The Detroit Lions are hoping to keep the good time rolling. After a win over the Patriots last week, the Lions have a second life. But to keep spirits high, the Lions will need to pick up a win or two before the bye week, and it starts on Sunday with the Dallas Cowboys. Here’s what you need to know about the Cowboys.
9-7 record (2nd in NFC East)
14th in points scored, 13th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 13th (10th on offense, 25th on defense)
Key free agent additions: WR Allen Hurns, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Tavon Austin (trade)
Key losses: RB Alfred Morris, WR Dez Bryant, WR Ryan Switzer, TE Jason Witten, LB Anthony Hitchens, G Jonathan Cooper
2018 NFL draft picks:
Round 1, 19 overall - LB Leighton Vander Esch
Round 2, Pick 50 - OL Connor Williams
Round 3, Pick 81 - WR Michael Gallup
Round 4, Pick 116 - EDGE Dorance Armstrong Jr.
Round 4, Pick 137 - TE Dalton Schultz
Round 5, Pick 171 - QB Mike White
Round 6, Pick 193 - LB Chris Covington
Round 6, Pick 208 - WR Cedrick Wilson
Round 7, Pick 236 - RB Bo Scarbrough
The Cowboys offense took a pretty big hit this offseason. In between Dez Bryant’s divorce from the team, Jason Witten’s retirement and a bunch of preseason injuries to the offense line, Dallas entered the regular season with a lot of question about how they’d keep up their efficient offense from last season.
To their credit, Dallas tried to mitigate the damage, drafting Michael Gallup in the third round and adding both Tavon Austin and Allen Hurns. They also made sure to keep their offensive line fresh by adding Cameron Fleming in free agency and Connor Williams in the draft.
2018 season thus far
The story of the 2018 Cowboys thus far has easily been their lackluster offense. They’ve scored just 41 total points through three games (31st), and their yards per play (5.0) ranks them 23rd in the NFL.
The problem is pretty easily identifiable. Ezekiel Elliott is still as amazing as ever, but this pass offense is hurting without any proven receiving talent. No Dez, no Witten, and you’re left with Cole Beasley as your leading receiver, with a mere 132 yards through three games. Tavon Austin has a couple of scores, but just 81 total yards. Rookie Michael Gallup is still getting his footing in the NFL.
This all goes back to the play of Dak Prescott, who is facing an increasing amount of criticism as the offense continues to struggle. His passer rating of 74.9 ranks just 27th of all starting quarterbacks, as does his 5.66 yards per attempt. He hasn’t been helped out by the aforementioned beat up offensive line—he’s been sacked 11 times (fifth most)—but he’s also not making the players around him better.
Defensively, this team is much more sound right now. They’re allowing just 17.7 points per game (seventh) and a mere 4.3 yards per play (second). They’ve got a feared defensive front with DeMarcus Lawrence (2.5 sacks) and Taco Charlton (1.0 sacks), but don’t sleep on their secondary, either. 2015 first-round pick Byron Jones has been Pro Football Focus’ best cornerback through three weeks, and Dallas is allowing just 6.6 yards per passing attempt (eighth).
The loss of Sean Lee to an injury last week looms large, but first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch was phenomenal in his place against the Seahawks, racking up 11 tackles.
Leighton Vander Esch's 79.2 season defensive grade is the 14th highest defensive grade among LBs with at least 50 snaps this season. He also has the highest tackling grade among those LBs. #CowboysNation— PFF DAL Cowboys (@PFF_Cowboys) September 25, 2018
It’s been a disappointing start for the Cowboys, especially racking up two losses in the NFC, but there is still enough talent here to be worried about.
Outlook for 2018
Vegas win total: 8.5 wins
Blogging the Boys’ take: OVER 8.5 wins
Everybody thinks the Cowboys had a down year in 2017, and they still managed a 9-7 record. If they have an average to good year in 2018, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t end up with a double-digit win total.
Vegas line for Week 4: Cowboys by 3