By Yusuf Nakhooda
In what can be labelled as a statement for the Dallas Cowboys, as they travel to frigid Foxboro to battle Tom Brady and the Patriots. The Cowboys have failed to make statement wins this year, vs. the Saints, Packers, and Vikings. This game will catapult them into a much serious playoff contender with a victory on the road . Here a few things to watch as to how this game might playout.
1. When the Cowboys have the ball:
Dallas has been up and down this season with the ground game. Dallas has to be aggressive on the ground against the Patriots here in order to try and make Belichick change his plan of attack. The lone team that has had success really hammering the ball on the ground and changing the game was the Ravens. That is the game plan to beat New England: pound the ball, use a mobile quarterback and keep the Patriots off-balance. Elliott is a bell cow back but we have to see proof that the team will commit to giving him the rock 25 to 30 times.
Dallas has been extremely effective moving the ball through the air and with each passing game.
he Cowboys have a slew of dangerous options in the passing game that makes them tough to defend. Dallas has thrown for at least 300 yards four times this season with two 400-yard contests on the books. The Cowboys have gone over 300 yards in each of the last two games, registering 397 yards against Minnesota and 444 yards against Detroit.
Prescott has completed 247 of 365 passes for 3,221 yards with 21 touchdown passes against nine interceptions. He has been sacked only 12 times on the year, losing 94 yards in the process. AmariCooper is the team's leading receiver with 56 receptions for 886 yards and seven scores. Michael Gallup has 42 receptions for 678 yards plus three scores while Randall Cobb (35 grabs, 495 yards, three TD), tight end Jason Witten (41 catches, 371 yards, two TD) and Elliott (28 catches, 220 yards, TD) are valuable options. Gallup missed two games after knee surgery but returned to action against Green Bay in week 5. The Cowboys have 47 pass plays covering at least 20 yards this season: Cooper leads the team with 14 such plays while Gallup and Cobb each have 10.
2.) When the Patriots have the Ball
The Patriots aren't gashing teams for big plays on the ground but they are patient and determined. New England has averaged 3.5 yards per carry or less in eight of their 10 games this season. The Patriots have run for more than 100 yards just three times this season in their 10 games. In the last month, New England has been remarkably consistent, running for between 74 and 79 yards in each of their four games.
The Patriots like to play smash mouth football pounding the ball, and wearing out the defense. They don't make huge plays in the run game but are effective. They will test the front seven of the Cowboys. The Cowboys will have to tackle well and play the screens well, which the Patriots love to do.
New England may not be the same weapons in their arsenal in the passing game as in years past but they still have plenty of weapons to work with in that department. he Patriots have four 300-yard games on the season though none have come in the last four weeks. New England comes in off a 231-yard performance in the windy conditions against the Eagles last week.
Final Prediction: For the Cowboys to win this game a number of things have to happen. First off they can't afford another slow start or it could be a long day in Foxboro. The Patriots capitalize on turnovers, as they lead the league in turnovers with 28. And giving Tom Brady a short field is no fun. They have to get the run game going with Ezekiell Elliott finding his groove. This will keep New England off the field. Dak has to be Dak again, but with swirling winds don't expect a 400 yard game as clock management will be key. On the defensive side of the ball, they have to tackle well, and get to Brady early to rattle him as was shown in the game vs the Eagles. This game will be decided by the kickers. Maher seems he is back on track, and ex- Cowboy Nick Folk for the Patriots. Look for Maher to kick the winning field goal to send the Cowboys to victory.
Final Score Prediction:
Dallas Cowboys 24 New England Patriots 21
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