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Cowboys news: Bill Belichick recognizes the challenge he faces on Sunday

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NFL: NOV 24 Cowboys at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Bill Belichick knows Dak Prescott, Cowboys to be huge test - Karen Guregian, Boston Herald

Bill Belichick knows that the Cowboys are going to be a huge problem on Sunday.

During his appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show” on Monday, Belichick was asked if Prescott is the toughest quarterback the Patriots have had to prepare for thus far.

Belichick dodged that, saying he has to prepare for “an entire team” as opposed to one player. But in the course of answering, he also gave a nod to Tom Brady as being the best any team has to defend.

“There are a lot of things that Dallas does well,” Belichick said. “Just like there are a lot of things that Tampa does well, just like there are a lot of things that Houston does well, so you have to totally prepare for each team and defend those players that they have out there and schemes that they run.

“But I don’t think we’ll see anybody better than Tom Brady,” Belichick said. “But Dak does some things that Tom doesn’t do. Tom does some things that Dak doesn’t do. The skill players are different, the lines are different, so it’s really about defending the team, not just one person, although you have to be aware of defending individual players’ skills.”

Dallas Cowboys: Stats aside, Randy Gregory was dominant in Week 5 win - Randy Gurzi, NFL Spinzone

Randy Gregory’s presence has made things a lot easier for his fellow defensive linemen this season.

For the season, Gregory has recorded just four tackles and two sacks — but he does keep generating pressures. Before the season began, he was one of the players expected to blossom into a star for the Cowboys and they need him to do that more than ever.

Earlier this season, Dallas lost starting defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence which thinned out their pass-rushing corps. Gregory was also out for a game when placed on the COVID list, which led to Micah Parsons moving to the EDGE for a couple of games.

With Parsons back at linebacker, Dallas is expecting Gregory to be the leader of their defensive line. He’s been working toward that role after battling through one suspension after another.

Gregory has finally seemed to find himself on the correct side of the NFL’s rules and he’s using his experience to serve as a mentor for younger players while still trying to make good on his immense promise.

Cowboys voice safety concerns after Ezekiel Elliott incident - Greg Papke, Larry Brown Sports

That was a very scary moment for Cowboys fans and something the league does need to take a look at.

Elliott appeared to hurt his back when he landed on a camera pylon positioned on the sideline during Sunday’s win over the New York Giants. He was shaken up for a moment, but remained in the game and showed no ill effects.

Still, the Cowboys don’t want a more serious injury to result from a similar situation in the future. Coach Mike McCarthy made clear the team thought the pylon was allowed too close to the field, and indicated the team would speak to the NFL or FOX about it.

You can see the play that had Elliott shaken up, as well as the pylon in question, in this video.

The problem is it’s not entirely clear where the pylon should go. While the Cowboys are understandably upset, it’s already away from the field in a place where it usually doesn’t interfere with anyone.

Once A Receiver, Diggs Reflects On Switch To DB - Jonny Auping, DallasCowboys.com

Trevon Diggs’ past as a receiver, along with training with his brother, has made him one of the best in the league in two seasons.

Stefon, who was already a successful NFL receiver at the time, has been a mentor and a father-like figure to Trevon since both were young. The older brother didn’t give Trevon much room for self-pity. He advised him to work as hard as he could at his new position because he could succeed at it.

“That’s exactly what I did,” Trevon said. “I sucked it up and got back to work. I thank Saban for that.”

Perhaps with different advice from his brother or a less persuasive case from Saban, Diggs might have transferred to another SEC school where perhaps he could have been an NFL caliber receiver, but it’s hard to imagine him being nearly as successful on offense as he is as a cornerback thus far.

Surely, though, one is not unrelated to the other. His current coach, Mike McCarthy said that typical “50/50” balls aren’t actually 50/50 when Diggs is involved because of his ball skills. The cornerback agreed with the sentiment and credits it to his past.

“Being a former wide receiver, I know all the routes,” Diggs explained. “I know all the route angles. It makes things a lot easier. I can recognize it. It’s not foreign to me. I know exactly what’s going to happen.”

Cowboys playoff tracker: Chances for postseason looking better and better - One.Cool.Customer, Blogging The Boys

The playoff odds are getting better and better.

The Cowboys are 4-1, and 82 % of the teams starting the season with a 4-1 record over the last 19 seasons would have made the playoffs under the new 14-team playoff rules. That’s quite an improvement over the 30% the Cowboys had after their 0-1 start.

FiveThirtyEight.com largely agrees with that overall number, pegging the Cowboys’ playoff chances at 85%. Their algorithm takes into account the final score of each game, how unexpected the result was in the eyes of the pregame ratings, as well as last season’s record (to an extent). Importantly, their numbers are quarterback-adjusted, and without Prescott, their model suggests playoff chances of “just” 78% for the Cowboys.

The graph shows all NFC East QBs ranked by their Value in ELO Points, which (in simple terms) is based on a 10-game rolling average of “a regression between ESPN’s Total QBR yards above replacement and basic box score numbers (including rushing stats) from a given game, adjusted for the quality of opposing defenses.”

Incorporating both passing and rushing, Prescott has 242 ELO points, while the other starting NFC East QBs are quite a bit behind Prescott. Josh Allen (268), Patrick Mahomes (266), and Tom Brady (260) are the only QBs with a higher value.

Dallas Cowboys: What Week 5 told us about America’s Team - Riley Donald, The Landry Hat

One thing is for sure, the turnaround on defense has lifted this team to another level.

I don’t know if the Cowboys will play an offense with this much talent sidelined the rest of the way. To be the team the Cowboys want to be, they have to show the ability to at least slow down the opposing teams’ top targets. Cornerback Trevon Diggs can do a lot, but when teams scheme to get their top targets on others, they need to answer the bell.

Offensively, the Cowboys started extremely slow. Two uncharacteristic first-half turnovers by quarterback Dak Prescott hampered the offense from scoring more points. Luckily, the Giants couldn’t capitalize for any points off of these turnovers but a minus-2 turnover differential early in the game isn’t a game I want to play against more explosive offenses.

The first half of yesterday might be the best thing for the Cowboys in a hidden blessing. It seems odd and it seems weird, but I think it is exactly what they needed for a few reasons. First, this team left opportunities on the table and still dismantled a lesser opponent by hanging 44 points on them. Good teams find a way to pull away, exactly like the Cowboys did.

Secondly, I don’t think I want the Cowboys playing their best ball right now. That isn’t sustainable. Get the offensive miscues out of the way, figure out some defensive schemes they like and dislike, and know what it takes to come out of the gate hot.

Time and time again the NFL playoffs see the team who is hot at the right time, not necessarily the best team, make a run. This team has the two-headed rushing attack, the passing game, and an opportunistic defense that could be lethal if they put it together at the right time.

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