Every week in the NFL brings different matchups, both schematically and individually, that present opportunities or challenges for certain players. As Dallas hosts the New England Patriots this Sunday, which Cowboys stand to be helped or hurt by this week’s circumstances?
WR CeeDee Lamb
While the Patriots have been fairly solid defensively over the last three weeks, their opponents’ top receivers have still had good outings. The Eagles’ A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combined for 14 catches, 126 yards, and a touchdown in Week 1. Miami’s Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill put up nine catches for 128 yards and a score the following week. Even last week, with the Jets offense barely functioning, Garrett Wilson still had five catches for 48 yards.
If this trend holds, CeeDee Lamb should have another quality performance. With no sign of chemistry yet between Dak Prescott and Brandin Cooks, plus inconsistent impacts from Michael Gallup and Jalen Tolbert, Lamb will probably need to be every bit of a franchise WR for Dallas to stay balanced on offense. Taking away quarterbacks’ favorite receivers is an evergreen strategy, and New England often tries to do that. Hopefully, Lamb, Prescott, and the Cowboys offense as a whole can shoot down that plan.
CB Stephone Gilmore
Patriots QB Mac Jones threw a pick in each of the first two games to star cornerbacks Darius Slay and Xavien Howard. With Gilmore now the top CB in Dallas, and still showing the ability to ball-hawk, he stands a good chance if Jones feels pressed to make plays.
That pressure could come in a few ways. If the Cowboys offense bounces back from last week’s debacle in Arizona, it could put the Patriots in a shootout that they’re ill-equipped to handle. And if Micah Parsons and the defense get back to harassing the passer, Jones could be forced into some bad situations. He’s not a turnover-prone guy, but he might force the issue and give Gilmore an opportunity.
K Brandon Aubrey
In their first two games against Philly and Miami, New England saw opposing kickers attempt seven field goals. With Dallas already having redzone issues, it stands to reason that Aubrey could see plenty of action.
Since missing that first extra-point attempt against the Giants, Aubrey has been perfect on his next six and 10-for-10 on field goals. While it’s hard not to wonder when the other shoe will drop, at this point Aubrey’s earned trust and could come out of this game with an even bigger profile throughout the league.
LT Chuma Edoga
With Tyron Smith officially out and Tyler Smith apparently sticking at guard, that means Edoga will be asked to once again cover at left tackle. This was the position that got him canned from the Jets and left on the NFL scrap heap, and where he struggled last week in Arizona. After filling in nicely for Tyler Smith at left guard the first two weeks, he’s now being cast in the wrong role.
And of course, Bill Belichick will find every way possible to exploit this. He knows Edoga’s work from the Jets and from last week. Dak Prescott’s blind side is going to be under assault this Sunday.
QB Dak Prescott
So yeah, let’s talk about QB1. While the Cowboys can still handle their business this Sunday, it probably won’t be a banner day for Prescott. Even if Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz are back, the left tackle issue is going to present problems. Dallas is likely to call a conservative game, focusing on running behind Martin and Terence Steele on the right side, thus limiting Prescott’s ability to shine.
But outside of Raheem Mostert’s 43-yard run in Week 2, opposing running backs haven’t had their way with New England. Tony Pollard may put in a good game overall but, barring a huge day from Dallas’ defense, Prescott is probably going to have to step up and make some key plays at certain points. Can he do better than what we saw against the Cardinals?