Both the Cowboys and Patriots spent a 2019 first-round draft resource on a wide receiver. They are both featured in NESN’s players to watch.
N’Keal Harry, Patriots wide receiver
With Sanu and Dorsett banged up, Harry could see another hefty workload in his second NFL appearance. The first-round draft pick played 32 offensive snaps against Baltimore in his pro debut after spending the first half of the season on IR, with 25 of those coming after Dorsett left the game early in the third quarter. Harry was used sparingly in the passing game (four targets, three catches, 18 yards) but could see more looks this week as his command of the offense and chemistry with Brady improves.
Amari Cooper, Cowboys wide receiver
Cooper, a three-time Pro Bowler, has been an undeniable top-five receiver since the Oakland Raiders traded him to the Cowboys midway through last season. Since then, no wideout has more touchdowns than his 13, and only Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, Mike Evans and DeAndre Hopkins have more receiving yards than his 1,607. The Patriots likely will counter Cooper with All-Pro corner Stephon Gilmore, who called the Dallas star one of the best wideouts in the league this week.
The Cowboys have had problems this year stopping running backs in the passing game and James White is a master at his craft. How will the Dallas D handle him?
For the Cowboys, stopping James White on Sunday should be the key to victory. But can they do it? Timing, unfortunate as ever, hasn’t worked well for Dallas this time around. Leighton Vander Esch is out for Sunday’s match which means Sean Lee might find himself in plenty of one-on-one situations versus White. As much as Cowboys Nation loves General Lee, advantage likely goes to the 27-year old RB on that matchup.
It’ll be interesting to see how Kris Richard and Rod Marinelli gameplan for this particular situation. They’ve used CB Jourdan Lewis on running backs before, like when they’ve faced Alvin Kamara. However, Anthony Brown was placed on Injured Reserve a few days ago, which means Lewis might not be available to be assigned to cover White.
New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys preview: Prediction, point spread, game plan, and more - Christopher Mason, Mass Live
Not only are the Cowboys bad on special teams, but they will be facing a team that has one of the best groups in the league.
NE: Nick Folk 5-5 FG, 2-2 PAT
DAL: Brett Maher 16-22 FG, 32-32 PAT
It’s hard to believe given their kicker carousel, but the Patriots have a decisive advantage in the kicking game. Maher has missed kicks in four of his last six games, and though Folk hasn’t been asked to extend his range, he’s been perfect on the field goals Belichick has trotted him out for.
Factor in the punting mismatch — Jake Bailey is elite and Chris Jones is the worst statistical punter in the league — and New England’s edge is clear on special teams.
Leighton Vander Esch is OUT.
Anthony Brown is OUT (for the season).
Connor Williams and Jeff Heath are back IN.
Sick again: Bug hits Cowboys defense hard, complicating preparations for the Patriots’ offense - Michael Gehlken, Dallas Morning News
Not only are the Cowboys missing a few key starters, the defense has a few reserves who were under the weather this week.
Linebacker Justin March is dealing with a respiratory illness. Linebacker Joe Thomas, a reserve who could start this weekend, missed the entire practice week to the flu. Safety Donovan Wilson missed the final two days. And linebackers coach Ben Bloom also has the flu, multiple players said, hence why he hasn’t coached a practice this week.
Here is a final practice report for each team.
FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONS
NFL.com’s editor Gregg Rosenthal was 11-3 last week on his predictions, and he has the Pats coming out on top in this one.
New England Patriots 24, Dallas Cowboys 13
4:25 p.m. ET (FOX), Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
Tom Brady wasn’t just playing damage control by saying the Patriots play to their defense. The 42-year-old throws passes away and clearly limits risk-taking, helping the team rank fourth in fewest turnovers. Ranked 30th in yards per carry, the Patriots call plays trying not to lose the game for their excellent defense. It’s hard to expect that approach to change with Phillip Dorsett and Mohamed Sanu dealing with new injuries and rookie N’Keal Harry unlikely to be ready to be a true No. 2 receiver.
The increased aggressiveness shown by Jason Garrett last week in leaning on the passing game was a welcome sign, and the Cowboys are smart to keep youngsters Michael Gallup and Tony Pollard heavily involved. The top-ranked Patriots defense is in the midst of playing the three best offenses in football (Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City) over a five-game stretch, and I believe this secondary can be up to the challenge, especially if the Cowboys are without right tackle La’el Collins. In a game likely to be decided by situational football, I still trust the team coached by Bill Belichick over a Garrett-led squad in Foxborough. The talent disparity makes it tough, though.
ESPN makes their weekly picks for each game, including Todd Archer’s feeling that Tom Brady will have a big game against the Cowboys defense.
Bold prediction: Tom Brady will pass for 300 yards against the Cowboys. Brady has five 300-yard games this season but none in the past four. Since 2010, Brady has had just three five-game spans of not having at least 300 yards passing.
Archer’s pick: Patriots 30, Cowboys 20
And Mike Reiss adds his thoughts...
What to watch for: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett noted the Patriots’ knack for winning the turnover differential (No. 1 in the NFL at plus-18), while the Cowboys are minus-1 on the season (12 takeaways, 13 giveaways). The turnover battle could be key Sunday.
Reiss’ pick: Patriots 27, Cowboys 17
Pete Prisco’s NFL Week 12 picks: Jets upset Raiders, Packers jump into the race for the NFC’s top seed - Pete Prisco, CBS Sports
Brady or Prescott? Who you got? Pete Prisco from CBS is siding with the future Hall of Famer in this one.
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots (-6.5)
The Cowboys are playing consecutive road games, and this is a tough one. The Patriots haven’t been great on offense, but Tom Brady showed his frustration with it after the game. I think they get it rolling some here against a Dallas defense that hasn’t been great. Brady will have a better day than Dak Prescott to win it.
Pick: Patriots 28, Cowboys 20
Michael David Smith and Mike Florio offer up their weekly predictions.
Cowboys at Patriots
MDS’s take: Dak Prescott is playing outstanding football right now, but the Patriots’ pass defense will give him fits.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 20, Cowboys 13.
Florio’s take: Bill Belichick > Kellen Moore.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 20, Cowboys 17.
Base camp over in New England has full confidence in their Patriots football team.
Erik Scalavino, Patriots.com
Pick: Patriots 24, Cowboys 17
New England’s stretch of tough tests continues this week, back at Gillette Stadium for the lone November appearance by the Patriots. In what could be the most highly-rated regular season game TV broadcast in a long time, can the Patriots’ stingy D stifle a talented Big D squad’s offense? The expected rainy weather could benefit the home team in that regard. It’s been more than three decades since the Cowboys came to Foxborough and beat New England, and that game had to go into overtime. This latest contest comes close, but the Patriots stave off a fifth quarter, much like they did a week ago in Philly.
The staff over at the Mothership share where their mind is at for this big game. While there is some glimmer of hope, not everyone is feeling so warm and fuzzy inside.
David Helman: Here’s the frustrating thing: the Cowboys are talented enough to win this game. They have the No. 1 offense in the league, with enough balance and enough weapons to challenge the Patriots in the air and on the ground. They have an unflappable quarterback who is playing the best football of his life. Their defense has struggled at times this season, but then again, so has the Patriots’ offense. The problem is that I just don’t trust the Cowboys to play to their talent level. They haven’t managed to put together a complete performance all season long, so it’s hard for me to imagine they’re going to step up and deliver against the defending world champions in a building where they almost never lose. I see this being a fairly defensive game, with the conditions hindering what both offenses want to do. The Cowboys are good enough to find some success, but they’ve also shown a tendency to get in their own way. Against a good team, that will bite them, which is why I see a late turnover helping New England squeak out a 24-20 win.