This is the week where I would have Christine Michael on the 46. He received some first-team snaps on Wednesday, therefore this would be a great time to see him take the field. Despite having a quality day on the stat sheet there were plays where Joseph Randle simply did not read what was in front of him. Short yardage opportunities would be in the hands of Michael this week.
While Ryan Russell failed to have a great debut, he offers much more being active than Lucky Whitehead at this point. The Coaching Staff does not trust him returning punts and he is a nonfactor on offense, Russell would be a better use of that last roster spot.
Cowboys Offense vs Saints Defense
It does not look as if Defensive End Cameron Jordan will play for the Saints this week due to a back injury, which is a huge loss for their pass rush. Rob Ryan will have to try and bring exotic blitzes in an attempt to manufacture pressure, which could put his defense into a vulnerable position.
Ronald Leary is returning to an Offensive Line that has been stellar with their Pass Blocking during the first three games of the season but where his return will be most valuable is in the run game. Much like against the Falcons, this Offensive Line should be able to give the Running Backs holes to run through.
The key will be if they can keep up their effort through four quarters. If the Cowboys are able to stay ahead of the chains, Brandon Weeden should be able to make the necessary passes in order to keep the defense off balance. Too much has been made of Weeden going underneath to Lance Dunbar against the Falcons, he should take what the defense gives him without forcing the ball downfield.
His one turnover occurred when he did indeed force a throw when it simply was not there.
With that being said, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Lance Dunbar cannot be the sum of the passing game against the Saints. I thought highly of Brice Butler when he was acquired, and he will need to be a factor in the Superdome. Terrance Williams will have to be a consistent target, his drops against the Falcons were frustrating.
More is expected from Williams. He cannot have stretches of games where he simply disappears. The Saints do not have a Cornerback on the level of Desmond Trufant, so there is no excuse for him not defeating man coverage this week. As I stated last week, he will have to help Brandon Weeden. If Butler steps up and Williams is quiet, the Coaching Staff will take notice.
I do hope to see a throw down the field if Browner is ever covering Butler in man, with how Browner has played this could be a huge play for the Cowboys.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Offensive Line vs Saints Front Seven
The Cowboys Offensive Line simply needs to play like the unit from last year. There is absolutely no excuse for the Cowboys not having an effective running game from start to finish.
Brandon Weeden has my confidence, I feel he can do enough in the passing game to beat the Saints Secondary. However, if the running game goes missing that makes his job a lot more difficult. Randle will also have to prove he has the vision and patience to be a lead back. I would have a short leash on him this game if he starts turning what could be twenty-five-yard gains into pickups of two or three.
When the Saints blitz, it will be up to the Offensive Line to communicate and know how to adjust. I do not expect Weeden to do much at the line of scrimmage, but if he can help slide protections it will make his and the line's job much easier.
Cowboys Defense vs Saints Offense
While concerning, I do not feel last week's performance is what this defense truly is. They simply did not play well, the Toss Sweep gashed them far too many times. I cannot believe Rod Marinelli will allow his defense to get run over like that again.
Switching out Davon Coleman for former Chiefs Practice Squad player David Irving sent a clear message: If players do not produce, neither Will McClay or this Coaching Staff is afraid to churn the roster.
Drew Brees' status for the game is still in question. If either he or Luke McCown play, the Defensive Line will have to get pressure. While the Saints don't have a weapon like Julio Jones they have enough skill players that can make plays if either Quarterback is given five seconds or more every time he drops back. The play of Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will be vital to this defense's success come Sunday night.
The Saints could also be without their starting Right Guard Jahri Evans, which could hurt their running game; something I'm sure they will attempt to establish after the Cowboys' struggles last week. Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden, Anthony Hitchens, and Sean Lee are vital to stop the run game. Crawford, Hitchens, and Lee will have improved games over last week and will minimize the effectiveness of Mark Ingram on the ground.
Key Match Up: Cowboys Defensive Line vs Saints Offensive Line
Rod Marinelli does not like to blitz, therefore if the pass rush is to be successful this week the Defensive Line will have to be disruptive. Tyrone Crawford will have to get up the field whether run or pass in order to disrupt the flow of the play. Jeremy Mincey returning to the starting lineup should make a noticeable difference.
I also need to see more consistent pressure from DeMarcus Lawrence. Hopefully, Jack Crawford will move back to the 3 Technique for this game as he is a far more effective player there. If they indeed keep Russell active, I would like to see him get around fifteen to twenty snaps in pass-rushing situations.
Perhaps I'm seeing some fools gold, but I'm confident this unit will have a quality showing against the Saints.
Slight Advantage Cowboys
Special Teams Match Up
Chris Jones has proved his worth every game of the season thus far. His exceptional directional Punting and hang time should keep Marcus Murphy from having another big Punt Return.
The Saints only have a Punting net of 33 yards, allowing around seven yards per return, so there may be a chance to gain some yards against them.
Slight Advantage Cowboys
The Saints just do not look very good right now. The Cowboys need to win this game with the Patriots coming into town next week, especially after letting one slip away against the Falcons. A game this team definitely should have won.
If Brandon Weeden plays clean and the Defense returns to form, this should be a double digit win for the Cowboys.
The Way Of Smooth
Straightforward... Win and go 3-1. Lose and fall to 2-2.
The Cowboys have to play this game with some urgency. The NFC East is well within their grasp if they can pick up this victory. After breaking the matchup down, I feel it would take a Weeden meltdown for the Saints to win this game.
Drew Brees could provide his team with an emotional boost, but there is no guarantee that if he plays he will be effective while dealing with a Rotator Cuff injury. Either way, they will need to play a physical game and dictate to the Saints in all three phases of the game.
#ATLvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction
This week's gambling preview focuses on the Cowboys week 11 opponent, the Atlanta Falcons. Dallas beat the now 4-5 Eagles last Sunday to improve their own record to 4-5. Atlanta lost on the road to Cleveland last week to drop their record to 4-5 on the season.
It's an 8-8 league, isn't it?
Dallas returns to the scene of the 2017 crime this Sunday, traveling to Atlanta where Chaz Green and Dak Prescott were destroyed almost exactly one year ago. Let's take a look at the line and the quality of these teams to see which way it could go.
Cowboys +3, O/U 48 points.
Dallas saved their season on the road last Sunday night, defeating the Philadelphia Eagles and getting right back in the thick of things in the NFC East race. Still, we can't simply ignore what the other 8 games of data have told us about the Cowboys and their offensive quality.
The addition of Amari Cooper has clearly helped the offense, opening up the passing game a bit and allowing for Dak Prescott to have a reliable "number one" receiver. The team's results overall have been mixed the first two games of the Cooper-era, but he has been consistently good in both match-ups.
Defensively the Cowboys continued to impress last week, though "cornerback opposite of Byron Jones" is quickly becoming a potential need. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith stole the show last Sunday, and both the present and the future of the Cowboys' linebacking corps is strong. It could be argued the Cowboys have yet to see a passing attack like the one Atlanta brings, however, making Sunday a big test for them defensively.
Similar to the Cowboys, Atlanta has been very much up-and-down this season. In a way, though, they are just the opposite-day Cowboys, with their offense putting up insane numbers most weeks and their banged up defense often letting them down.
Though it looked like they were turning it around in recent weeks, Atlanta had probably their most disappointing loss in quite some time, losing at Cleveland to the young Browns. Still, Matt Ryan and Julio Jones lead a prolific passing attack which can strike fear in any defense.
Byron Jones and company will have their hands full with the Falcons' cast of skill players on Sunday, and as usual, stopping their passing attack will all begin up front with the pass rush. Hopefully Randy Gregory can build on his week 10 performance to produce even more results this week.
- Surprisingly, the score total has now hit the over 4 of the Cowboys' last 6 games.
- The Cowboys are 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games against the Falcons.
- The Cowboys are also 2-4 against the spread their last games at Atlanta.
- Dallas is just 1-4 straight up on the road this season.
- The score total has gone over 4 of Atlanta's last 5 home games.
- The Falcons are just 2-5 against the spread their last 7 games.
Who the hell knows, man.
This team is incredibly difficult to project week to week, probably about as volatile as they've been since all those 8-8 seasons. This line started at Cowboys +4.5 and has since moved down to just +3, meaning they are valued as a pick 'em on a neutral field.
Given how inconsistent, yet talented, both teams are this line feels exactly right. I'll take the Cowboys and the points because why not? I expect this to be a tight game throughout, and could come down to the kicking game in the fourth quarter.
X-Factor: Xavier Su’a-Filo Excellent in Cowboys Win over Eagles
Heading into this week's game against the Philadelphia Eagles the Dallas Cowboys were down starting Left Guard Connor Williams as well as starting Center Travis Frederick. Getting his first start for the Dallas Cowboys since being signed off the street during the season as guard depth was Xavier Su'a Filo and he played excellent.
Filling in against a front seven as good as the Eagles is a pretty difficult ask, but Su'a-Filo had 31 games in the previous two seasons with the Houston Texans, so he's not your typical interior backup.
In particular, Xavier did a great job of getting to the second level quickly and sealing off the linebacker, which allowed Ezekiel Elliott to spring for several big gains on the day.
Here on Ezekiel Elliott's big run, you can see Su'a-Filo and Left Tackle Tyron Smith start a combo block on the three-technique defensive tackle. After the initial engagement, Su'a-Filo comes off his block quickly and gets to the linebacker and prevents him from filling the hole and doubling back to cut Elliott off and Elliott runs for 32 yards down the middle of the field.
Again, we see Tyron and Xavier work a combo block before Su'a-Filo comes off his block to engage the linebacker and prevent him from getting back to Elliott after hits the hole to the left side.
This time Xavier Su'a-Filo works with Joe Looney to prevent the one-technique defensive tackle from slanting down the line and disrupting the point of attack. Su'a-Filo then quickly releases to linebacker and seals him to the outside and creates a big hole for Elliott to run through for yet another big gain.
This is another big gain for Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys offense that seemed to be able to run right at the heart of the Philadelphia Eagles defense all night. This time Su'a-Filo stumbles off the snap but is able to regain his balance and neutralize the middle linebacker yet again allowing Elliott to get to the second level quickly and get the Dallas Cowboys into field goal range late in the game.
Su'a-Filo is matched up against one of the première defensive tackles in Fletcher Cox. Cox looks to get leverage on Xavier but is unable to fully get to Dak Prescott as he steps up into the pocket. The offensive tackles didn't expect Dak to step up into the pocket and were unable to hold up the Philadelphia Eagles defensive ends and Prescott is sacked. Su'a-Filo, though isn't completely walked back and Dak has a lane to step into in the pocket. Obviously it's not a perfect play for the Cowboys, but Su'a-Filo eventually tosses Fletcher Cox to the ground. That kind of play strength has been missing from rookie Connor Williams.
In pass protection, Xavier held up well. Cox attempts to use power to knock him off-balance, but Su'a-Filo holds up to the power and Dak Prescott finds Allen Hurns for a big gain down to the one yard line setting up Dak Prescott's rushing touchdown.
The Cowboys run game has had a difficult time getting going for much of the season. Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys offensive line played their best game of the season. It looked like the dominant run game we've grown accustomed to. Pro Football Focus attributed to hurries to Su'a-Filo on the night, but zero quarterback hits and zero sacks. Running to the left, Elliott ran for 113 yards at a clip of 8.61 yards per carry including three carries for more than 10 yards and Su'a-Filo was a big part of that.
Xavier did a nice job stepping in for starter Connor Williams and had a nice day both in pass protection and in the run game helping to give strength and athleticism at the point of attack. His ability to get to the next level helped spring Elliott for several big runs on the night, which was a huge key to the football game. Coming into the week 10, the Philadelphia Eagles had allowed the second fewest rushing yards in the NFL.
Takeaway Tuesday: Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
Just when all hope was lost, the Dallas Cowboys went on the road and surprised fans with a 27-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Both on defense and offense, it was a game that showed us plenty of silver linings to be excited about. While a playoff run certainly remains pretty difficult to accomplish, at least the team isn't leaving without a fight.
The last Cowboys' victory came approximately a month ago, so it is with great pleasure that I share with you this week's edition of "Takeaway Tuesday!"
Vander Esch Among Best Cowboys' Players
Just before last game, I wrote about how Leighton Vander Esch could be in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Playing on Sunday Night Football (on national TV), the rookie helped his case a lot with 13 solo tackles and an interception.
Little by little, he's making sure the Cowboys know they can move on from frequently injured Sean Lee down the road. Vander Esch can play. Forget about him being an impressive rookie, he's currently one of the best players on this roster.
Scott Linehan Shouldn't be Off the Hook
As any Cowboys fan, I loved the win. There were quite a few things to like about the offense on Sunday, but there's no denying play calling could've been way better. As much as the Dallas Cowboys are still in the hunt in a mediocre division, Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan should remain on the hot seat.
Ezekiel Elliott took the Cowboys to the 5-yard line by leaping over a human at full speed and right after the Cowboys stopped using him on that drive. Against the Titans, the offense found itself on third and 16 twice and ran a running back screen pass. In Philadelphia, they were on third and 16 once and they ran a RB screen once again.
Dallas has left a lot of points on the field this year and in big part thanks to play calling. Linehan shouldn't be safe right now.
Amari Cooper Proving to be Worth It
After two games wearing the Star, Cowboys Nation is feeling a lot better about trading a first rounder for Amari Cooper. On the field, he's proven to be an impact player. An impact that has been felt immediately, by the way. Out of 11 catches, Cooper has gotten the Cowboys' offense ten first downs.
Versus the Eagles, though, his impact is felt beyond his single stat line.
On Sunday Night, he accounted for six catches and 75 yards. He helped QB Dak Prescott get 270 yards through the air and most importantly, to spread the football.
7 different Cowboys have a reception of at least 13 yards tonight.
That stat above is an underrated one. No wide receiver in next year's Draft would have the kind of impact Amari Cooper is having on this football team. In the long run, lots of people could be eating their words after heavily criticizing the Cowboys' trade for the two-times Pro Bowler wide receiver. Hopefully, that's the case.
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