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Cowboys vs. Jaguars: Four candidates to be the X-Factor player of the game for Dallas

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Which player do you think will be the difference-maker when the Cowboys face the Jaguars on Sunday?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars have faced off six times since the Jags joined the league in 1995. Each team as won three games in the series, with the last one being a 31-17 Cowboys win in London back in 2014. The Cowboys went to the playoffs that year whereas the struggling Jaguars only won three games all season. The Cowboys had over 400 yards of offense in that game, including a 100-yard rushing performance by DeMarco Murray and a 158-yard, two-touchdown stat line by Dez Bryant. Tony Romo had three touchdown passes and no picks as the offense had their way with the Jags defense.

Well, times have changed.

The Jaguars have the top-ranked pass defense, which is not good news for a Cowboys passing attack that is ranked 30th. Jacksonville’s offense isn’t all that great themselves and they’ll be going up against a Cowboys defense that is not too shabby. It is expected to be a low scoring affair, where one play could make all the difference. So, which player makes that play? Some of us front page writers came up with our choice for the X-Factor player of the game. Let’s check it out...

David Halprin: David Irving

The Cowboys have been looking for a pass rush partner to DeMarcus Lawrence. Neither Randy Gregory nor Taco Charlton have filled the vacancy. Jaylon Smith seems to be the guy behind Lawrence in creating havoc in the opposing backfield on pass plays, but you can’t blitz Smith on every down. This week, we should see the return of David Irving. He probably will be on a pitch count, maybe 20 plays and most of those will probably be in passing situations. Irving will use his natural ability to make a handful of plays, either through pressures or sacks, finally giving the Cowboys a true complement to Lawrence.

Irving was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after coming away with one sack, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovering against the Green Bay Packers back in 2016. And he did all of this on just 19 snaps. Don’t let the pitch-count fool you as he can be a major disruption when he’s on his game.

“Show me the money!” - Louis Bing, David Irving’s agent as he hopes he can show out these last 11 games in order to earn some cash in the offseason.

Michael Sisemore: Cole Beasley

If I’m the Cowboys, I know two things:

  1. Jalen Ramsey is a bad dude
  2. Cole Beasley is my best separator

So I bring in Tavon Austin, try to take a shot and connect early with him much like the Giants game. This time, I take another page from the Houston game plan that worked, moving Tavon around to preoccupy a corner. Now, Jacksonville is going to have to put Ramsey on Austin because of the speed matchup and they love to move him around. This is where Cole Beasley will be a mismatch on AJ Bouye or whoever covers him. This can give you chances in finding balance. This Jaguars secondary is good but you can’t win if you go into this game intimidated. They have to go for it against this group.

“These aren’t spirit fingers! THESE are spirit fingers!” - Sparky Polaski on what he thought of this touchdown celebration from Cole Beasley.

Tom Ryle: Rico Gathers

Let’s get crazy and go with Rico Gathers. He had his first catch last week and was wide open on other plays. And that is still with very limited snaps. Given Dak’s accuracy issues, that big catch radius plus his rebounding instincts may be just what the passing game needs. Not only could he move the ball, but if he starts drawing some extra attention, it could help the other receivers. He is seen as a detriment in the passing game, but could even help there by taking a defender or two out of the box on play action.

“Please sir, I want some more.” - Oliver Twist regarding the Cowboys usage of Rico in the passing game.

Danny Phantom: Brett Maher

I was really hoping the Cowboys offense would be in better shape when this matchup rolled around because I thought it would be fun to watch. That’s not the case though. I’m scared of this Jags defense in a big way. It’s not impossible for the Cowboys offense to have success, but based on what we’ve seen so far - it’s becoming more unimaginable.

The Cowboys have to put together an all-around great team effort to have a shot in this one. That means everyone has a part in getting some first downs here and there on offense and disrupting Bortles on defense. Barring some sloppy quarterback play, this game should be a tight one and could come down to some crucial special teams play. Will it be a big return? A fake of some sort? Or some costly strip fumble that sets up a score? I’m not even going to try to abracadabra you with guessing which player comes up with that big play, but I will say this - most of the Cowboys points on Sunday will come from their kicker. The only question is - will it two field goals? three? four? It’s not going to be five, is it?

This could be one of those days we are thankful the Cowboys have a good kicker. It’s just shocking that kicker isn’t Dan Bailey.

“Would you say I have a plethora of field goals?” - El Guapo asking how many kicks Maher needs to make to beat Jacksonville on Sunday.