The NFL schedule release is one of the best times of the year. You can finally start to analyze the season’s upcoming matchups and get an idea of how the offseason moves are going to work. When you glance through the Cowboys’ schedule and start to look at the individual matchups you realize that they are going to face a very tough group of Running Backs in the upcoming season. Here are the top five.
No. 5 – Josh Jacobs – Los Vegas Raiders – Week 12
The Cowboys defense will have their hands full on Thanksgiving Day when they look to slow down Raiders RB Josh Jacobs. This will be Jacobs’s first career matchup against Dallas. Jacobs followed up his outstanding rookie season with another solid showing in 2020, racking up 1065 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.
He took another step forward in the passing game last season, jumping from 20 catches in year one up to 33 last season which translated into another 238 Yards. There has been a lot of chatter about Jacobs becoming more involved as a pass-catcher moving forward, which would just add to his already elite skill set as a runner.
No. 4 – Saquon Barkley – Week 5 and 15
When Saquon Barkley is 100% healthy he is arguably the toughest RB matchup in the league, but of course, I don’t have to tell this to Cowboys fans. While Dallas has done a good job of keeping Barkley out of the end zone (only one TD in four career games), they haven’t been able to slow him down completely as he’s averaging over 100 total yards per game against the Cowboys.
Barkley has burned the Cowboys in true dual-threat fashion, racking up 285 yards on 53 career carries (5.4 yards-per-carry), with another 199 yards coming through the air on 28 catches. The Giants look to be one of the most improved offenses in the division which should finally take some pressure off of Barkley, which is a scary thought. Saquon and the Giants will take on the Cowboys in weeks five and 15.
No. 3 – Alvin Kamara – Week 13
The fact that Alvin Kamara is down at number three on this list tells you just what kind of schedule the Cowboys defense has coming up. Very few RBs have been as consistently productive as Kamara since he entered the league four seasons ago. Over his career, he is averaging 835 rushing yards (five yards-per-carry) and 10.8 rushing TDS with 706 receiving yards and 3.8 TDs on 81.5 catches per season.
The Cowboys have been surprisingly solid in their two prior matchups against Kamara and the Saints. He is yet to score a TD and has been held under 100 total yards in both games. This year’s matchup comes at a very inconvenient time, as they will begin a stretch of four division games in five weeks to close out the season after heading to New Orleans in week 13.
No. 2 – Christian McCaffery – Week 4
Christian McCaffery was arguably the most dynamic offensive weapon in football over the 2018 and 2019 seasons. In 2019 he was a 1st-Team All-Pro, finishing with 1387 rushing yards and 15 TDS, while also kicking in an additional 1005 receiving yards and 4 TDs on 116 catches.
McCaffery’s 2020 season was derailed by injuries, but he will be returning to an offense that will look completely different with Sam Darnold under center at QB in year two of the Matt Rhule and Joe Brady era in Carolina. In CMC’s lone matchup against the Cowboys in 2018, he finished with 50 rushing yards on 10 carries and 45 receiving yards on six catches. He was held out of the end zone and lost a fumble, but the Panthers ultimately won, 16-8.
No. 1 – Dalvin Cook – Week 8 (After bye)
Dalvin Cook finally had the monster breakout season we all knew he was capable of in 2020, as he finished second in rushing yards on an outstanding five yards-per-carry. He totaled 1557 yards and 16 TDs on the ground, with another 361 receiving yards and a score on 44 catches.
In his career, Cook has played two games against the Cowboys, one coming in 2019 (Vikings win 28-24) and the other in 2020 (Cowboys win 31-28). Dallas was unable to slow Dalvin Cook down in either match-up, as he erupted for 183 total yards and a TD in 2019, and 160 total yards in 2020 with another TD. One positive thing in this match-up is that Dallas will be coming off of a Week 7 bye, so they should be fresh when they try to slow down one of the best runners in the league in Dalvin Cook.