After narrowly escaping a close call against the Houston Texans, the Cowboys should be on high alert. While they likely won’t take the Jaguars lightly, Jacksonville will be fighting with everything they have. Jaguars head coach Doug Pedersen tried to inspire his team by painting a desperate picture if they lose to the Cowboys Sunday.
Last week, coach Doug Pederson showed his team a reel of trash talk through the years from Titans players who didn’t respect the Jaguars. So how does he plan on keeping the Jaguars motivated in Week 15 when they’re playing the Dallas Cowboys, a team that hasn’t played a game in Jacksonville in 16 years?
That’s pretty simple, he says.
“We’re playing for our lives. We’re playing to stay alive,” Pederson said Friday. “If you don’t get up for these games against good opponents, might need to think about doing something else. As coaches and players, these are great games to coach in, great games to play in, and I really don’t think it’s going to take a whole lot to keep the energy up in this one.”
After being injured late this summer, offensive tackle Tyron Smith was activated Saturday and will play against the Jaguars. Smith appears to be in line to play at a different position. His return couldn’t be better timing after the Cowboys lost one starting offensive lineman last week.
It was expected, but it is still very good to see it is really happening. Now the question is where Smith will line up. He has been a left tackle for most of his pro career, but he does have experience playing right tackle. It was a long time ago in football terms, but with the struggles Josh Ball had last week and the concerns about the stamina of Jason Peters, it may be the best option available. Rookie Tyler Smith seems far less likely to be able to make the switch, and has already been moving between left tackle and left guard. Putting Tyron at right tackle would minimize the amount of shuffling the team would have to do.
Making the switch is not the only thing involved. Smith has, of course, been out all season. While his work in rehab has been impressive, it is not the same as playing in actual games. He may need some ramping up, which means that Ball and/or Peters will also likely get some reps. Based on the last game against the Houston Texans, it seems better to lean on Peters to help. That would avoid having either him or Smith getting overworked as both continue to work back into shape.
Despite what the record says, the Jacksonville Jaguars have turned a corner. As of late, they’ve been competitive. Led by an improved Trevor Lawrence and still having something to play for, the Cowboys had better be focused entering the matchup. Here are few things to take note of entering the contest.
Not the same old Jaguars
After a 2-6 start to the season, the Jaguars have won three out of five and are playing better football. They’ll be coming off an impressive road win against the Tennessee Titans, which the Jaguars won by two touchdowns. That win comes just two weeks after beating the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens.
The Jaguars are in the AFC playoff mix, just two games behind the Titans in the division, and two games out of the postseason race.
However, the Jaguars haven’t won two straight games wince Weeks 2 and 3 and haven’t looked sharp after either one of their last two wins. Jacksonville followed up the big against the Ravens by getting smoked by the Detroit Lions the next week, so consistency is still an issue.
Trevor Lawrence is playing well
Through 13 games, Lawrence has thrown for 20 touchdowns and been picked off just six times. That’s a marked improvement from last year when Lawrence tied for the league lead in interceptions with 17. The improved decision making has made Lawrence a more efficient quarterback.
Lawrence ranks inside the top 10 in the NFL in passing yards (3,202) and touchdowns, while also coming in 11th in completion percentage (66.2%) and passing yards per game (246.3). The second-year QB also has four rushing scores, so he has good mobility.
In the last five games, Lawrence has played some of his best football, throwing for 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. Lawrence will be coming off a game where he threw for three scores and was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Though the Cowboys are two games behind in the NFC East, they are in a favorable spot as it relates to the playoffs. Dallas could lock up a playoff game Sunday, and in more ways than one. If they do secure a playoff spot, here’s a look at who they’ll likely see in the postseason.
This one would be a rematch from Week 11, a game where Dallas handed the Minnesota Vikings a 40-3 loss in their own stadium. It was a shock to see such a one-sided affair, since the Vikings were playing excellent football leading up to that contest. In fact, this was just their second loss of the season.
A rematch in the playoffs would again be in Minnesota, as the NFC North Champions would be playing in front of their home crowd.
Major Weapons Cowboys Must Prepare for on Vikings Offense
It might not have seemed like it in Week 11, but this Minnesota offense is loaded. Kirk Cousins is a vastly underrated quarterback, and running back Dalvin Cook can take over a game. They also have a great tight end in T.J. Hockenson and a savvy veteran wideout in Adam Thielen.
Having said all of that, their best player is Justin Jefferson. He’s already at 99 receptions for 1,500 yards with six touchdowns this season. He’s also going to be motivated to show out against Dallas since they held him to 33 yards on three receptions earlier this year.
Major Weapons Cowboys Must Prepare for on Vikings Defense
While they’re not as dominant as they once were, the best defenders in Minnesota are defensive end Danielle Hunter and cornerback Patrick Peterson. Just like with the 49ers, the Cowboys could be in trouble with Hunter due to the injuries on their line.
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