The Dallas Cowboys return home this weekend to take on Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland will attempt to win their third in a row, bouncing back nicely from an opening weekend blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
What has become a common them for the Cowboys, this game figures to feature tons of offense. Cleveland and Dallas feature two of the most star-studded offenses in the league.
Before the two teams square off on Sunday, here are three predictions for the game.
1. Ezekiel Elliott bounces back in a big way, totaling over 150 all-purpose yards
Just a little under a week ago, Ezekiel Elliott had one of his worst performances of his career. Facing the Seahawks, the star running back carried the ball 14 times for just 34 yards, an average of just 2.43 yards per attempt. The 34 total rushing yards was the third lowest total of any game in Elliott’s career.
Elliott has yet to record a 100 yard rushing game this season, but that will change this Sunday against Cleveland. The Browns defense has been very solid against the run early on, but you have to take into account who they have played. Their last two games have been against the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Football Team, both have very poor offensive lines.
If you look at the Browns’ run defense from the 2019 season, they really struggled. Cleveland gave up over 120 yards rushing in 10 of their six games, giving up over 170 rushing yards in seven of the 10. The Browns brought back most of their same personnel on defense from last season, and this will be their biggest test to see if their run defense has truly has improved.
Elliott wont just hurt the Browns defense on the ground, he’ll also do some damage through the air. The Cleveland defense plays more base 4-3 than most defenses, giving Dallas a chance to motion Elliott outside and get him matched up with a linebacker. Not to mention, the Browns linebackers, B.J. Goodson and Malcom Smith, both have struggled in coverage. Goodson had two games of their three with a PFF coverage grade below 55.
It’s not often Ezekiel Elliott has a poor performance like we saw last Sunday, but we’ve learned over his career he tends to bounce back in big ways. This week will be no different, and Elliott will total over 150 yards from scrimmage in a huge game.
2. Jarvis Landry proves to be a headache for the Dallas secondary, totaling over 100 receiving yards.
Last week, Tyler Lockett torched the Dallas defense, this week Jarvis Landry will do the same. The former LSU Tiger has gotten off a decent start, catching 12 passes for 142 yards, an 11.9 yards per reception average.
Last week, Dallas did a good job containing the Seahawks’ number one threat, D.K. Metcalf. Despite the one 62-yard catch that turned into a touchback, Dallas was able to keep Metcalf from turning into a game-breaker. Trevon Diggs was matched up mostly with Metcalf, and likely will take on the task of covering the Browns’ number one, Odell Beckham Jr., this weekend.
That leaves Landry, who has played 70 snaps in the slot and 61 on the outside, to matchup with Jourdan Lewis and Daryl Worley, both who have struggled in coverage. Lewis and Worley both have PFF coverage grades below 61, and Worley has a 110.4 passer rating when targeted this season.
This matchup greatly benefits the former Pro Bowler Landry, who is due for a big day. The Cowboys will likely focus most of their attention on stopping Nick Chubb and the run, and not letting Beckham beat them deep. This opens up Landry for some one-on-one looks against the beat up Dallas secondary.
We saw receivers run wide open far too many times last weekend. This Sunday, Jarvis Landry will be the one running away from the defense. The wideout will have his best game of the season, catching five or six passes for over 100 yards on the day.
3. DeMarcus Lawrence finally gets home, recording a game-winning strip sack.
It’s been a rough three games for the Cowboys’ star defensive end. For the first time since 2016, DeMarcus Lawrence has failed to record a sack during his first three games of the season. Lawrence has also failed to record a single tackle for loss this season, something he did four times in the first three games during 2019 and five times in 2018.
It’s clear Lawrence is battling a pretty serious knee injury, playing just 31 snaps last Sunday, 41% of the total Cowboys defensive snaps. Despite struggling to get home, Lawrence has still impacted the defense, playing very well against the run. PFF has Lawrence graded with a 69.2 run defense grade, recording a score above 72 in each of the past two weeks.
This is a phenomenal play by #DallasCowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence...— Kevin Gray Jr. (@KevinGraySports) September 22, 2020
First play from scrimmage for the Falcons...
Lawrence takes on and beats the double team to hold Todd Gurley to a 3-yd carry...phenomenal individual effort here...#CowboysNation pic.twitter.com/FQnsRGqzw2
This weekend, the constant fight and effort will pay off, as Lawrence finally gets to the quarterback for the first time in 2020. Throughout the course of his career, Lawrence has shown the ability to make plays at the biggest moments, and he’ll do just that this Sunday. Lawrence will get a strip sack on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, sealing a big win for the Cowboys.