The Cowboys are looking for a bounce-back win after getting embarrassed by the 49ers a week ago on primetime television. They’re once again under the bright lights of a night game, but this time it’s Monday night in Los Angeles.
Not only will the Cowboys try to get right against a Chargers team that’s coming off their bye, but they’ll be doing it against former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who now runs a very efficient offense for Justin Herbert and the rest of the Bolts. Can Dallas score a victory before their bye, or will Moore exact some revenge on his former team? Let’s find out what our writers think.
When Los Angeles has the ball
Limit the explosives
This is both the key to beating the Chargers and the key to the Dallas defense not getting beat. The Chargers brought in Kellen Moore specifically to unlock the immense talent of Justin Herbert, whose cannon of an arm was rarely utilized. Now, he’s fourth among quarterbacks in passes more than 20 yards downfield, and the offense is one of the best in the league so far.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys defense has generally done a good job of limiting explosives under Dan Quinn, but their two losses this year have seen this group get gashed in that category. Against the Cardinals, they allowed eight big plays (runs of at least 12 yards, passes of at least 16 yards), and they gave up nine against the 49ers. The Chargers will be looking to do the same thing, and it’ll be a long day for Quinn’s group if they can’t stop Herbert and Austin Ekeler from picking up chunk plays.
When Dallas has the ball
Take what the defense gives you
When playing the Chargers, taking what the defense gives you is like taking candy from a candy-hating baby. The Chargers defense is really bad at playing defense, as they rank 29th in yards per play, 24th in points per game, 22nd in defensive DVOA, and 25th in EPA/play allowed.
The defense, led by embattled head coach Brandon Staley, has been especially bad against the run this year, but their secondary hasn’t been that great either. Dak Prescott, Tony Pollard, and the rest of this offense have proven they’re capable of moving the ball against most defenses, and this one shouldn’t be that much of a challenge. It’s the perfect opportunity to bounce back for the Texas Coast offense; so much so that it’ll be a really, really big issue if they don’t.
Now onto the predictions from your BTB writers...
Tom Ryle (3-2):
In the past, this would be a game where I predict a big rebound for the Cowboys. But the many problems they exhibited in the brutal loss last week have me despairing. They seem to be a team headed south in a hurry, facing a rising Chargers squad that also brings a bit of revenge factor story to the game. Another loss for Dallas would be huge, and not in a good way. I want to find hope, but rationally I just don’t see a team in such disarray getting it turned around by Monday.
The only thing I can offer is a desire to be a reverse jinx, because I’m predicting the Cowboys fall to the Chargers by 10 or more.
Tony Catalina (4-1):
Last week was horrid. So bad it made everybody in the football world start to look at the Cowboys in a different light. Whether that’s fair or not is not for me to judge, but simply put - this is an important week for the Cowboys.4-2 heading into the bye week feels a lot better than 3-3 coming off two straight losses.
This isn’t a make or break game, but it certainly needs to be a get right game. Confidence for this team has taken a bit of hit, but they’re still a good team and that team will show up on Monday night.
Give me Dallas 27-20.
Matt Holleran (3-2):
Regardless of what happened last Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys are a very good football team. They may not be on the level of the 49ers, Eagles, or Chiefs, but they are still one of the better teams in the league. History tells us good teams bounce back after getting embarrassed.
The Cowboys have already done that once this season, and they’ll do it again Monday night. The defense will have a long day trying to slow down Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense, but Dallas’ offense will pick up the slack. Dak and the offense bounce back in a big way as the Cowboys come out on top in shootout.
Give me Dallas, 30-27.
Brandon Loree (3-2):
(Insert 90s voice-over for an instructional science video you watched in class): So you’re looking for a Cowboys victory on Monday Night Football? Well, I’m here to tell you it’s not impossible, but it will be against a Kellen Moore-led offense highlighted by Justin Herbert. Still think you’re up for the challenge? [dramatic pause for effect] Great! I’m happy to hear that. So here are a few steps the Cowboys can use to attack the Chargers on defense to leave LA with a win.
Step 1: Their defense allows offenses to throw for almost 300 yards a game, which Dak Prescott could use to his advantage if he and Mike McCarthy get on the same page with explosive plays. Step 2: They could use Tony Pollard in the passing game against the Chargers linebackers Kenneth Murray Jr and Eric Kendricks. With Murray, you’ll have to watch your head around him as he will look to take it off. However, Pollard’s shiftiness could force some missed tackles, putting Murray on skates. Murray has six on the season, ninth most among NFL linebackers. Overall, the Cowboys’ offense should get back on track and score enough points in a prime-time shootout.
If they follow these two simple steps, Dallas should win 25-20.
Matthew Lenix (3-2):
The Cowboys face former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and a top-five Chargers offense. With Dan Quinn’s defense getting shredded against the 49ers, and head coach Mike McCarthy still trying to find his way as a play-caller in Dallas, Moore will be fired up to stick it to his old team. Micah Parsons and the Cowboys’ defense won’t let that happen despite the immense challenge. I see the Cowboys getting a few turnovers and giving the Cowboys offense some short fields to work with.
Dallas wins 27-17.
Mike Poland (3-2):
At SoFi Stadium, the Chargers have thrown for an average of 175 yards per game. While on the road the Cowboys are allowing an average of 164 passing yards. It’s time to shut Justin Herbert down and get things back on track. Add also to the fact that in the Cowboys last seven losses since the start of the 2022 season, the Cowboys have come back the following week and record a win.
Cowboys win 28-20.
Brian Martin (3-2):
If the Dallas Cowboys are going to get their aerial attack up and running, this is the week to do it. The LA Chargers are currently the 32nd ranked passing defense in the league allowing 299.8 yards per game. Because of that I’m expecting Dak Prescott and Company light them up through the air, leading the way to victory.
Cowboys win, 34-16.
RJ Ochoa (4-1):
This has been a long week for the Dallas Cowboys and while I am not as confident in them as I would like to be, they remain a very good football team. This game is an opportunity to prove that to be true but I am comfortable giving them the benefit of the doubt and a chance to earn some more back.
Give me Dallas, 30-23.
David Howman (2-3):
I really don’t know what to expect from this team now. History tells us the Cowboys will come out and play their best football to make up for last week, but history also told us they’d at least be competitive against the 49ers. The Chargers are a beatable team, for sure, but they’re not as easy to beat as the Giants, Jets, or Patriots were.
If Dan Quinn’s defense can get back to limiting those big plays, it would make things considerably harder for this offense to operate the way they want to. Offensively, there’s really no reason why Dak Prescott and the rest of this unit shouldn’t have a big day against a very bad defense. If this offense struggles again, we’ll officially have a problem in Dallas. As of right now, I think we’ll see things come together at least somewhat for the Cowboys, but I don’t feel too confident in that.
Cowboys win, 34-28.