Later today, the New England Patriots will play their third game in a row against a serious playoff contender: the reigning world champions will host the Dallas Cowboys. While the 9-1 Patriots are sitting atop the AFC and are in prime position to earn a first-round playoff bye and maybe even the number one seed in the conference, their opponent is currently leading the NFC East with a 6-4 record — and fields a balanced team on both sides of the ball.
Dallas is therefore expected to be formidable challenge for the Patriots — but one that is certainly beatable as Blogging The Boys’ David Halprin pointed out while talking with Pats Pulpit earlier this week. The Cowboys reporter offered the following three main reasons why the team he is covering could lose in the highly anticipated matchup between two of the league’s premier franchises:
- Amari Cooper is unable to produce
- The Cowboys’ run/short pass game defense collapses
- Special teams blows up
David also revealed his rationale behind pointing out the three reasons why New England could win on Sunday:
1.) Amari Cooper is unable to produce because of his injury
Cooper is the Cowboys best weapon on offense and has had a phenomenal connection with Dak Prescott since the Cowboys acquired him in 2018. Cooper is a master technician and one of the best route-runners in the league. Prescott has used him extensively in the offense and they can create chunks of yards on any pass play. His health, though, has been an issue this year. He was unable to compete in the Cowboys inexplicable loss to the Jets and was limited last week, only playing half the snaps and not looking as explosive as usual. How he plays this week will be crucial, so his health will be something close to watch.
2.) The Cowboys’ run/short pass game defense collapses
There was a time when the Cowboys run defense was solid. Over the past 16 games or so, there have been games where it has collapsed. Even when they have overall good stats against the rush, they can give up big plays at very inopportune times. When the Cowboys can control the opposing run game, and this includes things like screen passes and short check-down passes, they usually do a good job of disrupting the longer passing game of the defense with a decent pass rush and some solid pieces in the secondary. It’s the interior run game and the ability to shut down the short passing game to backs and tight ends that can be worrisome.
3.) Special teams blows up
The Cowboys are not good at special teams. They don’t cover kickoffs or punts well, and their field goal kicker is shaky at times although he’s been better recently. The Cowboys generally lose the hidden yardage game associated with special teams, and because they usually don’t create a lot of turnovers on defense, they start with negative field position. This puts a lot of strain on the offense to drive long fields to score. It also puts pressure on the defense because opposing offenses are given shorter fields. There have been times when special teams kick/punt returns against Dallas have been just a step or a block away from taking it to the house. There’s a feeling this could happen at any time in any game.