games against the 49ers and the last three in San Francisco. That doesn't look to change in Week 7.
The 49ers have gutted their roster since they last reached the playoffs with head coach Jim Harbaugh a few seasons ago. There is a lack of talent on both sides the ball in San Francisco and if the Cowboys play the way they should, this should be an easy win.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-10
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Week 8: Cowboys @ Redskins
After being on the West Coast, the Cowboys travel all the way to FedEx Field to take on the division rival Washington Redskins. The Cowboys have won their last four games in Washington, the last loss coming in 2012.
The Cowboys offense matches up really well with the Redskins defense, and they should be able to move the ball with ease. However, the same thing could be said for the Redskins because of the matchup problems they can create for the Cowboys defense.
This game will ultimately be decided by which team turns the ball over less or who possesses the ball last. I expect a physical slobber knocker and a lot of trash talk, but I think the Cowboys continued their winning streak in Washington.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-24
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Week 9: Cowboys Vs. Chiefs
After two back-to-back road games, the Dallas Cowboys finally get to come back home and take on a talented Kansas City Chiefs team. This is certainly a winnable game, but the Cowboys will have to be on their best if they want to continue their win streak.
Kansas City has one of the best defenses in the NFL, but their offense relies on defensive turnovers and big plays from Tyreek Hill. I'm just not sure they can keep up with the Cowboys high-powered offense.
I expect the Cowboys game plan will be to control the clock with the running game, thus wearing down the Chiefs defense. Also, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's bend don't break defensive mentality is perfectly suited to keep Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense at bay.
Prediction: Cowboys, 24-17
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Week 10: Cowboys @ Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons nearly pulled off the upset against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl last year, but just couldn't do enough to seal the victory in the end. That doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence the Cowboys can go on the road and pull off an upset of their own.
The Falcons have one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the entire NFL. They have two talented running backs that can pound the ball and one of the best WRs in Julio Jones, who is a huge matchup for the Cowboys secondary. Their defense is young, talented, and predicated on speed. They are good enough to give the Cowboys offense some problems.
For the Cowboys to win this game they will have to be at their best in all three phases. But, to go on the road and play a team as talented as the Falcons is a tough task to take on for any team.
Prediction: Falcons, 31-24
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Week 11: Cowboys Vs. Eagles
It's somewhat surprising the first meeting of the 2017 season between the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles doesn't come until Week 11. Stranger still, is they will square off against once another twice in the final seven games of the season.
Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz will always be linked to one another because of the 2016 NFL Draft, but it's Prescott who has emerged as a better QB so far. It actually took a brilliant performance by Prescott to beat the Eagles in 2016 in his only match up against Philadelphia. He led the Cowboys to a 29-23 come from behind victory.
The Eagles offense has become more talented with the addition of Alshon Jeffrey, but they still have a lot of holes that need to be addressed on the offensive side of the ball. Wentz should be better in year two, but I don't think he can do enough to outscore the Cowboys potent offense, especially on the road.
Prediction: Cowboys, 27-24
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Week 12: Cowboys Vs. Chargers
On Thanksgiving Day, the Dallas Cowboys play their first back to back Thursday night games against the new look Los Angeles Chargers. The Cowboys are only 3 and 4 in the Jason Garrett head-coaching era on Thanksgiving, but won the last one against the Redskins in 2016.
The Cowboys will be looking to continue their Thanksgiving winning streak against the Chargers, but they have struggled against them lately. The Cowboys have lost three of the last four games, but this Chargers team isn't nearly as talented as they have been in years past.
The Los Angeles Chargers still have a talented roster with some playmakers on both sides of ball, but they simply don't match up well against the Cowboys high-powered offense. I expect the Philip Rivers led offense to put up points on the Cowboys, but the Chargers won't be able to contain Ezekiel Elliott and the rest the Cowboys offensive playmakers.
Prediction: Cowboys, 34-24
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Week 13: Cowboys Vs. Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys have beaten the Redskins the last four out of five games, with the last loss coming in 2015 with Kellen Moore at quarterback. This meeting will be the second consecutive Thursday night game and a matchup that rarely disappoints.
Redskins QB Kirk Cousins lost two of his favorite receiving targets in the off-season (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon) and has the tough task of trying to keep pace with the Cowboys high-scoring offense without them. The Redskins also saw several defensive starters leave via free agency, which means a lot of turnover on both sides of the ball.
With so many moving pieces throughout the roster for the Redskins, it's hard to imagine they can do enough to outscore the Cowboys, who have home-field advantage. This is always a physical fun filled game, with plenty of trash talking from both teams. But, I predict the Cowboys will continue their winning streak.
Prediction: Cowboys, 28-24
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Week 14: Cowboys @ Giants
Playing in New York is always a tough task for the Dallas Cowboys, especially this late in the season. The New York Giants beat the Cowboys twice in 2016 and held them to just 26 total points.
The Giants have invested heavily on the defensive side of the ball through free agency the past several seasons and have built the rest of their roster to beat the Cowboys. They added Brandon Marshall to take pressure off of Odell Beckham Jr. and now create matchup problems on both sides of the ball for Dallas.
Nearly every game between the Giants and Cowboys comes down to who has the last possession, but unfortunately I don't see Dallas coming away with a road victory. Although the score will be close in the end, I have the Giants narrowly escaping with the victory by a field goal.
Prediction: Giants, 20-17
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Week 15: Cowboys @ Raiders
In their final trip to the West Coast, the Dallas Cowboys take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football. The Cowboys and Raiders are very similar teams on paper, which makes this matchup all the more interesting.
Both ball clubs have young/talented QBs, that happened where the same number. They also have two of the best offensive lines in the entire NFL, who pride themselves on their physicality and ability to control the line of scrimmage.
This game could go either way, but I think whichever running back between Ezekiel Elliott or Marshawn Lynch helps determine the outcome. I'm just not sure the Cowboys defense can do enough to keep Derek Carr and his offensive weapons out of the end zone, which is why I have the Cowboys losing their second consecutive game. But, only by a narrow margin.
Prediction: Raiders, 30-28
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Week 16: Cowboys Vs. Seahawks
The Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks are two of the top teams in the NFC, and as such you can expect an intense/physical game from both ball clubs. The last time these two teams faced off against one another was in the preseason last season, the game that ultimately ended Tony Romo's career and paved the way for the Dak Prescott era.
This game will feature one of the best run defenses against perhaps the NFL's best rushing attack. Look for Ezekiel Elliott to be especially hyped up for this game after how the Seahawks defense tried to welcome him into the NFL last year.
With Dallas coming off of two consecutive losses, I don't see any way everyone won't be on their "A" game at home against the Seahawks. I don't think this will be a high-scoring affair by any means, but I think the Cowboys escape with the victory in large part due to Dan Bailey's ability to split the uprights.
Prediction: Cowboys, 23-17
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Week 17: Cowboys @ Eagles
Of course the NFL schedule makers have the Dallas Cowboys closing out the 2017 season facing off against one of their division rivals. How else with the season end? Depending on how the rest of the NFC East division fairs, this could be a really important game or it could be meaningless for the Cowboys playoff hopes.
No matter what the significance of this game is, it's definitely no easy task to travel to Philadelphia in December and come away with the victory. However, I just don't think the Eagles have a talented enough roster to outscore the Cowboys.
I'm pretty sure the Cowboys have probably secured their playoff spot by now, but I don't think they rest their starters because that's just not Jason Garrett's philosophy. This will still be a tough game, but I have the Cowboys closing out the 2017 season with a victory.
Prediction: Cowboys, 21-17
If things turned out the way I predicted, the Dallas Cowboys will once again be heading back to the playoffs after finishing the 2017 season with a 12-4 winning record. Of course, several of these games could've gone either way, which would mean a few more losses. But, I still believe they are a playoff team.
What is your 2017 record prediction for the Dallas Cowboys?
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
Final Thoughts and Prediction for Cowboys vs Indianapolis Colts
Over the last five weeks, the Dallas Cowboys have put themselves in a position in week 15 to clinch the NFC East with a win over the Indianapolis Colts or a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles vs the Los Angeles Rams.
My how things have changed.
Just six weeks ago, the Cowboys were coming off an embarrassing two touchdown loss on Monday Night Football at the hands of the Tennessee Titans and looked dead in the water sitting at 3-5. A month and a half later they are in position to win the division and potentially have little to play for the final two weeks of the season. That's an amazing turnaround. One that should have Jason Garrett in the Coach of the Year discussions.
As we get ready for the Colts on Sunday, let me give you my final thoughts on the week 15 matchup.
Will Key Injuries Tell the Tale?
By week 15 of the NFL season, pretty much everyone is dealing with injuries and most teams are dealing with injuries to key players. The Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts are no different.
All-Pro Right Guard Zack Martin has already been ruled out of Sunday's contest, as he's been battling a knee injury for several weeks. It was worsened on Sunday vs the Eagles when he took a bull rush from Fletcher Cox and fell awkwardly. This will be the first start that Zack Martin has missed in his illustrious five-year career. He's been an iron man for the Cowboys at a position that makes it extremely difficult to stay healthy.
On the plus side, it looks like the Cowboys mat get All-Pro Linebacker Sean Lee and Wide Receiver Tavon Austin back for Sunday. Both Lee and Austin will likely be in reserve/rotational roles if they suit up this week, but if they're active, they'll make important impacts to their respective units.
Indianapolis is struggling with an injury to a very important player in their own right as Wide Receiver T.Y. Hilton has not practiced this week. He's dealing with an ankle injury and Colts Head Coach Frank Reich doesn't sound optimistic about his chances of playing.
The Colts will also be missing their Right Guard Mark Glowinski, who has started the last eight games for Indianapolis. Glowinski suffered an ankle injury during the Colts win over the Texans last Sunday. That's a key loss for an offensive line that has played as well as anyone in the NFL this season.
Can the Cowboys Limit Andrew Luck?
The Cowboys defense has been one of the best units in football in 2018 as they've put on a show against really good offensive teams like the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints. They'll have another tough test this week against Andrew Luck and the Colts.
According to Pro Football Reference, Luck sits second in the NFL in touchdown passes, sixth in passing yards, third in completions, second in attempts, 12th in quarterback rating, and ninth in QBR. At 7.1 yards per attempt, he sits 22nd in the NFL in and 20th in the NFL in air yards per attempt at 7.3.
Luck has been one of the best passers in the NFL, but he's also thrown the second most interceptions this season. On the flip side, among quarterbacks who have started 13 games, Luck has been sacked the second fewest times. Only Drew Brees has taken less sacks. Luck has only been sacked 16 times in 13 games and has been sacked multiple times in only five games. Over the last three weeks, Luck has taken an average of two sacks a game.
In that four week stretch, the Colts have gone 3-1, and Luck has averaged 321 yards passing, two touchdowns and an interception per game.
The Dallas defense has come on strong and is finding ways to get pressure with four rushers. Taking advantage of the injury at right guard and getting to Luck with their front four is a huge key to the game as it is against most quarterbacks. Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence are playing as well as any defensive end duo in the NFL this season and I expect that to continue this week.
Big Games from Explosive Duo?
The Dallas Cowboys have been getting huge games from their two most important skill position players; Running Back Ezekiel Elliott and Wide Receiver Amari Cooper. Over the last five weeks, Elliott has averaged 116 rushing yards a game, 55 receiving yards, and at least one touchdown per game. During the same stretch, Cooper has averaged seven receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown per game.
Elliott and Cooper may find it difficult to reach their respective 100 yard milestones against the Colts. As Patrick Conn of WFAA.com illustrates below.
Colts haven't given up 100 yards to a single rusher. 2-100 yard receiving games vs Texans in first matchup (Hopkins/Coutee). Other than that, no other 100 yard performances
Now, it could be argued that the Colts have only played three games against teams with good to great offenses. The Houston Texans (twice), and the New England Patriots. They went a combined 1-2 in those three games and the defense allowed an average of 32 points per game. The Colts have played better defense over the last seven games than they did earlier in the season. Over the last seven, they went 6-1 and allowed an average of 17 points per game. Of course that stretch of games doesn't feature any offensive juggernauts. They played the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, and the Oakland Raiders. The best team they played in their last seven games was the Houston Texans and they allowed 21 points. The Cowboys only allowed 16 points in regulation to the Texans.
Only one team on the Colts schedule to this point is in the top 10 in rushing; the Houston Texans. And only one team on their schedule is in the top 10 in passing; the New England Patriots. Again, in three games against those teams, they went 1-2.
They haven't faced an offense this season that is playing as well, and as balanced, as the Cowboys have over the last five weeks.
Rookie Linebackers Dominating
We've all witnessed the standout play of rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, as the "Wolf Hunter" has taken the NFC by storm during Sean Lee's absence. Vander Esch is third in the league in solo tackles this season. The two players in front of Vander Esch are perennial All-Pro Luke Kuechly and the guy who will probably run away with Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Indianapolis Colts rookie Darius Leonard.
Leonard is leading the NFL in solo tackles and combined tackles per Pro Football Focus. He's tied for the lead league among linebackers with seven sacks and is second in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' "stops" metric. Leighton Vander Esch is fourth.
Both linebackers have been huge contributors for their teams, at times taking over games and coming up with big plays to turn the tide. Throw in Fred Warner in San Francisco and 2018 has been the year of the rookie linebacker.
Since I've been writing this column, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed a bit of a win streak. I haven't always picked them, as you can see in the New Orleans Saints edition of Final Thoughts, but when I have picked the Cowboys, they've made me look smart and I'm going to go with them again this week on the road.
Indianapolis isn't really known as a tough place to play and in the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys have generally been a really good team away from AT&T Stadium. I believe this game will be a close one, as most have been this year, but I think that Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott continue their impressive string of performances and are able to do enough to keep Andrew Luck on the sideline and limiting his impact on the game. If T.Y. Hilton is limited in the game or unable to go, that gives the Cowboys a huge advantage as they then can focus on touchdown maker Tight End Eric Ebron and we know what Byron Jones does to tight ends.
This is going to be a tough game, but I like the Cowboys to come out on top. Randy Gregory continues his sack streak and they get to Luck multiple times in the game and are able to force at least one turnover. Dak Prescott is efficient and doesn't turn the ball over this week and finds ways to beat the blitz. So, I've got it...
Cowboys 24 - Colts 20
Be sure to leave us your prediction in the comment section.
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