No team in the NFL wants to start 0-2. For the Dallas Cowboys, an 0-2 start does not seem out of the realm of possibility. From 2002-2018, teams that started the season 0-2 went on to make the playoffs just 11% off the times. Teams that started 1-1 fared much better, making the postseason 42% of the time.
We are in our first-ever 17-game regular season, so the Cowboys, or any team that starts 0-2, has another game to help their playoff chances, but dropping the first two on your schedule is never a good sign.
Before the Cowboys attempt to win their first game of the season this Sunday in Los Angeles, here are three things to know about the matchup.
1) Third Down Will Be Key
Sunday will be one of the better quarterback matchups in the NFL this season between Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert. Both signal-callers are coming off outstanding performances in their season openers.
Herbert and Prescott both ranked in the top-10 in PFF’s passing grades in Week 1, 4th and 10th respectively, and each threw for over 350 yards.
If your QB can make these kind of throws on 3rd and 6, you know he's special. pic.twitter.com/tMg3WT6RX1— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 13, 2021
Justin Herbert and the Chargers with a nice road win. Diving into three throws:— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) September 13, 2021
*Obligatory hole shot with no hesitation
*Fluid footwork, anticipation and rhythm
*Attacking leverage in a huge spot pic.twitter.com/5zrpFUJ660
Something all great quarterbacks do is convert on third down. In Week 1, both Prescott and Herbert were outstanding in that situation.
Prescott - 9/13 (69.23 completion %), 127 yards, 1 TD, 126.1 QB rating
Herbert - 4/17 (82.35 completion %) 166 yards, 1 TD, 127.0 QB Rating
In a game that figures to have plenty of offense, getting off the field on third down will be essential for defenses. With quarterbacks as talented as Prescott and Herbert leading the offenses, whichever defense is able to make the most stops on third down will likely walk away with a victory.
2) Joey Bosa Could Be A Gamebreaker
Here are some eye-popping stats about Joey Bosa.
Bosa has had at least 1.5 sacks in a game 12 times in his career.
16 games with 2 or more TFL.
16 games at least 3 QB Hits.
PFF pass-rush grade over 90 in three of his first five seasons (2017, 2019, 2020) in the league.
Last week against Washington, Bosa played a huge part in the Chargers victory. The 26-year-old pass-rusher had four total tackles, two QB pressures, and a sack and registered a 91.0 pass-rush grade from PFF.
#Washington Rookie OT Sam Cosmi did not have a very fun day against Joey Bosa— Jake Sirkus (@JakeSirkus) September 13, 2021
53.4% PRWR (lowest in week 1)
However Cosmi did finish 3rd in the league in run blocking grade with an 85.8 grade pic.twitter.com/XnS2TRlGIz
This week, Bosa will get to go up against second-year tackle Terence Steele. Last season as a rookie, Steele allowed the third-most sacks (nine) and QB pressures (48) in the NFL. The last time Steele went up against a player of Bosa’s caliber, when he faced Myles Garrett in Week 4 of last season, the tackle had a 30.9 PFF pass-block grade and gave up two sacks and three QB pressures.
I'm actually optimistic that Terence Steele can develop into something down the line, but he was a complete liability - both in pass protection and as a run blocker - against CLE. Shouldn't have been out there. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/8gXbyhRn8h— John Owning (@JohnOwning) October 5, 2020
The Cowboys will give Steele plenty of help, as Jerry Jones mentioned on the radio, but Bosa is so good he still has a good chance to be the X-Factor that breaks this game open on Sunday afternoon.
Speaking on 105.3 The Fan, Jerry Jones said the plan is to go with Terence Steele at right tackle with La’el Collins out. “He’ll do a good job out there and we’ll give him lots of help," Jones said.— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) September 14, 2021
3) Turnovers May Decide The Outcome
Dating back to last season, the Los Angeles Chargers are 5-1 in games that they do not turn the football over. In games they do commit at least one turnover, they are 3-8. On the flip side, the Cowboys have had success when their defense can generate turnovers. Last season the Cowboys were 4-2 when their defense forced two or more takeaways.
Last week, the Cowboys’ defense forced four turnovers for just the fifth time since 2016.
Chris Godwin just fumbled at the goal line— PointsBet Sportsbook (@PointsBetUSA) September 10, 2021
Dallas (+9) gets the ball back with a chance to take the lead
If the Cowboys’ defense is able to force multiple turnovers, there’s a great chance they win this game. The Chargers are a good team, but they’re nowhere close to the level of the Buccaneers. If Dallas can replicate what they did in Week 1 in terms of taking the football away this Sunday, they will almost certainly walk out with a victory.