The New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys are two of the most successful franchises in the NFL, and arguably the two most polarizing in the league as well. While they enjoy enormous fan support across the country, the Patriots and Cowboys are simultaneously among the least popular teams as well. And on Sunday, the two will meet in a game that could have major playoff implications in both the AFC and the NFC.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look at the Patriots’ Week 12 opponent.
Record: 6-4 (1st place NFC East)
Offense: 4th (28.6 points/game)
Defense: 7th (19.7 points/game)
Head coach: Jason Garrett
Coordinators: Kellen Moore (OC), Rod Marinelli (DC)
Games so far
Week 1 vs New York Giants: W 35-17
Week 2 at Washington Redskins: W 31-21
Week 3 vs Miami Dolphins: W 31-6
Week 4 at New Orleans Saints: L 12-10
Week 5 vs Green Bay Packers: L 34-24
Week 6 at New York Jets: L 24-22
Week 7 vs Philadelphia Eagles: W 37-10
Week 8: Bye
Week 9 at New York Giants: W 37-18
Week 10 vs Minnesota Vikings: L 28-24
Week 11 at Detroit Lions: W 35-27
Dallas started its 2019 season in style, by winning its first three games in convincing fashion. Against the Saints in Week 4, however, the team hit its first major road-block while losing 12-10 — kicking off a three-game losing streak that culminated in a 24-22 loss to the then 0-4 Jets. The Cowboys did bounce back nicely the next week, however, heading into their bye on a 37-10 blowout win against the Eagles.
Jason Garrett’s team then came out of its weekend off with another blowout, before losing at home against the Vikings. One week later, the Cowboys improved to 3-2 on the road by beating the Lions in Detroit.
Three storylines that describe the 2019 season
The offensive renaissance: Dallas is entering its game against the NFL’s top-ranked defense as the number four scoring offense in football, in large part because of the job offensive coordinator Kellen Moore did in his first few games leading the unit. The 31-year-old, who quickly rose through the ranks in Dallas and went from backup quarterback to quarterbacks coach to coordinator over a three-season span, has built a quick rapport with fourth-year passer Dak Prescott. Speaking of whom...
The development of Dak Prescott: Prescott, a fourth-round draft selection in 2016, burst onto the scene during his rookie season but cooled off a bit over the following two years. In 2019 and under Moore’s leadership, however, he has bounced back and is in the middle of what is arguably the best stretch of his young career. Through 10 games, he has completed 67.7% of his passes (247 of 365) for 3,221 yards as well as 21 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. On top of it, the 26-year-old has also carried the football 33 times for 193 yards and three scores. By all accounts, Prescott has developed in one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
The curious case of Jason Garrett: As deep and talented as the Cowboys’ roster is across the board, and as well as Prescott has played, the coaching of Jason Garrett has been the topic of discussion. The main issues, as pointed out by Blogging The Boys’ Michael Strawn, have been conservative play-calling in combination with a commitment to an ineffective running game and questionable in-game decisions. Furthermore, the Cowboys have sometimes appeared to be disorganized and unprepared — things that fall back on the head coach.
Three players to know
RB Ezekiel Elliott: While Dak Prescott is the Cowboys’ best offensive weapon, fellow 2016 draft selection Ezekiel Elliott also brings considerable big-play potential to the table. Running behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Elliott has carried the football 194 times this season for 833 yards and an average of 4.3 yards per carry — all while scoring seven touchdowns and also registering 28 receptions for 220 yards and another score. Needless to say that the 24-year-old will be a challenge for the Patriots’ defense.
DE DeMarcus Lawrence: Fresh off signing a five-year, $105 million contract, DeMarcus Lawrence is producing another very good season. Not only has he registered 4.5 sacks and a team-high 36 quarterback pressures, the 27-year-old is also among the best run defenders on the Cowboys and a player capable of single-handedly destroying a team’s offensive rhythm. Rushing primarily from the defensive left side, Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon will have his hands full against the talented defender.
DT Maliek Collins: Another member of the Cowboys’ 2016 draft class, Maliek Collins has turned into a cornerstone of the team’s defensive front. Playing primarily on the interior, the 24-year-old ties Lawrence for the team lead with 36 quarterback disruptions. While his run defense is not as impressive as his pass rushing skills, the Patriots’ interior offensive line — guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, and center Ted Karras — will need to play consistent in order to slow Collins down.
What to watch this week
Michael Bennett’s tenure with the Patriots was a disappointing one, and after just six games he was traded to the Cowboys for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick. In Dallas, meanwhile, the veteran defender is playing some very good football. Bennett has registered 3.0 sacks over his first two games in a new system that fits him better than the 3-4 New England ran. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can get some revenge against the team that acquired him via trade but shipped him off again just a few months later.