Coming into Week 5, the Dallas Cowboys offense had been firing on all cylinders, with the play-calling of Dak Prescott keeping them in games that, by all rights, should have been out of their reach. Then, with a 1-3 record in a very close contest against a fellow NFC East team, the worst happened.
On a designed quarterback draw, Prescott came out of a rudimentary tackle from a defensive back with a compound fracture and dislocation to his right ankle. The gut-wrenching injury has ruled out the star quarterback for the remainder of the campaign, putting the only functional aspect of the 2020 Cowboys into disarray – or so it would seem.
They Still Have a Shot at the Division
Five games into the season, the Cowboys are sitting pretty with a 2-3 record that is good enough to stay atop the NFC East. Dallas has been through some tough scrapes to get to that record, but what’s keeping them on top is more the abysmal efforts of the other teams in the division. The New York Giants aren’t going anywhere this season, and neither are the Washington Football Team.
The Philadelphia Eagles do have some classy players on the roster, but many of them find themselves on the injury bench instead of the field. The champions of Super Bowl LII have struggled on offense with defenses being able to swamp Zach Ertz out of contests without other viable passing options, but the defense hasn’t exactly been a stalwart, either.
Dallas’ defense has been among the worst in the NFL through the early stages, conceding points on almost every other opposition possession, sitting at 180 points against through just five games. However, Prescott’s record-smashing 201 passes and 1,690 yards in the first four games drove the Cowboys to a .500 record and 167 points – 50 more than the Eagles.
It’s the ravenous offense that’s enabled the Cowboys odds to remain positive, with them being in contention in each game and still the favorites to win the NFC East – even without their starting QB. Helping their +100 odds to claim the division is the fact that there’s still Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, a star-studded receiving corps, and probably the best back-up quarterback in the league.
Can Andy Dalton Fill Prescott’s Boots?
It’s a near-certainty that the former Cincinnati Bengals shot-caller will not be able to emulate the efforts of Prescott. However, he certainly has the weapons available to play like a starter. Against the Giants, Andy Dalton managed to wrangle out a win, with the 32-year-old completing nine of 11 passes for 111 yards. The main question mark over an extended spell, however, will be the offensive line.
Dalton’s record shows that he can perform to a high standard when he has talented receivers to pick out and a backfield threat to keep defenses honest, but he also needs protection. With time in the pocket, the 32-year-old can move the chains, but if he’s put under pressure, he struggles to gain momentum and string together successful moves. Elliott will be vital in helping keep some of the pressure off in the weeks to come.
With the Football Team twice, Eagles twice, Giants, Vikings, and Bengals still on the schedule, the Cowboys have every chance to remain atop the NFC East, even without Prescott.