Despite each starting off the season with impressive 3-0 runs, both the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers come into their week four match up feeling like they need a win.
Each fanbase is disappointed following their respective week three performances, as both Dallas and Green Bay suffered defeats at the hands of other top tier NFC opponents.
The Cowboys will host the Packers in a place that Aaron Rodgers has traditionally owned them, but they are hoping that this time will be different.
Dallas -3.5. O/U 47 Points.
As mentioned, the Dallas Cowboys are in dire need of a bounce back performance this Sunday. The Cowboys offense laid an egg on the road last week, and now face another tough NFC opponent.
Many consider both the Cowboys and Packers to be among the NFC's best, so falling to 3-2 would be a tough blow to take. Especially after a 3-0 start.
The Cowboys also go into this game facing some serious injury questions. Cameron Fleming is replacing the injured Tyron Smith at left tackle, and La'el Collins, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup will all be playing banged up.
Still the Cowboys have the talent to compete with anyone on any given Sunday, and this week they must find a way to get it done at home.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are off to a strange start in 2019. They are 3-1, leading their division, and super talented across their roster. Yet, for some reason, something feels off.
The reason for this seems to be the slow start of the usually prolific Packers offense. Now under new direction, Aaron Rodgers and the passing game took a few weeks to get their feet under them. Last week against the Eagles, though, Rodgers looked very much like his old self despite the final result.
It's the defense which is the story of the Packers' 3-1 start this season, though. Impressive draft classes and aggressive moves in free agency have put the Packers defense in the position to be better than they've been in about a decade.
- The Packers are 4-2 both straight up and against the spread their last 6 games.
- The Packers are 6-2 against the spread their last 8 games against the Cowboys.
- Green Bay is 7-2 against the spread their last 9 following a loss against the spread.
- The Cowboys are 7-0 straight up their last 7 home games.
- The score total has gone over in 5 of the last 7 of the Cowboys' games.
This is a really tough one to call. Both teams are facing a potential 3-2 start despite starting the season on fire at 3-0. They are also being chased closely by formidable division foes who are right at their heels.
But this week, I'll take the home team to win the game outright. The Cowboys offense bounces back in a big way, with Ezekiel Elliott going for over 100 yards and a score against the Packers lowly run defense, and Dak Prescott getting back on track through the air.
I'll take the Cowboys -3.5, though I think a field goal could decide this one.
Takeaway Tuesday: Dak Prescott The Least of Cowboys Problems
No one expected the Dallas Cowboys to lose to the New York Jets, but that's precisely what happened when they left the field at MetLife Stadium last Sunday. So far, it's been the most painful loss of the season given it was supposed to be a great opportunity for a "get-right" game. But what happened in New York?
Let's get to this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday. I promise you there's a couple of positive ones.
Dak Prescott's The Least of Cowboys Problems
When an NFL team isn't playing well, there are two specific persons fans will go after. The head coach and the quarterback. In the Cowboys' case, Dak Prescott is far from the problem. On his contract year, Dak is playing at a high level. The box score might not tell you that, but the tape will. He's far from an elite QB, but he's a guy you can win big with.
Perhaps his biggest issue is the inaccurate throws he can make from time to time. But just as that happens once in a while, Prescott has the ability to throw some pretty good balls in tight situations. He can throw on the run, move around in the pocket and remain calm under intense situations. He showed that versus the New York Jets - playing without his two starting tackles and #1 wide receiver - when he was constantly under pressure and still managed to throw the football around.
Cowboys 4th drive of the game Dak.... 3rd & 2 - Ridiculous throw to Cedric Wilson for big gain. 3rd & 8 - Getting hit by Q Williams completes to Austin for a big gain. Then they go 4 straight run plays and turn it over. Let your QB score your points please.
In a game where he lacked key players around him, he managed to get Cedrick Wilson and Tavon Austin a combined 10 catches for 110 yards, as Staff Writer Jess Haynie pointed out.
Right now, Dak's a good quarterback with the potential to grow into an even better one. A great one. The Cowboys have plenty of things to clean up, but Dak Prescott is not one of them.
Injuries Will Be Tough On This Team
Many fans are turning against the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff after a three-game losing streak. One of the main reasons why is how this football team is being overwhelmed with injuries and failing to execute without key players. This time, the Cowboys played without their two starting offensive tackles and their star wide receiver, Amari Cooper. It's not easy to win a game on the road that way.
Yet, the New Orleans Saints beat the Cowboys without their staring QB Drew Brees. The Green Bay Packers didn't have WR Davante Adams when they traveled to Dallas. And the then 0-4 New York Jets didn't have LB C.J. Mosley and TE Chris Herndon when they hosted the Cowboys last Sunday.
Can this team overcome injuries going forward? They didn't prove it against a bad New York Jets team. This Cowboys team is too talented to lose when healthy, but issues will likely continue if injuries do.
Play-Calling Impossible To Figure Out
One thing is to lose three straight games. Another thing is to completely change what was working for you offensively when you scored over 30 points in each of the first three games. The Cowboys seemed to have a new-look pass-first offense playing RPOs, play-action, throwing deep in early downs and looking like a modern NFL offense. The Scott Linehan days were over... until they came right back.
The Cowboys ran play-action on 39.4% of passes (2nd-highest) in the first 3 weeks. It's down to 17.2% (Tied for 3rd-fewest) in the last 3. Game script obviously a key factor there but wow. (All per PFF, Min. 20% of team dropbacks, btw) https://t.co/PhsFaefxGv
Versus the New Orleans Saints and New York Jets specifically, the Cowboys went back to running on a huge amount of first downs. Last Sunday, Dallas run the ball 17 times on first down, only to average 2.9 yards per carry. Many have speculated that Jason Garrett has been an influence on Kellen Moore's play-calling but there's no evidence to back that up.
Kellen Moore's play-calling has worked under one approach and failed under another. How long will it take the Cowboys to stick to the successful one? Going into week 6, they were the #1 offense by DVOA. They clearly can make it work. Are they afraid of being on the road or what is the reason they're not sticking to what's working?
Cedrick Wilson Had a Nice Game
The Boise State product didn't have a lot of opportunities to prove himself, but he had a fairly decent game. With Amari Cooper sidelined, Wilson had five catches for 46 yards. One of them was a highlight reel catch on third down.
Cedrick Wilson pulls down the 3rd down catch from Dak Prescott. Really nice placement by Dak and a nice job to make the catch by Wilson. #DallasCowboys https://t.co/CVTDQ9mUlv
Wilson's five catches were the first of his career. He was pretty solid versus the Jets and if the Cowboys are without Cooper next weekend, he'll have plenty of opportunities to build on a strong performance. Wilson was a complete receiver in Boise and has the potential to fill a ton of roles for the Cowboys if called upon.
It was promising to watch him play well after missing his entire rookie season in 2018.
The Brady Report: Organizational Failure At Metlife Stadium
The Dallas Cowboys suffered their most embarrassing loss of the 2019 season on Sunday, falling at the hands of the previously winless New York Jets 24-22.
Trailing for pretty much the entire afternoon, Dallas came all the back from 21-3 to give themselves a chance to tie the game and force overtime. But, after Dak Prescott ran in for a touchdown to cut the Jets' lead, a Jamal Adams blitz forced an incompletion on the two point conversion.
The Cowboys now sit at 3-3 and the sky seems to be falling in Arlington. Let's get into my game notes from this horrid loss.
- Let's just start with head coach Jason Garrett. I've been somewhat of a Garrett defender in recent years, feeling that he's built a strong culture in Dallas. The players seem to fight for him, and rarely are his teams completely undressed like they've been time and time again the past three seasons. But, man, Garrett's clock management and decision making have been downright awful as of late. Down 21-9 in the fourth quarter the Cowboys showed no sense of urgency on offense, handing the ball off on nearly every first and ten. This wouldn't be as big a deal if the runs were successful, but they often weren't. He then settled for a field goal down 21-9, an inexcusable decision considering the win probability added (or lack thereof) had the kick been made. Then, with over 40 seconds left and plenty of time to score, Garrett called an absurdly stupid time out. Dallas scored, missed the two point conversion, and never had a chance to get the ball back because they lost their time out. An awful, awful day for Garrett and the Cowboys coaching staff.
- Dak Prescott was generally good on Sunday, battling through adversity on offense to give the Cowboys a legit chance to win. But it's time for him to really take control of the offense. He needs to get them out of unfavorable looks pre-snap, and audible out of some of these atrocious run calls. The fourth and two in the second quarter is the best example of this. Prescott has to see that Dallas is at a numbers disadvantage at the point of attack and is running to the short side of the field. Get out of the play, man. As stated earlier, though, Prescott has produced much more good than bad this season overall. He's still the guy in Dallas, and the highs can still be high this season if the health around him (specifically on the offensive line) gets right.
- Chidobe Awuzie might not be good, guys. Awuzie got beat clean off the line by Robby Anderson for a 92 yard touchdown, and this is becoming quite the trend for the Cowboys young corner. Jeff Heath should've gotten more depth and helped Awuzie in his coverage, but this breakdown looked to be 100% on Awuzie from the broadcast angle. Typically, Awuzie gets beat at the catch point after being in good positioning. This week that was not the case, he just got beat.
- Jourdan Lewis finally got playing time at cornerback and Cowboys Twitter rejoiced. Lewis had somewhat of an up and down performance, but his highs certainly outweighed any lows. Lewis' interception kept the Cowboys alive in third quarter, and his forced incompletion on third down gave the offense a chance to go and try to tie the game. Let Lewis keep getting snaps, and let's see if he can do any better than the rest of this underperforming defense.
- Robert Quinn was once again a bright spot on an otherwise disappointing defensive line. I've been quite the supporter of DeMarcus Lawrence as he's gotten off to a "slow" start statistically in 2019. But, man, not being able to come through with production against the Jets' bad offensive line is not a good sign. No doubt he's been getting double teamed at an unreal rate, though, which has helped Quinn get free.
- Ezekiel Elliott had arguably his best day of the 2019 season thus far, but he just doesn't look like himself on some these runs. Not as elusive or explosive as he once was, Elliott has become more of a bruising back that will get you 3-5 yards on most carries. This is totally fine, and his vision and contact balance are still elite, but Dallas should be utilizing Tony Pollard more to increase their big play potential on the ground. Especially with so many of their normal passing games weapons out with injuries.
- Brandon Knight was once again impressive at right tackle. Filling in for La'el Collins, Knight had himself a nice day both in pass protection and as a run blocker. A few times Knight executed really strong pulls to get Ezekiel Elliott free to the second level. Knight and Zack Martin pulling and leading for Elliott is a pretty sight for the Cowboys offense. Don't get me wrong, he was far from perfect, but for a backup right tackle he had a nice afternoon.
- Michael Gallup's drops hampered the Cowboys offense heavily in the first half, but he had a rather strong second half performance. If Amari Cooper is going to miss significant time, as it sounds like he might, Gallup is going to have to be consistent with his hands for four quarters. I have no doubt that he will be next week.
Cowboys WR Absences Allow Tavon Austin, Cedrick Wilson to Step Up
Yesterday's loss to the New York Jets didn't leave many positives to discuss for the Dallas Cowboys. But one silver lining was the play of Receivers Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson, who were efficient and impactful in larger roles with some of their teammates missing in action.
We already knew that Randall Cobb would miss the Jets game. He injured his back in practice last week and was among the Cowboys' seven inactive players in New York.
But things got much worse on Dallas' first offensive series when Amari Cooper injured his quad and wound up leaving the game for good. That left Dak Prescott without his top receiver in Cooper and one of his best security blankets in Cobb.
Compounding the issue were the absences of Tyron Smith and La'el Collins at the offensive tackle position. When a QB is under pressure, trusting your receivers is vital to keeping the ball moving and avoiding a complete passing game shutdown.
Thankfully, Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson were able to contribute.
Austin had five catches for 64 yards, the most catches he's had in a single game so far as a Cowboy. Some of them weren't easy grabs, either; Tavon had to making a diving catch along the sideline for one and then slide to the ground for another reception. He did a great job of adjusting when Prescott was throwing under duress.
Wilson also had five catches resulting in 46 yards. After missing his entire rookie season on injured reserve and having only one target so far in 2019, these were Cedrick's first catches in a regular season game.
Combined, Austin and Wilson kept the passing game afloat with 10 catches for 110 yards. They were each targeted just six times to get those numbers; surprisingly good efficiency given the lack of playing time they've had with the starting quarterback.
Credit Dak Prescott for finding ways to get the ball to his less familiar options, but also credit the receivers for knowing where to go and making the plays.
Austin and Wilson may be asked to do more again this week in a pivotal meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles. The winner of this game will take sole possession of the NFC East, with both Dallas and Philly currently sitting at 3-3.
Randall Cobb will likely be back. He was already considered a game-time decision yesterday and perhaps the Cowboys rested him because they felt confident about beating the Jets (whoops!) without him.
We have yet to hear the latest on Amari Cooper. One outlet reported that he was in "significant pain" following yesterday's game, but that could just be soreness from a contusion rather than any kind of major injury. More is sure to come on Amari's availability in the coming days.
Another positive looking ahead to Sunday is the Eagles' poor pass defense, which is currently giving up about 280 yards per game through the air. That puts them in the bottom five of NFL teams currently.
If Dallas does have to take on Philadelphia without their number-one receiver, at least yesterday's game gave Tavon Austin and Cedrick Wilson a chance to put in some work with Dak Prescott in a tough situation.
Even more importantly, they were able to deliver when called upon. We'll see if this week's game brings the same opportunities.
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