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Detroit Lions Week 11 scouting report: The Cowboys are much better than their record

Don’t be fooled by the 5-4 record—this Cowboys team is dangerous.

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys are going to draw a ton of attention, whether they’re good or not. Owner Jerry Jones is a... well, he’s a personality. They’re one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world, and even though this team hasn’t seen a conference championship game since 1995, they always seem to be interesting on a national level.

This year is certainly no exception. At times, this team has looked like a Super Bowl contender. But they also lost to the New York Jets. They have one of the most exciting offenses in the NFL, but their defense has inexplicably taken a step back this year.

So what does it mean for the Detroit Lions this week? Let’s take a closer look at the 2019 Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys

Last season:

10-6 record (1st in NFC East) — 1-1 in postseason
22nd in points scored, 6th in points allowed
Overall DVOA: 21st (24th on offense, 9th on defense)

2019 offseason

Key free agent additions: WR Randall Cobb, TE Jason Witten, DE Robert Quinn,

Key losses: WR Cole Beasley, WR Allen Hurns, DE Taco Charlton

Coaching changes: Fired OC Scott Linehan, Promoted QB coach Kellen Moore to OC, Hired Jon Kitna as QB coach

2019 NFL draft picks:

Round 2 - DT Trysten Hill
Round 3 - OG Connor McGovern
Round 4 - RB Tony Pollard
Round 5 - CB Michael Jackson
Round 5 - DE Joe Jackson
Round 6 - S Donovan Wilson
Round 7 - RB Mike Weber
Round 7 - DE Jalen Jelks

It was actually a fairly quiet offseason for the Dallas Cowboys. By far, the biggest and most impactful move in the offseason was finally cutting ties with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. The Cowboys offense was just too talented to finish in the bottom half of the league in scoring and offensive DVOA.

The only other real significant move was making a trade for defensive end Robert Quinn to help bolster their pass rush alongside Demarcus Lawrence.

Sometimes it can be dangerous to have a fairly quiet offseason after a somewhat successful season. Let’s see how it’s turned out thus far.

Cowboys 2019 season (5-4)

Week 1: Win over Giants, 35-17
Week 2: Win over Washington, 31-21
Week 3: Win over Dolphins, 31-6
Week 4: Loss to Saints, 10-12
Week 5: Loss to Packers, 24-34
Week 6: Loss to Jets, 22-24
Week 7: Win over Eagles, 37-10
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Win over Giants, 37-18
Week 10: Loss to Vikings, 24-28

Stats:

  • 6th in points scored; t-6th in points allowed
  • 4th in DVOA (1st on offense, 20th on defense)

The move from Scott Linehan to Kellen Moore looks like it was the best move this team has made in some time. Dak Prescott is currently on pace to set career highs in completion percentage (68.3%), touchdown percentage (5.6%), and yards per attempt (8.7). His passer rating of 102.4 also ranks eighth in the NFL.

And the running game looks just as revitalized.

2018: 122.7 rushing yards per game, 4.5 YPC
2019: 138.2 rushing yards per game, 4.8 YPC

Defensively, however, they’ve taken a small step back. While their pass rush is still elite—they have the best pass-rush win rate in the entire NFL—they haven’t been great against the run. They’re allowing 4.2 yards per carry (t-15th) and cede first downs on 26.8 percent of rushes (30th).

Still, even the defense is overall solid:

  • 6th in points allowed (18.9 PPG)
  • 14th in passer rating allowed (89.3)
  • 9th in yards per play (5.2)

Put this team all together, and it really makes no sense that this team is only 5-4. Their loss to the Jets was inexcusable. They’ve got talent across the board, but they don’t really have an impressive win on the schedule yet.

Their five wins have come against teams with a collective record of 12-35.

Their four losses have come against teams with a collective record of 24-14.

With losses to the Saints, Packers and Vikings, the Cowboys haven’t shown they truly belong among the NFC contenders, despite the strong roster and stats across the board. But that huge win over the Eagles may be enough to prove they’re kings of the NFC East.

Key injuries: DT Tyrone Crawford (IR), G Connor McGovern (IR), DE Randy Gregory (suspended), LG Connor Williams (knee), RT La’el Collins (back), RG Zach Martin (elbow)

Early on, the Cowboys have been able to escape games without any major injury setbacks, but the Lions may be catching them at a fortunate time.

Dallas’ offensive line got beat up against the Vikings and they could be missing as many as three starters this week. Left guard Connor Williams is almost certainly out, as he is expected to have knee surgery this week. La’el Collins’ and Zach Martin’s injuries are far less concerning and both could certainly play this week, but it’s something to monitor as the week goes on. The offensive line has typically been a strength for this team, but with a beat up crew against the Vikings last week, they only managed 50 rushing yards on 22 carries (2.3 YPC).

Biggest strength: Passing offense

This team has really figured out all of their offensive woes with Kellen Moore leading the attack. The Dallas Cowboys are first in yards per attempt (8.7), third in 20+ yards passing plays (40), third in 40+ yard passing plays (nine) and fifth in passing touchdowns (18).

Much like the Lions, they are a deep ball offense that is rolling right now. Dak Prescott’s average intended yards per throw is 9.9, good for third in the NFL—and just barely behind Matthew Stafford’s league-leading 10.7 mark.

Last year’s mid-season addition of Amari Cooper has been especially fruitful. Cooper is third in the NFL in receiving yards (848), second only to Kenny Golladay in receiving touchdowns (7), and second in the NFL in receiving plays of 20+ yards (14)

Biggest weakness: Run defense

It sounds weird to say this out loud, but the Cowboys’ linebackers have not been playing very well. With a star-studded cast in Leighton Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and Sean Lee, there’s no real reason this team should be struggling at the second level... but they are.

Of course, this doesn’t mean much for the Lions, who can’t seem to run the ball, but it’s something the coaching staff will undoubtedly try to exploit.

Vegas line for Sunday: Cowboys by 3