The Cowboys just went on the road to a hostile stadium and beat a solid Vikings team with a backup quarterback making his first career start. Now they return home, get Dak Prescott (and maybe Michael Gallup?) back, and are facing a spiraling Broncos team that just dealt away its best player in Von Miller.
It’s no surprise to see everyone picking the Cowboys this week, especially when you consider they’ve won every game they’ve played in AT&T Stadium this season. But this kind of confidence is usually the type of setup that leads to trap games. Do our writers think that’s in the cards?
When Denver has the ball
Get in Teddy Bridgewater’s face
Teddy Bridgewater plays a pretty straightforward game: he’ll take the easy throws and avoid putting the ball in harm’s way. The issue for Denver since their 3-0 start to the season is that Bridgewater hasn’t had many easy throws to make. He’s holding the ball at the sixth-highest rate of any quarterback despite being pressured at the third-highest rate. It’s resulted in Bridgewater leading the league in turnover-worthy plays the last four weeks.
Now he’s facing a Dallas defense that excels at generating takeaways. That’s largely been due to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn mixing a blitz-heavy front with a man-heavy coverage scheme - the Cowboys were ninth in blitz rate and third in man coverage before last week - to force quarterbacks into bad throws. Dallas went away from that high-risk/high-reward approach last week to take some pressure off of Cooper Rush, but are likely going back to it now. With left tackle Garret Bolles ruled out for this game, that only makes matters worse for Bridgewater.
When Dallas has the bal
Avoid Justin Simmons
The Broncos defense is struggling right now due to a myriad of injuries, and the Miller trade definitely won’t help, but safety Justin Simmons is an under-the-radar stud. In Vic Fangio’s split-safety defense, Simmons fills a lot of different roles because he’s good enough to do so. In fact, in the six seasons since he entered the NFL only one other safety has more interceptions than Simmons.
In short, Simmons is the kind of eraser every defensive coordinator yearns for. The downside for Denver is he can only be in one place at one time, and the Cowboys have so many weapons even without Gallup, who may appear in this one. Prescott should be able to throw with relative ease in this one, but he’ll need to be cognizant of where Simmons is on every play.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
OK, almost all of us were fooled into believing Dak would play last week. This time around, that looks more like a probability than a Mike McCarthy smokescreen to baffle the opponent and media alike. With him back, and the Broncos already going into rebuild mode by trading away Von Miller, the Cowboys should feast. That includes on both sides of the ball, where you know Trevon Diggs is eager to get his hands on a pass or two.
And don’t forget the Dallas running game, which may get extra emphasis with the doubtful status of Tyron Smith. It looks like that will be where McCarthy gets to engage in mind games over who fills in for Smith if he doesn’t go, with La’el Collins, Terence Steele, and Ty Nsekhe all in that mix. But after what we have seen, how can you not have confidence in the coaching staff?
Dallas 34, Denver 18.
Well last week I was wrong about Dak Prescott playing, but I was right about the Dallas Cowboys picking up the win so it all worked out in the end. This week the Denver Broncos come to town minus their former star pass rusher in Von Miller making things much easier for the Cowboys offensive line and Prescott who’s officially returning this week to run up the score. The Broncos offense can be dangerous but the Cowboys have the players needed to slow them down. I have the Cowboys winning this week in a not so challenging game.
Cowboys 35, Broncos 14.
With Dak Prescott confirmed back for this game, the Cowboys should have no problem getting their seventh-straight victory. The Broncos offensive line has really struggled of late (11 sacks allowed in last three games), so the Dallas defense should be able to put pressure on Teddy Bridgewater. I see Bridgewater throwing two costly interceptions and Micah Parsons coming away with his first multi-sack game of his career. On offense, I see Dak getting back into rhythm with no problem, tossing two touchdown passes on the day.
Give me the Cowboys, 26-16.
Dak Prescott says not only is he a go this week but La’el Collins is going to be back in the starting line at right tackle. Dallas might not have had a very successful recent history with the team getting as healthy as it’s been all season and the Broncos having just traded Von Miller, the Cowboys look like a strong favorite. Denver’s defense is still nice but this feels like a Dallas win.
This is a test for the Cowboys. Not in the sense that winning would be a huge accomplishment, but if you can blow out a borderline average team, that is a sign of a legitimate contender. And that is what the Cowboys should be able to do on Sunday. The Broncos do not bring a lot of firepower to the table on defense, especially with the departure of Von Miller. Expect Elliott and Pollard to get a lot of work again to avoid putting unnecessary strain on Dak. The ground game will work against a mediocre Denver run defense, and the Cowboys will lean on it.
As for the Cowboys defense, the Broncos are an interesting team where they can take long and methodical drives, but they rarely produce points and they are punting at a very high rate. The Cowboys defense is going to have to ride it out. The Broncos will move downfield, but if Gregory and Parsons are able to get pressure, Bridgewater will make a mistake. Getting off the field when those mistakes come is the key in this matchup for Dallas, and mistakes deep into a drive is what has killed Denver all year. Overall, Dallas shouldn’t have a problem in this one but they need to prove they can dominate an average team.
Dallas Cowboys 35, Denver Broncos 24.
Dak is back. All systems are go for QB1 and it’s a welcomed sight for all of Cowboys Nation. Cooper Rush held it down last week, but with the man back in action, this offense has a chance to go off this week.
I do think the early kick off will cause a bit of a slow start for this team. They just aren’t use to playing in this time slot and it may be a bit of an adjustment. All that being said, I see the offense being explosive and putting up a quality day out there. Couple that with the defense getting back to their turnover ways, I could see the Cowboys on the way to a big win.
Look for Dallas to walk out of Sunday with a 38-17 win to put the winning streak to 7 games.
With the way the Dallas Cowboys are playing right now there’s probably not a team remaining on their schedule they shouldn’t be able to beat. That’s especially true with the Denver Broncos. With no Von Miller (traded) and no Bradley Chubb (IR), Dak Prescott should have plenty of time to sit in the pocket to dissect the Broncos secondary at his leisure.
And on the flipside, Teddy Bridgewater and the Broncos offense doesn’t really pose much of a threat either. They’ve struggled putting points on the board this year and will be facing off an extremely confident Cowboys defense. This Week 9 matchup should be a cakewalk for the Cowboys if they go out and play the way they have been.
Final score prediction: 35, 17, Cowboys.
With Dak taking the field for the first time in three weeks, the Cowboys will roll with a new offensive line arrangement that will feature Terence Steele protecting his blindside. The Broncos are a really good defensive team, and it will be interesting to see how they attack the edges and challenge Prescott’s mobility.
While the offense may have their sluggish moments at times, the Cowboys now have a defense that has their back. Look for a new takeaway streak to begin, Micah Parsons to have his splashiest play of the year, and Tony Pollard to have a huge run as the Cowboys take home the win and move to 7-1 on the year.
Cowboys 24, Broncos 13.
I think highly of both Teddy Bridgewater and Vic Fangio, but these Broncos are just nowhere near the level of football the Cowboys are playing. I honestly think Dallas could win this game with Cooper Rush out there, but having Dak back makes this an easy win unless the Cowboys suddenly forget how to play.
The most meaningful things I’ll be watching in this one are how the returning players look. How does Prescott move on that calf? If Gallup returns, does he have any rust to shake off? Will La’el Collins reclaim his right tackle job with Terence Steele likely sliding to left tackle? As for the game itself, I’m expecting to see something similar to the last three games we saw in Dallas, which means it’s time to fire up the grill for those burgers.
Cowboys win 42-20.