With the 10-1 New Orleans Saints coming to town, much of the Dallas Cowboys fan base is preparing themselves for the potential letdown to come tonight on Thursday Night Football. Riding high during this three-game winning streak, there’s a lot of optimism, but if we’re keeping it real, this game looks like an insurmountable task for the Cowboys.
Man, I hope I’m wrong.
The Saints are the best team in the NFC. They beat the Los Angeles Rams and put a whoopin’ on the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. It was an eye-opening, cold-blooded beat down that put the rest of the league on notice.
The Saints have won 10 in a row since their week one defeat to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they’ve been scoring at an incredible rate along the way. This is a game that has the looks of a Saints win, but it’s an “any given Sunday” (or in this case, Thursday) league. The Dallas Cowboys have the personnel to beat the Saints, but a lot has to go right.
With that, here are some final thoughts.
Pressure the Passer
A lot of pundits will tell you that getting pressure on New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees is the defensive key to the game, and they’d be right. It’s huge. Problem is, Brees doesn’t let himself get pressured very much.
Brees has only been pressured on 23.8% of his drop backs in 2018, which is the second lowest rate in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 250 drop backs. His 61% completion percentage while under pressure is also second in the NFL.
There are several reasons for that, but the first is Drew Brees’ ability to get the ball out of his hands quickly. He’s third in the NFL in time to attempt at 2.41 seconds. Brees makes quick decisions and lets the ball fly. For perspective, Dak Prescott is releasing the ball closer to 2.8 seconds on average. A nearly half-second difference may not seem like much, but every hundredth of a second in the NFL matters.
Another reason is that Drew Brees has weapons in Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara who get open quickly with their quickness and route running and give excellent windows to throw to. Brees is an amazingly accurate passer and is leading the NFL in completion percentage at 76.4%. The next best passer rating is Matt Ryan and he’s five percentage points lower than Brees.
So how can the Dallas Cowboys hope to slow down this amazingly efficient passing game?
The answer lies in their coverage.
This game is going to require an excellent effort from the linebackers and the defensive backs to not allow the New Orleans Saints pass catchers to get quick and easy releases. We know Byron Jones will have a good game and will help to limit the damage done by Thomas, but the Cowboys need Chidobe Awuzie to have his best game of the season this week.
Awuzie’s become the focus of opposing team’s passing attacks because he hasn’t consistently been able to keep receivers from maki g catches, even when he’s in the right spot. He needs to make some plays on the football and not allow any big plays to his side of the field.
I would like to see them play more press man with the linebackers providing some zone help underneath to take away quick and easy completions by Kamara and Thomas.
The Dallas defense will have to be really good against the run, which they have been all year to keep the Saints in less than manageable down and distances. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara are perhaps the best 1-2 punch in the history of the NFL. They bring different body sizes and running styles, but both aren’t excellent runners who would challenge for the league lead in rushing if given 250-300 carries.
Dallas and Dak are Rolling
For the first time in forever, the Dallas Cowboys Offense looks like a formidable foe. They’ve been able to consistently run the football and the passing game broke open for a couple long scores last week against the Washington Redskins.
Those two long Amari Cooper touchdowns are huge for the confidence of this offensive group moving forward. They haven’t been able to find explosive plays on offense prior to the last three weeks. Having another weapon in Cooper on the outside puts more stress on the defense, which will continue to open up opportunities for everyone else, most notably Michael Gallup and Cole Beasley.
For nearly a year, teams defended Beasley by bracketing him with two defenders. They discovered he was Dak Prescott’s favorite weapon and the Cowboys passing game didn’t look the same. Now with Cooper to garner some attention, Beasley, who is still a very important player moving the chains and in the red zone, will find more room to run as teams begin to shade coverage Cooper’s direction.
The Cowboys passing game is the key to their chances of victory on Sunday and I think they’ve begun to hit their stride at the right time of the season. Obviously they’ll want to get the running game going, but they need to find a rhythm early in the game through the air to provide the best opportunity for success for the running game.
Force Field Goals
Obviously it’s easier said than done, but the Dallas Cowboys defense can’t break or at least can’t break very much for the Cowboys to have a chance to beat the Saints.
How good has The @Saints offense been this season? The Saints have scored on a league-leading 61 % of their drives. According to Elias, that would be the highest rate for any team since the schedule expanded to 16 games in 1978.
Remember how dominant the Tom Brady and Randy Moss-led New England Patriots were? They went undefeated in the regular season and the AFC Playoffs and were unreal offensively before running into the New York Giants dominant front four in the Super Bowl.
Well, the Saints led by Drew Brees have been even better.
The Cowboys can’t give up big plays and have to be excellent in the red zone, like they were against the Houston Texans. Have to make the Saints settle for field goals, because they are going to get into scoring range more often than not. Don’t allow them fourth and short opportunities so they don’t have a decision to make.
Its going to take a total team effort from all 46 guys that suit up tonight, but the Cowboys have the talent to pull it off.
I see this game being a bit of a high scoring affair, but the Cowboys keep the Saints from breaking the 30 point mark. I believe the Dallas Cowboys are in the right track and are well positioned for a playoff berth. This isn’t absolutely a game they can win, I just don’t think they will. The Dallas Cowboys offense’s will play well, but I think the Saints take this one in a close game. Regardless of the outcome of this game, the Cowboys are heading in the right direction.
Saints 27 - Cowboys 24
Who you got?
Could OC Kellen Moore Be More “Vanilla” Against Dolphins This Week?
The Cowboys are sort of in a no-win situation this Sunday.
If they come out and dominate the openly tanking Miami Dolphins, they'll have done exactly what they should do. But, if they lose to this putrid roster or lose one of their key players to injury, then this week three game would be considered a disaster.
So how should the Cowboys approach the Miami Dolphins?
Something tells me that new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore may look more "basic" than usual this week. Heralded for his creativity over the first two games, Moore may not want to show too much against the lowly Dolphins. Especially if the Cowboys can simply impose their will, a la the 2016 offensive gameplan.
Running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard should expect a lot of inside and outside zone opportunities this week, with each having a chance to have their best individual performances of the season. Tight end Blake Jarwin and wide receiver Devin Smith could see a lot of opportunities through the air as well, as the Cowboys may want to avoid putting Amari Cooper in situations which could cause injury.
Kellen Moore may want to come out firing with Dak Prescott and this dynamic passing game at first to get a quick lead, and then look to shorten the game as much as possible with his running game.
Honestly, as much as Cowboys Nation may not like it, I wouldn't be shocked if Miami covered this lofty 23 point spread. Dallas could look to get up a couple touchdowns, then proceed to sit on the ball and just look to get out of the stadium alive. Especially considering that the schedule gets much more difficult in the weeks following this Miami game.
With key NFC matchups against the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, and Philadelphia Eagles looming large, health is the most important factor this week against the Dolphins.
Well, health and winning, of course.
#DALvsMIA: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
Dallas and Miami could not be in more different modes heading into this week's game.
At 2-0 the Cowboys are looking to take the next step and earn themselves a Super Bowl ring. At a historically bad 0-2, the Dolphins are looking to go 0-16 and get a shot at drafting the top quarterback in next year's draft.
Vegas has this game at a ridiculous 21 point spread, which should rightfully scare gamblers away. But, both the Ravens and Patriots have beaten the brakes off Miami already this year, and Dallas seems primed to do so as well.
Cowboys -21. O/U 47.5 Points
The Cowboys are off to their best start since 2015, and they certainly expect their next 14 games to go much better than they did during that 2015 season. Dallas' offense is as dynamic as any in the league through two weeks, and quarterback Dak Prescott is playing like a legit MVP candidate.
Defensively, the Cowboys have been a bit disappointing thus far, but they have to be feeling like Sunday is the perfect opportunity for a "get right game." Defensive end Robert Quinn returns from suspension to take on his former team, and DeMarcus Lawrence looks to be getting his legs under him after missing all of training camp.
Prescott's favorite target during the opening victories, Michael Gallup, is set to miss this game with an injury, but I don't expect it to matter much against the Dolphins.
Where to even begin with the Miami Dolphins.
After trading for former first round pick Josh Rosen this offseason, the Dolphins decided to start journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Then they traded their own former first round left tackle Laremy Tunsil for a slew of high draft picks. Then, most recently, they traded another former first rounder in Minkah Fitzpatrick for even more picks.
Miami is doing everything they can do to hoard draft picks, ensuring they'll have their pick of the top quarterbacks over the next two draft classes. In the end, this tanking strategy could very well work for the Dolphins, but in 2019 they are going to look really bad.
They've been dominated and embarrassed both weeks thus far, and most expect that embarrassment to continue Sunday against the Cowboys. Operation Fish Tank is in full effect.
- The Dolphins are 0-5 against the spread their last 5 games.
- The score total has gone over in 4 of Miami's last 6 games.
- The Cowboys are 6-0 outright their last 6 home games.
- The score total has gone over in each of the Cowboys' last 5 games.
If it were to happen, this would be one of the worst losses I could ever remember in Cowboys history. Luckily, I highly doubt the Cowboys don't take care of business on Sunday.
Miami is downright trying to lose football games, and it's hard to imagine this group coming into Dallas and beating such a talented bunch. I'll take the Cowboys big, but I don't have the guts to bet any team -21 in the NFL.
Takeaway Tuesday: Zeke Had The Exact Kind of Game Cowboys Need
It's pretty difficult to deal with the hype of being 2-0 to open a 2019 NFL season. The Dallas Cowboys have done just that with a revamped offense and a quarterback that's thrown seven touchdowns in the process. They currently sit alone atop of the NFC East and although it's too early to know what kind of team this will be when it's all said alone, we're excited.
Let's dive into this week's takeaways!
We Need Robert Quinn Back
The Dallas Cowboys defense hasn't been as bad as many would think. They've had a few bad moments but the talent is still there and should be improving as the season goes on. Last Sunday, what was most frustrating to me was the lack of a pass rush. DeMarcus Lawrence had a pretty good game, even though his stat line doesn't look very pretty. The pressure was there constantly and he forced a handful of bad plays from Case Keenum. Tyrone Crawford managed to sack him once.
Other than that, for most of the game the pressure was scarce. Fortunately, the Cowboys are getting Robert Quinn back from suspension this week. Having two quality edge rushers will boost a defense that has the potential to be great, but has only been "good" two weeks into the season.
Ezekiel Elliott Had The Kind of Game The Cowboys Need
Zeke was back for a heavier workload in week 2 after having a snap count in the season opener. It may have not felt like it, but the Cowboys' star running back had a pretty good game versus the Redskins. On 23 carries he had 111 yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.8 yards per carry.
In contrast of recent years, Elliott had a great game without the team heavily leaning on the running game. Dak Prescott threw the ball 30 times and Zeke still had a great game. This is what Cowboys Nation should want out of Kellen Moore's offense.
Elliott has two rushing touchdowns in the season, compared to six in all of last year. This is a product of an offense that's now dangerous in many ways, specially in the red zone. You gotta love what Moore is accomplishing so far.
Slow Starts Can't Continue to Happen
The biggest issue with the Cowboys in the first two weeks of the season has been their slow openings. In both games they've started trailing early. The worst thing about it is that it's been due to giving up big plays (like Saquon Barkley's big run in week 1) and quick, unsuccessful drives on offense (like a three-and-out drive followed by a drive that ended in an interception last Sunday).
Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Giants and Redskins didn't pose much of a problem. But when we reach the tougher stretches of the schedule, we know how quickly a game can turn south. Not every rival will be as unforgiving as the 0-2 foes they've faced so far.
Dak Prescott Continues to Prove He's It
Last but not least, we'll talk about Dak Prescott. Once again, he looked great. He finished the day with 269 yards, three touchdowns and an interception that came on a tipped ball from Randall Cobb's hand. He threw an absolute dime to WR Devin Smith, giving him his ninth 50+ yard touchdown pass of his career (ranking third in the NFL since 2016 behind Tom Brady and Philip Rivers).
All game long, he was precise against Washington's defense. He dealt three touchdowns to three different players and was making throws with anticipation and poise. If you're not sold on Dak Prescott yet, I don't know if you'll ever be.
He also looked well as a runner, specially on that 42-yard run where he stiffed arm Josh Norman. I hope the Cowboys continue to use him in the running game.
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