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

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

NFL: Dallas Cowboys Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys host the Detroit Lions in a game that will set the tone for the rest of the season. One team will get back to .500 football, while the other will be facing a 1-3 start where playoff aspirations will slowly start to fade. It’s crucial the Cowboys come out of AT&T Stadium with a win this week. And how can that happen exactly? Will one of their receivers need to have a big game? Or can an edge rusher get to Matthew Stafford? It seems like I do recall a certain defensive end making the biggest play of his career the last time he squared off against the Lions.

Lawrence was just a rookie then and that was his first ever sack, but that play helped give the Cowboys their first playoff win since the 2009 season.

The Cowboys need players to step up, but who do you think delivers on Sunday? Here are our choices for difference-making players against the Lions.

Michael Sisemore: Tavon Austin

The passing offense has to improve and the only way for that to happen is for the most dynamic players to be on the field. In this offense, there are really only three outstanding mismatches: Ezekiel Elliott because he’s the best player on the offense, Rico Gathers because of his size and athletic profile, and Tavon Austin because he’s got game breaking speed. So far, you could argue the utilization of all three but Tavon Austin is the only receiver they have with touchdown catches, yet he’s playing 26% of the snaps. If this offense can’t get one of their most dynamic offensive weapons involved, fold up shop and let’s all go home. They need efficiency in the passing game and they need explosiveness as well. Tavon Austin has the best chance of any to give them those things.

Danny Phantom: Connor Williams

Look for this to be the rookie breakout game. First-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will get his first career NFL start in Sean Lee’s absence. He’s starting to become more comfortable so look for him to rack up the tackles. Michael Gallup has been essentially non-existence so far this season, but with the offense scratching and clawing to find production, don’t be surprised if there is a Gallup sighting on Sunday.

While these rookies might stand out more, the play of left guard Connor Williams might be the most critical. He gets better with each game and if they can get him moving and execute his blocks, it could help open up some space around the edge for Ezekiel Elliott to run.

So much has been put on the Cowboys passing game and for good reason - it needs to get better for this team to have success. But look for the Cowboys to get back to what they do best which is run the football. When this offensive line starts to get more in sync, it will open things up for Dak Prescott.

It doesn’t always have to be a player who is the X-Factor as we have a vote going to a coach who is supposed to “add a couple wrinkles” to the offense.

Tom Ryle: Scott Linehan

If the Cowboys are to get their offense on track, it is really up to the OC to get it done. We are hearing that there are changes coming for the Lions game - but we have been hearing that for over half a year now, without seeing much materialize. Any real hope for the Cowboys to win likely hinges on whether Linehan is really going to change things up, and perhaps the larger question of if he can really get away from predictable calls. He also has to find a way to make calls that help Dak Prescott and the wide receivers, while still utilizing the run game. It is a tall order, but it really is on his shoulders now. He has made promises that he has to keep, or the team will not be keeping him.

Dave Halprin: Michael Gallup

Call this one a pure hunch. Gallup was a stud in training camp and his preseason performance gave us all hope. That has faded as Gallup has not really produced much. He was unable to corral a long pass against the Giants, and then let the ball get loose for an interception versus Seattle. This is the game where he makes a big play, maybe a coupe of them. Ezekiel Elliott and the run game should pull the Lions defense forward as they focus on holding the Cowboys run game (including Dak Prescott) in check, consequently, there should be opportunities in the secondary. Look for Gallup to have a long touchdown, and to break a few big runs after a catch.

Those are our choices, but we’re also interested in what you think.

So, what were your selections?

The quarterback is almost always going to be the biggest X-Factor for the team, but the play of Dak Prescott has really been a huge thermostat for the team’s success lately. It’s easy to say it’s Prescott, but it’s also very accurate.

But he isn’t the only offensive star that looms large in determining who wins.

With Detroit being the worst run-defending team in the league, all things are pointing to Ezekiel Elliott having a big game. But can it actually be done?

Tom Ryle had Butler as his X-Factor last week, but he was kept inactive. Will the Cowboys dress him for this game. If that is what it takes for Prescott to take deep shots down the field then I’m all for it.

Sean Lee is out this game so if the Cowboys need help at linebacker they can always call Chris Jones’ number. He certainly knows how to lay the wood on Lions players.

That’s what we go so far, what about you? Who do you think will be the Cowboys X-Factor player of the game?

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