It almost feels like a brand-new season for the Dallas Cowboys as they prepare for the Detroit Lions. That is all because of the return of Dak Prescott. The team’s QB1 is assumed to be the starter on Sunday as he returned to practice after being medically cleared.
The Cowboys had been winning without Prescott, but that wasn’t really because of the offense. Defense and special teams were playing a large role in the victories, and the running game was also helping out Cooper Rush. Prescott’s return should elevate the offense as a whole, and especially the passing game.
The Lions have been a good offensive team this season, but have really struggled on defense. That has left them with a 1-4 record and staring at another losing year. Can they pull off an upset in Big D? If so, they would be overcoming odds from DraftKings Sportsbook that has them as seven-point underdogs.
Let’s take a look at some fast facts about the game and the teams.
The Cowboys lead the regular season record between the two franchises by a count of 15-11. That goes to 17-12 when you add in the three playoff meetings between the two. That’s actually a lot closer of a split than many would guess given the success as a franchise Dallas has enjoyed, and the struggles as a franchise that Detroit has endured.
The last meeting between the two was in 2019 in Detroit, a game the Cowboys won 35-27. Dallas has won four straight games in the series, including what is one of the most famous game between the two, the Anthony Hitchens game. In that playoff game won by Dallas, Anthony Hitchens appeared to interfere with tight end Brandon Pettigrew and a flag was thrown. That would have given the Lions a first down on a third-down conversion and helped seal a potential win. Instead, the refs picked up the flag, Dallas got the ball on a punt and proceeded to win the game 24-20. That was one of two wins by the Cowboys over the Lions in the playoffs, against one defeat.
As for this week, this is a good game for Dak Prescott to return. Not only because the Lions have been so bad on defense, but because Prescott usually plays well against them. But that’s probably because the Lions usually do have a bad defense. Prescott has eight touchdown passes in his career versus the Lions. That is tied with the most he’s thrown against any non-divisional opponent. He is 3-0 as the starter against Detroit, hasn’t thrown an interception against them, and holds a 126.2 passer rating in those game. Those are pretty gaudy numbers.
This game will be an interesting contrast and will have certain areas where something will have to give. For instance, the Lions are the best offense at avoiding negative plays with only 20 on the year. The Cowboys defense is tied for first in creating negative plays with 47.
Among quarterbacks who play regularly, Jared Goff is one of the least sacked with only seven on the year. The Cowboys lead the league with 24 sacks and with 103 pressure (per PFF). The Lions are third in blitz rate at 39.1% while the Cowboys are fifth in completion percentage against the blitz at 64.4%. And much of that came with Cooper Rush at quarterback; Dak Prescott is even more adept at dealing with the blitz.
The biggest problem for the Lions is their defense. They rank dead last in points allowed and in rushing yards allowed. The Cowboys love to run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. In three previous games against Detroit, Elliott has rushed for 277 yards, three touchdowns, and a 5.2 yards per carry average. He is likely to have a big day on Sunday, especially now that Prescott is back and teams will have to respect the Cowboys passing game more.
The Lions usually score points, ranking third in the league at 28 per game. But this week they play a Cowboys defense that has been very good in holding teams out of the endzone. Dallas is third in points allowed, only giving up 16.3 per game.
It’s easy to see why Dallas is so heavily favored, but this is the NFL. Any given week a team can pull off an upset, and that seems to be even more true in this upset-laden 2022 season. On paper, Dak Prescott gets a promising game to stage his comeback. But he has to prove it on the field.