To say that the Cowboys are reeling would be an exaggeration despite what Twitter would have you believe, but make no mistake: Dallas is desperate for a win this week. At 5-4, the Cowboys are tied with the Eagles for the lead in the division, although a head-to-head win a few weeks ago gives Dallas the edge.
But that win over the Eagles is the team’s only victory over a team that currently has a winning record. Their other four wins came against the Redskins (who are so bad they’ve fired their head coach already), two wins against the Giants (who are so bad that fans are calling for their head coach to be fired already), and the Dolphins (who, until two weeks ago, were actively trying to lose games). So, yeah, not exactly a great resume.
But here come the Detroit Lions galloping to the rescue. With an unimpressive record of 3-5-1, the Lions have had all five of their losses come in the last six games, with the one win being a narrow victory over the Giants. Unlike the Cowboys, the Lions really are reeling right now. Their attempt at a more balanced offense fell apart when running back Kerryon Johnson was placed on injured reserve. Their defense is so bad that they just gave up three touchdown passes to Mitch Trubisky. And quarterback Matthew Stafford is now out with hip and back injuries.
It’s certainly not too late for the Lions, but they’re dangerously close to “stick a fork in ‘em” territory. Similarly to Dallas, though, it’s quite mind boggling to see them in this situation. Detroit jumped out to an undefeated record after starting out 2-0-1, and should have been a full 3-0 if not for Kyler Murray’s late-game heroics in the season opener. Then, the Lions contained Patrick Mahomes and nearly beat the then-undefeated Chiefs to drop their first game, followed by a one-point loss to Green Bay due to some highly questionable officiating calls.
Since then, the wheels have fallen off. Losing Johnson hurt, especially after he was becoming the focal point of their new-look offense under former Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, in his first year in Detroit. At least they still had Stafford, who was quietly having one of the better years of his career. With Stafford missing last week and already being ruled out for the matchup against Dallas by head coach Matt Patricia, things look dire.
This is all good news for the Cowboys. Remember, Dallas beat Detroit last year, albeit by just two points; however, that was with Stafford and before the Amari Cooper trade. It’s not hard to argue that the Cowboys are better than they were last time these two played, and that the Lions are worse.
Filling in for Stafford last week was Jeff Driskel, a second-year quarterback who started the final five games of last season for the Bengals when Andy Dalton got hurt. In Cincinnati, he completed just under 60% of his passes for 1,003 yards with six touchdowns, two interceptions, and four fumbles. Last week against the Bears, Driskel completed 58.7% of his passes for 269 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He managed to keep Detroit in the game, but it was clear he’s not going to lead the team to victory all on his own.
Driskel’s supporting cast isn’t great either. Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay have been having solid seasons at receiver, with Danny Amendola and rookie tight end TJ Hockenson getting involved too, but there’s not a receiving threat that Driskel can necessarily lean on. At running back, it’s been a combination of JD McKissic and sixth-round rookie Ty Johnson; neither of them have managed to hit even 40 rushing yards in a single game since taking over for Johnson. It’s definitely a step down from the rushing attack Dallas just faced last week and should help their defense regain some confidence.
On the other side of the ball, Detroit is playing some poor football. After trading away safety Quandre Diggs, one of the locker room’s more respected leaders, the rest of the team publicly questioned the move on social media, and the secondary in particular has been abysmal ever since, currently ranking 23rd in pass defense DVOA; only four other teams are allowing more passing yards per game this year. This is another game where Dak Prescott can continue his blazing hot streak.
All in all, this game looks like an opportunity for the Cowboys to exorcise their demons and try to get back on track before facing the Patriots, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles over the following five weeks. The problem is that we said something similar when Dallas played the Jets earlier this year. All there is to do is watch the game Sunday afternoon and see what happens.