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NFC East roundup: Cowboys looking to turn the corner

With Philadelphia on a bye this week, will New York or Dallas make up ground to catch up?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

NFC East Pick ’em record: (12-7)

The biggest news around the NFC East this week will be the return of Dak Prescott. There could be a little rust to knock off early on, but he’s in a favorable position going against a porous Detroit Lions defense. The Cowboys could desperately use a shot in the arm on an offense averaging 18.3 points per game.

As far as the rest of the NFC East this weekend, the Washington Commanders will look to improve with a new general under center, and the New York Giants will try and keep momentum to six wins.

Here’s a look around the NFC East for Week 7.

Dallas Cowboys (4-2) vs. Detroit Lions (1-4)

The Cowboys couldn’t have planned Dak Prescott’s return better if they tried. Cooper Rush did everything that was asked of him, winning four out of five games. He kept the playoff hopes for Dallas alive by not turning the ball over. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep it up against the Eagles and lost the Cowboys the game.

Rush’s performance put the national media “quarterback debate” to rest, and everyone is looking forward to the return of Prescott. The last time fans saw No. 4 was Week 1 against Tampa Bay, where he probably had the worst performance of his career. Prescott is mentally ready to put that behind him and hit the reset button.

The benefit for a quarterback coming off injury is this Dallas team has changed since Week 1. Many questions have been answered that were asked after the opening day loss. Will the defense be elite? How bad can this offensive line be this season? Will Dallas ever be able to run the ball? All those answers have turned into strengths for the Cowboys, headlined by the defense.

Another benefit for No. 4 this week—he’s playing the worst defense in the NFL. The Detroit Lions allow an average of 167.6 yards on the ground and around 430 total yards per game. Both stats are at the very bottom of the league. The Cowboys don’t want Prescott under pressure all game and risk re-injuring the thumb. Another plus for the offense is that the Lions are last in the NFL in total sacks, with seven, five of which came in one game against the Commanders.

Where the Cowboys could have problems in this matchup is against the Detroit offense. For a unit that lacks notable names, they rank near the top of the league in many categories. They have 18 total touchdowns in 2022, just behind the Saints, Eagles, Bills, and Chiefs. The Lions run game can also be explosive, being first in the NFL with four runs that have gone over 40 yards. Defending the run has become the weakest part of the stout Cowboys defense.

If Dallas can slow down the Detroit rushing attack and put pressure on them to become one-dimensional passing the ball, it should be a win for the Cowboys. Prescott comes back to win at home 31-21.

New York Giants (5-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (2-4)

It’s crazy to think that the Giants can be 6-1 seven weeks into the 2022 season after this week. I wonder what the Vegas odds were of that happening. In the column last week, I picked New York to win simply because of belief. Brian Daboll is defying all football logic by having his team on a three-game winning streak with the personnel he has.

No one can say that this team is not a legit contender in the NFC. They beat the Titans, Packers, and Ravens. If the Jaguars won against those opponents, the media would talk about how Jacksonville has playoff aspirations during a rebuilding season. Doubters still exist because of the Giants offensive weapons. Outside of Saquon Barkley, there’s no one else teams should be scared of. Yet somehow, it all works.

Jacksonville is right where they need to be with a new head coach after the disaster of 2021 with Urban Meyer. They have a talented roster that was hopeful to contend for a Wild Card spot and could still do so, but it is looking less likely now. The Jags are on a three-game losing streak against the Eagles, Texans, and Colts. Losing to Philadelphia was expected, but not playing competitive football against the lesser competition in their division is concerning.

If Jacksonville wants to win this game, they will have to put pressure on Daniel Jones, much like the Cowboys did in Week 3 against Big Blue. If they can get pressure on Jones and force him to make mistakes, the defense has shown they can get their hands on the ball. The defense has quality pass rushers in rookie Travon Walker and former first-round pick Josh Allen that can get home against a less talented Giants offensive line. The Jags defense has seven interceptions, tied for fifth in the NFL.

The Giants are on the road, and it’s why they are three-point underdogs heading into Week 7. That does not make any sense. New York is the better team and riding hot right now. Will that come to an end at some point? Of course it will. Not this week, as the Giants run their way to a win in Duval 23-13.

Washington Commanders (2-4) vs. Green Bay Packers (3-3)

The Commanders are making a change at quarterback. Not because Carson Wentz has played poorly, but because he is expected to be out 4-6 weeks with a fractured finger. Instead of seeing what the team has in rookie Sam Howell, Ron Rivera turns to his guy Taylor Heinicke.

The Packers are coming off an embarrassing loss at home to the New York Jets. Aaron Rodgers has not looked like his back-to-back MVP self in Matt LaFleur’s offense. There is a lack of talent at wide receiver, and his go-to target Randall Cobb is expected to miss time with a high ankle sprain. Rodgers called out the offensive game plan after the Week 6 loss saying that things needed to be simplified for everyone. He’s giving off the “end of McCarthy” era vibes right now.

Besides the offensive struggles, the Packers defense has been an utter disappointment. It has become everything but that for a unit with the talent to be at the top of the NFL. The secondary has allowed just 984 passing yards on the season to opponents, which is an NFL best but is allowing a 70.9 competition percentage, which is an NFL worst. Considering they have played quarterbacks like Daniel Jones and Zach Wilson, that stat is worrisome.

It should not be complicated for the Packers to win against a beaten-down Commanders team. Run the ball with Aaron Jones and AJ Dillion. It’s that simple. However, in last week’s game against the Jets, the Packers gave Jones just 12 touches on offense. That’s stupid, considering he is their best weapon on offense.

If the Commanders have any shot at winning, Heinicke cannot turn the ball over and trust his defense to get home against Rodgers and their bad offensive line. The Washington defense has the horses to pressure the Green Bay quarterback. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Jamin Davis can be a force up front. Flip a coin, and that’s who will win the game. It should land in favor of the better team, the Packers, winning 17-14. If Green Bay somehow loses this game, sound the alarms in Wisconsin.

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