In an already unusual season, it’s only fitting we would have some more unexpected changes. As you all now know, the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens will square off on Tuesday night, five days later than originally scheduled.
For Dallas, they’ll be coming off essentially another bye week. The Cowboys will be on 11 days rest, while Baltimore will have had just four days since their matchup against Pittsburgh. No matter how bad they have been this season, that’s a clear advantage for the Cowboys.
Baltimore desperately needs this game to stay in the playoff hunt, and they’re likely to get many of their starters back that missed last weeks game due to being on the COVID list. The Cowboys are still clinging onto a small string of hope to win the NFC East, and a win on Tuesday could keep them in the race.
Before Baltimore and Dallas matchup for some Tuesday night football, here’s what we know, don’t know, and will find out in Baltimore.
We know Dallas should be able to run with success against this Baltimore defense
It’s pretty hard to believe that as we enter Week Thirteen of the 2020 season, the Cowboys have rushed for over 125 yards in a game just five times. Dallas has been held under 85 team rushing yards four times, including their last matchup against Washington where they only ran for 60 total yards.
Ezekiel Elliott— BroBible (@BroBible) November 26, 2020
• 5 fumbles in 2016-2019
• 5 fumbles in 2020 pic.twitter.com/0XKfngcYCZ
The lack of success in the run game can be attributed to the injuries on the offensive line, and the struggles of Ezekiel Elliott. Despite all that’s going against them, like being without All-Pro Zack Martin once again, Dallas should be able to run the ball against this Baltimore defense.
If you just look at their rankings among the league, Baltimore’s run defense looks fairly average. Their ninth in rush attempts allowed, 12th in rush yards allowed, but 21st in yards per attempt allowed. In three of their first five games of the 2020 season, Baltimore allowed less than 71 rush yards. Since then, the Ravens have given up 110 or more yards rushing in four of their last six games.
Pro Football Focus has the Ravens graded out as the 11th-worst rush defense in all of football, coming in with a team grade of 56.3. This is just nine points lower than the Cowboys PFF rush grade of 47.1.
In two of Baltimore’s last three games, being unable to stop the run basically cost them the game. Against New England and Tennessee, the Ravens surrendered 173 yards on the ground. The Patriots and Titans were able to run the ball so well, they both won despite neither team throwing for over 250 passing yards. When the Ravens played the Eagles back in October, a team that is on a similar level to Dallas, they gave up a season-high 194 rushing yards.
#Patriots bullied the #Ravens defense to open the second half. Goes to show what a good run game can do for New England’s offense.— Tyler Milliken (@tylermilliken_) November 16, 2020
Cam Newton now has 9 rushing TDs this season.#Patriots lead 20-10! #GoPats| #BALvsNE | #NFL pic.twitter.com/PmYpVgNFn2
With all the injuries, it’s tough to be positive about this Cowboys offensive line, but this is a week to have a little optimism. Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard both should be able to have success in the run game this week. Baltimore has struggled giving up big runs, so look for Pollard to possibly be able to break a run similar to the one he did in Minnesota two weeks ago.
We don’t know if Dallas has the defensive firepower to stop Lamar Jackson
After missing last week’s game against Pittsburgh, all signs point to Lamar Jackson being activated off the COVID list and playing Tuesday against Dallas.
Ravens' QB Lamar Jackson is expected to come off Reserve/COVID19 list and start Tuesday vs. the Dallas Cowboys, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 6, 2020
Coming off a season in which he won the NFL MVP award, Jackson’s 2020 has been extremely disappointing to date. His completion percentage has gone down by over 3%, he’s thrown as many interceptions as he did all last season through 10 games. Most importantly, Baltimore has lost four games this season with Jackson as their starter. That’s one more loss than Jackson’s had in the regular season since taking over as the starter in 2018.
Well, the good news for the former MVP is he gets to take on the Cowboys defense this week. The Dallas defense once again struggled in their last game, giving up 41 points to the Washington Football team. One thing Baltimore has been able to do well this season is put up points against bad defenses. They put up 38 against Cleveland, 33 against Houston, 27 against Cincinnati, and 30 against Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Dallas, Pro Football Focus ranks their defense far worse than all of those teams but the Houston Texans.
#Ravens sneak out one against the #Eagles. Lamar Jackson had this beauty of a TD run. Defense was dominant to start, suffocating Carson Wentz, but fell apart late. We have highlights & reaction from the team live NOW on @wjz Purple Postgame Show pic.twitter.com/ANgis127gH— Rick Ritter (@RickRitterWJZ) October 18, 2020
In those four games against bad teams, Jackson has played very well. He’s thrown seven touchdowns to just one interception, and rushed for 210 yards. Jackson graded out with an average PFF grade of 75.6 over those four games, right around his overall offensive grade so far this season.
As sad of a reality as it is, it’s really hard to see a way Dallas can slow down Jackson and this offense. The Cowboys linebackers, particularly Jaylon Smith, are going to be in some tough spots on Tuesday trying to take Jackson down in the open field. There’s a very good chance Jackson looks much more like the MVP we saw in 2019, than the guy we’ve seen so far in 2020 on Tuesday night.
We’re about to find out what Dez Bryant has left in the tank
After being cut by the Cowboys after the 2017 season, two years later, Dez Bryant gets a shot to face his former team. Bryant spoke this week calling the incident, “water under the bridge.”
“For the most part, it’s water under the bridge,” Bryant said Saturday. “That’s two years. I had time to get myself together. You got to go forward with life because life isn’t going to wait on you. Time waits on no one. I had to get myself together and move forward.”
Even though Bryant is saying all the right things, it’s hard to believe he wont have a giant chip on his shoulder when Dallas comes to town on Tuesday night. In three games, Dez has only been targeted seven times, catching four passes for 28 yards.
There’s a very good chance the Ravens are going to give Bryant a chance to make his former team pay this Tuesday, especially in the red zone. If there ever was a time to find out if Bryant has one more vintage moment left in the tank, it’s going to happen on Tuesday night.