The bye week is over. Sean Lee is healthy. Ezekiel Elliott will play. Oh, and the Dallas Cowboys are in California this week to play the San Francisco 49ers. A lot has been said all week about this game, and mostly about how the Cowboys can right the ship by beating the 49ers, but is it really that simple?
Through five weeks of Dallas football, the Cowboys have struggled to get the ground game going. They've fielded an unspectacular defense that, at times, looks totally lost on plays, and generally can't tackle. And they've consistently failed to close out games.
In spite of little turnover among the front seven, opposing running backs have marched at will. The secondary is mostly new, save for Byron Jones, yet the familiar sight of ill-prepared players failing to effectuate Rod Marinelli's cover defense continues.
I think beating the 49ers, while a step in the right direction, is just the beginning for these Cowboys.
The San Francisco 49ers might be an 0-6 team right now, and they've recently named a very young quarterback as their starter, but a winless team is a hungry team.
A winless team is one with little to lose and much to gain. Teams like that can be creative and fierce, and they can turn a virtually guaranteed route into an upset before anyone can figure out how. And these 49ers have suffered some very close losses this year.
Now, with that said, the Dallas Cowboys have a key member of their defense back this week. Sean Lee was sorely missed. He's the captain of the defense, the general on the field, and having him back should help the Cowboys contain the 49ers. It should also give Jaylon Smith a spell, which we all know is needed.
Ezekiel Elliott was given temporary relief from the league's impending suspension and gets another chance to help this team win a ball game. Is it enough?
The offensive line hasn't been what we know they can be and Zeke's success has floundered as a result. He's turned some sure losses into gains by just being Zeke, but we're going to need more than that.
We're going to need the league's best offensive line to make an appearance.
You might say that's all terribly negative. Indeed, there's a bitter undertone to my words that I think can be detected even through plain text. It's not negative or pessimistic, though. It's just knowing what happens if the 49ers get their first win of the season tomorrow. Stuff starts hitting the fan.
It's also a little realism. These Cowboys haven't been dominant this year. If only week one could have lasted the whole season, right?
But enough with all of that. The game must be played for us to know exactly which Cowboys team is going to show up, so let's get down to the writer's analyses. As always, I encourage you to add your own predictions for the game in our comments section below.
✭ ✭ ✭
Dallas Defense Dominates
The Dallas Cowboys defense gets back on track against newly named starter C.J. Beathard. DeMarcus Lawrence adds to his league leading sack total and David Irving continues his strong start to the 2017 season. John Williams – @john9williams
Cowboys 31 – 49ers 17
✭ ✭ ✭
Cowboys Defense Comes Up Big After Shaky Finish
A lot of fans think this game is going to be a cake walk for the Cowboys. That’s not the case. The 49ers are obviously 0-6 but have played tight in every game so far this season. Dallas will jump out to an early lead, but continue to struggle in the second half. Dallas wins this one by the skin of their teeth with the help from a late strip-sack by DeMarcus Lawrence. Connor Livesay – @Connorx147
Cowboys 28 – 49ers 23
✭ ✭ ✭
Beat-down by the Bay
The Cowboys have had two weeks to stew over tough losses to the Rams and Packers. They are going to come out as fired up as we may have ever seen them, and that's bad news for the hapless 49ers. Jess Haynie – @CowboysAddicts
Cowboys 34 – 49ers 16
✭ ✭ ✭
Cowboys Get Back to Blueprint of Past Success
Is it overly optimistic to think the Dallas Cowboys can put four quarters of football together to finally defeat an NFL team? I don't think so, and I believe this is the week they do it. I'm predicting we see a heavy dose of Ezekiel Elliott to control the game clock and help hide the defense. It's a blueprint that has worked for them in the past and something I think they want to get back to. Brian Martin – @BrianMartinNFL
Cowboys 34 – 49ers 24
✭ ✭ ✭
Everything Is All Right
For the second time in the season, the Cowboys need to make an "everything is alright" kind of statement. It's been a tough start, but the Cowboys start turning things around with a comfortable win versus San Francisco. Mauricio Rodriguez – @PepoR99
Cowboys 30 – 49ers 20
✭ ✭ ✭
Back to Dak-ction
Seeing so many in Cowboys Nation refer to the Cowboys' return to the field as a "get well game" on Sunday is, to be completely honest, worrisome. The Cowboys have found new ways to keep opponents in games each week, and that will get you beat more times than not in this league. The 49ers have done everything they can to get their first win, and while I expect them to put up another fight at home, this game will be all about the Dallas offense dominating off the bye. The difference this time - Marinelli's defense responds with Sean Lee back on the field against a rookie QB, and the Cowboys get a needed win. Sean Martin – @SeanMartinNFL
Cowboys 38 – 49ers 17
✭ ✭ ✭
Turn This Season Around
To be honest, I just think the Cowboys are a better team than the 49ers. While the 49ers' record is a bit fraudulent (they should have a couple wins), they still cannot match up talent-wise with the Cowboys for four quarters. Let's hope that the "real" Cowboys show up Sunday looking hungry after their bye week. Kevin Brady – @KevinBrady88
Cowboys 27 – 49ers 17
✭ ✭ ✭
Take Nothing for Granted
The Cowboys are in a tough spot right now. The 49ers are in a tougher spot. This game has season long implications for both teams, and I expect the game plans from both head coaches to include "fight for every inch" somewhere. The 49ers have a knack for losing nail-biters this season, and I expect Dallas to do just enough to give them their seventh nail-biter loss. Bryson Treece – @BrysonTreece
Cowboys 31 – 49ers 27
✭ ✭ ✭
Looks like we're all in agreement here, on everything except the margin of victory, but I'd like to know what you think of the coming matchup between the Cowboys and Niners. Comment below. As always, Go Cowboys!
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
#INDvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
For once, the Cowboys are not playing what feels like a do-or-die game on Sunday, needing just 1 win over their final 3 to win the NFC East. This week the 8-5 Cowboys go on the road to face the 7-6 Colts, with each times vying for playoff spots in their respective conferences.
Both the Cowboys and Colts have turned around what looked like dead seasons, but there is no doubt the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do to keep pace for the 6th seed in the AFC.
Cowboys +3, O/U 47 points.
The once 3-5 Cowboys are now head and shoulders above the rest of their division, after winning their fifth straight in thrilling fashion over the Eagles last Sunday. The team which seemed so disjointed and inconsistent through 8 games has found their identity, and is playing complete team football as of late.
Dak Prescott is coming off a career-best game in terms of yardage, and despite some poor turnovers is still playing some of the best football of his career. This is due in large part to two stars in Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott, who have shouldered the production load of this offense the last 5 weeks.
And, of course, there is the defense which continues to make life a living hell for opposing offenses. Randy Gregory is coming into his own as a pass rusher, getting another sack last week and getting flagged for what should have been his second sack of the day.
Dallas is playing the brand of football they told us they would before the season, and are beginning to make their front office and decision makers look very smart in the process.
At 7-6 and fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the Colts need this one more than the Cowboys do. Getting shut out by the lowly Jaguars two weeks ago may ultimately keep the Colts out of the playoffs, but a win this Sunday and a little help elsewhere could set them up nicely down the stretch.
Indy has quietly one of the best passing offenses in all of the NFL, with star quarterback Andrew Luck playing his best football in quite some time. Luck is healthy and looks like himself again, and the selection of Quenton Nelson to sure-up the offensive line has gone a long way to improving this offense as well.
Defensively the Colts have been even more impressive lately. Though they have a roster comprised of no-names nationally, the Colts defense is 11th in DVOA. Darius Leonard has been a revelation for the Colts at linebacker, and their young defense seems to be improving by the week.
The Colts are coming off of a big road victory over the Houston Texans a week ago, and will look to defeat the Texans' in-state rivals on Sunday to improve to 8-6.
- The Cowboys are 5-0 against the spread their last 5 games, and have won all 5 straight up.
- The score total has hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
- But the score total has gone under 4 of the Colts' last 5 games.
- The Colts are 4-1 straight up their last 5 home games.
- Dallas is 6-3 their last 9 games against the Colts.
The Cowboys' winning streak has to end at some point, right?
Well, unlike Vegas, I don't expect that ending to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys have been playing desperate football over the last 5 games and they are well aware what a win over Indianapolis would mean.
A victory would clinch them a division title for the third time in five years, and just as they did in 2014, I expect the Cowboys to get that clinching victory over the Colts. Give me the Cowboys and the points this week.
Takeaway Tuesday: Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
It was a dramatic win for the Dallas Cowboys but a win nonetheless. The Philadelphia Eagles gave the Cowboys one hell of a fight at AT&T Stadium in a great rivalry game. It was undoubtedly one of the most exciting games this season has seen as it ended with a walk-off touchdown that gave the home team the victory.
Here is this week's Takeaway Tuesday on what we learned from such a thrilling match!
Amari Cooper Trade Shouldn't Even Be a Discussion
Once a complicated debate, the Amari Cooper trade has a clear winner. It's simple, really. If it wasn't for Amari Cooper, the Cowboys would not be 8-5 en route to the NFC East title. Cooper has literally saved the 2018 season for the once 3-5 Cowboys team.
Since becoming a part of the Cowboys, the former Oakland Raider has accounted for 40 catches, 642 yards and six touchdowns. Last Sunday alone, he was responsible for 217 yards and three scores. Not to mention the amount of times he's moved the chains for this offense. The 24-year old can seriously play football. Despite struggles, this offense is very promising with that caliber of a WR1 and an elite RB such as Ezekiel Elliott.
What was it again? A first rounder? Should've asked for more, Raiders.
Randy Gregory is a Big Time Player
Gregory's journey to be back on a football field was a difficult one. But it was worth it. Versus the Eagles, his presence was constantly felt by Carson Wentz. He was able to get in five pressures, one of which resulted in a sack.
The last couple of games, Gregory has drawn a few costly flags, but his play is still amazing. He's one of the fastest defensive ends in the league and he continues to improve in bending around the corner. He has five sacks in the last eight games. If you weren't convinced #94 should be our starting right defensive end, you should be by now.
Tight Ends Rise
The lack of a tight end did not stand out this past Sunday. But Dalton Schultz and Blake Jarwin did. With Geoff Swaim out with an injury, this couple of young rotational players had their best games of their careers. Both were targeted in key moments of the game. Blake Jarwin had 56 yards in seven catches and a big third down conversion and Dalton Schultz finished the night with 37 yards.
A promising sign for the Cowboys moving forward. The offense is clicking at wide receiver with Amari Cooper, having a tight end (or a couple) stand up will only make this unit better.
Garrett Deserves a Round of Applause
Whether or not you think Jason Garrett is a good head coach, the guy deserves an applause. I get why you might not like him. In fact, I still question if he should be in Dallas in 2019 if the Cowboys fail to have success in the playoffs. But the way this team has come back from such a terrible start can't be ignored.
The players on this team fight for this guy. The Dallas Cowboys went from a team everyone had written off from playoff contention to legit Super Bowl contenders since they fired Paul Alexander and got Amari Cooper.
Dak Prescott is One of the Best Facing Adversity
Dak Prescott's career continues to cause a great debate among Cowboys' fans. You see, in the NFL, things are not white or black. When judging a player, there are a lot of gray areas. Take last night's performance from Dak Prescott. He threw two interceptions and fumbled the ball once and pretty much played bad football for three quarters. But his night ended with 455 yards and three touchdowns and a 78% completion percentage in 54 attempts.
In the NFL, not any quarterback comes back from turning the ball three times. With the help of his tremendous defense, Dak did. In the fourth quarter, he completed 17 out of 20 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns. His performance was clutch.
This isn't a one thing either. Since 2016, Dak is tied for the most game-winning drives in the NFL. Prescott might be inconsistent and can have some pretty bad plays. But he's one resilient quarterback. As T.O. would've said: "that's my quarterback."
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Should Cowboys Address TE Injuries and Inexperience With This FA?
Star Blog1 week ago
Why is Jerry Jones “keeping a very close eye” on the Kareem Hunt Case?
Player News2 weeks ago
Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch a Dominant Defensive Duo
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Will Kris Richard’s Success End Jason Garrett’s Era in Dallas?
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
David Irving’s Return Could Make Cowboys’ Defense Even Scarier
Player News2 weeks ago
Cowboys Reinforcements on the Way, How Should Dallas Deploy Them?
Star Blog2 weeks ago
Randy Gregory Is Looking Like We Always Thought He Could
Dallas Cowboys1 week ago
Wide Receiver Michael Gallup Making a Huge Impact for Dallas Cowboys