The Dallas Cowboys are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now as they have won four straight, and look to continue that winning streak versus a young New England Patriots team still looking to find its identity in the post Tom Brady era. This is a sneaky big game for both historic franchises, and for different reasons.
The Cowboys will enter into Gillette Stadium and try to beat a team they haven't defeated since 1996, although this Patriots team looks very different than it has in the last 20 years. Dallas is looking to further cement the reputation they have built so far this season that they can take care of business versus teams they, at least on paper, are better than. The Patriots, on the other hand, trot out a young, unproven quarterback in Mac Jones who Bill Belichick and staff would love to see develop and grow by taking out a red-hot Cowboys team.
This game can be a slippery one for the Cowboys as we all know that a Patriots team with Belichick at the wheel is going to be well-coached and disciplined. The Cowboys will need to be smart and just play their style of football. No reason to go out there and try to do more than they have been over the last month, if they stay true to themselves, they can come out of New England with a win.
Here are five things to watch this week.
1. Belichick will look to take away their strengths and attack a weakness, can they weather the storm?
The plan sounds obvious and a borderline cliché football quote, but there is not a single coach in NFL history that schemes up and executes that way of thinking better than Bill Belichick. The Cowboys will learn a lot about themselves, win or lose on Sunday, and for that the opportunity to play the Patriots is an exciting proposition. Nobody will confuse the level of talent or the disparity there is between the two clubs, but at the end of the day whoever executes their game plan and plays a cleaner game is going to come out on top.
Look for Belichick to identify what he deems as the Cowboys biggest strength, whether he believes that stopping the run, honing on the talented wide receivers, or even trying to stop Dalton Schultz and the tight ends. Whatever is their plan of attack, the Cowboys need to find a way to hit a secondary option and roll with the punches. It will be fun to watch the game within the game on Sunday.
2. They will see if Mac Jones can beat them
There have been question marks about the Patriots offensive talent for quite a while now. The Patriots looked to address that this offseason with the additions of Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry at the tight end position, as well as adding Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor to the wide receiver room. The main question, though, is this: If the Cowboys focus on stopping Damien Harris and the run, thereby forcing the game into Jones hands, is he far along enough in his growth and maturation to take a game over and will his team to victory?
The Cowboys will try to find the answer to that question as they will look to see what the kid has come Sunday. It is a reoccurring theme for this Patriots team that they are going to be well-coached, but if the Cowboys play sound, clean football, the talent divide between the two teams may be too big of a gap to bridge which should lead to a Cowboys victory.
3. Trevon Diggs travels, but who is worthy of that treatment this week?
The Patriots wide receiver room is not anything to write home about. They should be respected as a unit, but who in this room scares you? Bourne and Agholor are the newcomers with N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers seeing their fair share of snaps as well, but no name listed strikes fear into your heart.
Trevon Diggs typically takes the role of heading up the number one receiver, but this week its tough to judge who he will follow, or if even needs to do that this week. Maybe Diggs sticks to a side of a field this week and whoever comes over is who ends up on Diggs Island; perhaps they let the game unfold and see who is presenting the biggest challenge early on and decide to put an end to that as the deploy Diggs on him for the remainder. Diggs is a chess piece and the Cowboys will be wise to use him in any situation that will be advantageous for this defense on Sunday.
4. The health of the Patriots offensive line is a huge key.
The Cowboys will be paying attention to the faces and names the Patriots deploy on their offensive line on Sunday. The Patriots have dealt with a few injuries and COVID-related issues as of late. RT Trent Brown has been put on injured reserve and they were without their starting LT Isaiah Wynn and LG Mike Onwenu last week, and neither have been seen on the practice field as of Wednesday, in preparation for the Cowboys.
The Patriots only had one starting offensive linemen on the field last week and if that trend continues this week, the Cowboys will be salivating at the opportunity to get after Mac Jones. A bad offensive line can be a game-wrecker, so all eyes will be on the Patriots big fellas up front as the week goes on.
5. This will be Kellen Moore’s biggest test to date.
Kellen Moore is well-respected and quickly climbing the coaching ranks of the NFL. Belichick and his staff will be the toughest challenge to date. Look for Belichick and the Patriots to make it hard on Moore and this offense, forcing them to possibly look to their second, or maybe third, favorite option.
If Kellen Moore is able to go out there and call an impressive game against this legend of a coach, it is hard to imagine that the hype train could get any fuller moving forward. Mentioned earlier is the intrigue of the game within the game, and it is a delight for all die-hard football fans to sit back and watch Kellen Moore punch and counter punch with one the leagues best minds. This is exactly what to watch for on Sunday.
We discussed everything as it relates to the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots during our Preview Show for this week’s game on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel. We also spoke to our friends from Pats Pulpit to understand exact what Dallas is up against.
Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel (which you can do right here) so you don’t miss any of our videos.