What better way to get in the holiday spirit last week than with the Dallas Cowboys taking it to the Philadelphia Eagles on Christmas Eve. It was a game that looked to be going one way until the Cowboys offense pulled out an emphatic victory. This week they are on the road to Tennessee, a team that fired its general manager only a couple of weeks ago, and their last game saw the Houston Texans managing to grind out a win against them. The Titans, at the moment, are in a tough place, having now lost their last five games. So how does each offensive position on both teams fare in a head-to-head battle?
Dak Prescott vs Malik Willis
It was a bit of an uneasy start last week. Dak Prescott threw the pick-six on the Cowboy’s starting drive and the familiar questions started with Dak as soon as the interception took place. But then Dak came out to shut the narrative down, going 8/8 on passes, scoring 14 unanswered points. From the moment Dak made his first mistake, he was practically perfect from that point on. He went on to drive the Cowboys down the field in the fourth quarter to tie the game. Then he went again another two times to get in field goal range to finally prevail. What’s the most inspiring part of Dak’s game though, is his growing confidence to start running again. In the last three games, Dak has tallied 17 rush attempts and those runs have really helped the offense.
Malik Willis failed to get to 100 passing yards last week against Houston. He does well enough to use his athleticism to get yards on the ground, but his passing game needs more confidence. His 50% completion with three interceptions and zero touchdowns is a tough start for the young rookie out of Liberty. His biggest issue is he gets very little assistance from his wide receiver corps (a unit that was once headlined by A.J. Brown). With Ryan Tannehill out of the year, the best Tennessee can hope for at this stage of the season is a look at their rookie quarterback to judge how much time it will take to develop him.
Ezekiel Elliott/Tony Pollard vs Derrick Henry/Hassan Haskins
Since Week 6, Elliott has gone on to score a massive ten touchdowns. Zeke now has the fourth-most touchdowns among running backs. But what’s more impressive is he’s done that on just over 200 run attempts, a significantly lesser amount of run attempts than those backs with the same or more touchdowns as Zeke. Pollard is just twelve yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark, but when you lead the league in average yards per carry (minimum 150 attempts) it shouldn’t take him long to break that achievement. What’s made Pollard better this year is his ability to run up the middle. His contact balance is maybe his biggest strength which we see week-in week-out. Pollard now rules the league in yards after contact, beating out the monster of Derrick Henry. This Cowboys running back duo will be pushed to the limit this week, as they face the best-run defense in the last three games.
The 2020 NFL rush champion gets to face the 22nd run defense. That sounds scary to most, especially when Henry had found a stride lately, going over 100 yards and a touchdown in each of his last three games. But Henry in that time has faced some of the easiest run defenses in the league. The problem for Henry is that he represents the only real offensive threat on the roster and as a result, teams defend accordingly. Tennessee ranks last in first downs per game but is 18th in first downs per game on running plays, showing that without Henry getting over the gain line would be a grind. An interesting point to note on Henry, he leads the league in fumbles, with six. Dontrell Hilliard is out for the year, and Hassaan Haskins plays the backup role. But the Titans running back game really is a one-man band. Watch Henry on this week’s practice report.
Lamb/Gallup/Brown vs Woods/Westbrook-Ikhine/Burks
CeeDee Lamb gave Cowboys Nation a great early Christmas gift on the weekend with another dominating performance. The Eagles game saw Lamb go over 100 receiving yards, and that now makes the second time in his career he has back-to-back 100-yard games. Both touchdowns he scored showed great awareness and as mentioned previously, Lamb is playing more as he did in his college days and is starting to adopt that WR1 mentality. Michael Gallup was targeted more last week, but there is something to be said about his role in this offense and being employed a lot on clearing routes. The talk of wide receiver receptions though was the huge 52-yard catch by T.Y. Hilton on third down. If there’s a way to open your Cowboys account on your debut, there’s not much better way to do it. The threat Hilton will now add for this offense heading into the postseason will be important.
The receiving options for Tennessee are lacking. Robert Woods is the main threat and leads the team in receiving yards. As it stands, he’s only scored one touchdown this season, which was all the way back in Week 4. Nick Westbrook-Ikhine lines up with Woods, but he has only managed to rack up 50 yards and one touchdown in the last four games. Rookie receiver Treylon Burks is maybe their best receiver if they can unlock his potential. He could one day be a common talked about name in the league, but that road looks tough right now on this Titans offense.
Dalton Schultz vs Austin Hooper
On the tying drive in the third quarter, and again in the fourth quarter, the importance of the tight end position to Dak was apparent. Both drives saw Dak throw to Schultz and Jake Ferguson for big gains. Both tight ends accounted for 67 yards and five receptions last week, with Schultz now on 488 yards for the season which is twelfth most among tight ends.
Austin Hooper is on 400 yards for the year, which ranks 20th for tight ends and has two touchdowns for the year. For the Titans receiving threats, Hooper is their second most important. The issue for Hooper is that since Week 7 he has gone for 50 yards or more in a game only once.
Against the Eagles, this offensive line didn’t do too badly. Sure they allowed some pressure and sacks, but against the NFL’s leading team in sacks, they did enough. Tyron Smith allowed his share of pressures and sacks, and as an overall unit they allowed six sacks. The Cowboy’s line has allowed the second-fewest sacks this season, and fifth-fewest quarterback hits.
The Titan’s offensive line is on the other end of the scale. They have allowed 25 sacks this year, that’s the fifth-most. Their left tackle Dennis Daley will give up the most sacks and pressures each game. Rookie tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere is hanging on as best he can, but watch for him on the practice report with an ankle issue. Also on the injury report is their starting guard Aaron Brewer with a calf injury.
Which team has the better offense?
This poll is closed