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Cowboys point/counterpoint: The battle of the bounce-back quarterbacks

Both Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes had badly needed rebound games last Sunday. So whose was best, and who has the best chance this week?

Kansas City Chiefs v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Even before the season started, most of us circled this week’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Kansas City Chiefs as one of the biggest games of the year for Dallas. For a while, it looked like things would not be as exciting as we thought, as the Chiefs got off to a disappointing 3-4 start to the season. They have since won three games in a row, raising hopes for the competitiveness of Sunday’s game at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Cowboys have been much more consistent, with the still baffling meltdown against the Denver Broncos the only really bad outing for them. But there is something in common for both teams. Their starting quarterbacks, Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes, came into last weekend needing to get back on track. Prescott was just terrible through the first three quarters against Denver, while Mahomes had not been his usual touchdown throwing machine self all year. Both got just what they needed, with Mahomes passing for 406 yards and five touchdowns in the 41-14 beatdown of the Las Vegas Raiders while Prescott won the FedEx Air Player of the week with his performance in Dallas’ 43-3 plucking of the Atlanta Falcons.

Now the two QBs will face each other for the first time in their careers as starters. Whichever one has the best day will likely lead their team to victory. That leads to the question, who had the best bounce-back game? Our Terence Watson and Tom Ryle offer their thoughts.

Terence: Prescott in my opinion has had the tougher road to a comeback than Mahomes. Mahomes has had a tough season but I wouldn’t put it in the realm of a bounce back after the start that he had this year. With Prescott, you must consider his broken ankle and the amount of rehab he had to do just to get back on the field. The Mahomes’ situation is very different. He’s dealing with offensive line issues, and that is something that better game-planning and decision-making can overcome. So when you look at Prescott’s down game against the Broncos, his injury could have been connected to his ankle injury last season.

This means that Prescott could possibly be dealing with nagging injuries tied to that ankle all season. So his bounce back continues while Mahomes honestly hasn’t had to battle back in the same way.

Tom: Here’s a way I differ from you. I am not so sure that last game was really a bounce back for Mahomes at all. There is certainly the possibility that it was one of those games many quarterbacks have during a season when they just play perfectly and everything else goes their way - and that may be the only one so far for him this year. Most of their other wins have been close, and the best ones before the Las Vegas game were against the rest of the NFC East, all of whom are not exactly impressive this season. While many talk about how this is the most serious challenge the Cowboys have faced since their first two games of the season, it is also the biggest so far for the Chiefs since they dropped an 18-point loss to the Buffalo Bills. They did get a narrow victory over the Green Bay Packers, but that was without Aaron Rodgers on the field. Just look at the points differential for the two teams. Kansas City is +21 so far, while Dallas is a very strong +89.

Prescott is now entering the MVP conversation. Mahomes is trying to get back into it. Simply put, I think the former has definitely bounced back, while Mahomes still has to prove he has.

Terence: I hear you, but let’s take a look at these offenses for a second, and since you brought up point differentials let’s look at some numbers. The first being 106 to 65. That’s the number of blitzes that Prescott has had to deal with compared to Mahomes. Teams continue to try and put as many players around Prescott in passing situation due to his returning from injury and wanting to force Prescott to move around in the pocket. Mahomes hasn’t had to deal with the same about of blitzes thrown at him because teams are more cautious about giving him more windows to throw into.

Another number we can look at in terms of who had the best bounce back would be passing yardage. Currently Mahomes is outpacing his yardage from last season; he currently sits are 2,940 yards compared to last season through 10 games where he was at 2,652 yards. Can’t see how you are bouncing back if you doing better this year than last year.

Tom: I think we may be coming at things from different directions, but getting to the same place. I just don’t think the victory over the Raiders really was a sudden return to the Mahomes of last year, because as you said, he is still operating at a pretty good level. His big problem was the interceptions earlier. The ten he threw were very uncharacteristic, but probably not so much because something was wrong with him. I suggest they were because teams were having more success against the Chiefs defense, putting Mahomes in the unfamiliar situation of having to bring his team back a lot. That led to him taking more risks than usual, which in turn resulted in more mistakes. The rest of the offense was also putting pressure on him, because they had ten lost fumbles as well.

Almost all quarterbacks look better when they are playing with a lead, and until this year, that was just the typical situation Mahomes faced. For various reasons, including those offensive line problems you mentioned, he had a lot of games already this year when he was trying to come from behind. That just may not be his strong suit. Against Las Vegas, he was working with a lead all game. He didn’t bounce back as much as he got back into his comfort zone while really being the same as he always has.

Prescott on the other hand had what looks like a true bounce-back game. He was a surgeon on the field, dropping dimes and exploiting whatever the defense threw at him. That is what we saw before his calf injury in most games, and it was not just back, it may have been as good as he has ever played. Remember, he got that FedEx award based on just three quarters of play because the game was truly over by that point. He also is currently getting real support from his defense, which like him had a very bad day against Denver.

Dak was really back against the Falcons, and I just think Mahomes was playing mostly the way he has all season, just with better results.