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The Cheat Sheet: Can the Lions stop the Cowboys top-ranked offense?

Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions game preview and prediction.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Cowboys and Lions faced off was September 30, 2018. The Cowboys narrowly escaped with the win after Brett Maher kicked a 38-yard field goal with time expiring.

The story coming out of that game was how the Lions were dominated by Ezekiel Elliott. He had 25 carries for 152 yards and had four receptions for 88 yards, including a 34-yard catch in the final two minutes to put the Cowboys in scoring position.

Last year the Lions had one guy to stop, and they couldn’t.

This year it could be a whole other story.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent snapshot

The Cowboys are 5-4, but they are far better than their record shows. This year the Cowboys have tried hard to become more dynamic on offense. They fired longtime offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and promoted former Lions quarterback Kellen Moore for the job.

The offense has made a stunning turnaround so far this season. They’ve gone from 24th in offensive DVOA to first in the entire NFL.

You read that right.

The Cowboys right now have a better offense than the Chiefs, Ravens, or 49ers. They’re no longer dependent on dominance from Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys have figured out how to attack teams in multiple ways.

The Lions defense will have a monumental task in front of them this week as they try to slow down the top-ranked offense in the NFL.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys’ biggest threat

Dak Prescott

It was tempting to pick Elliott based on the numbers he posted in last year’s matchup, but Prescott is playing for a new contract this season and it’s showing.

Through the first 10 weeks Prescott has quietly been one of the top quarterbacks in all of football:

  • 2,777 passing yards (second)
  • 8.16 net yards per pass (second)
  • 308.6 yards per game (third)
  • 18 passing TDs (tied-third)
  • 102.4 QB rating (eighth)
  • 68.3 completion percentage (eighth)

The Lions continue to be one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Unless they are able to rattle Prescott on Sunday, they could be in for a long day.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys’ weak link

Defending the run

The Cowboys have struggled a bit this season on defense and that continued last week against the Vikings as well. Dalvin Cook ran for 97 yards and added 86 yards in the passing game too.

Overall, the Cowboys are seventh in total yards given up per game (323.2), but rank 14th in run defense, giving up over 103 yards per game on the ground.

The problem for the Lions is that they’ve shown no ability to consistently move the ball in the run game. I’m not confident the Lions will be able to take advantage of the Cowboys here.

If Jeff Driskel makes his second start, I’d expect the Cowboys to crowd the box and dare Driskel to beat them.

Bottom line

The Cowboys offense is good. The Lions defense is bad. Sometimes it’s good not to overthink these things.


Lions 16 Cowboys 24