It's go time. For the 4-2 Dallas Cowboys, the bye week is officially behind them and now it’s a nonstop marathon as they chase a title for the first time in over a quarter century. Next up on the menu is a home date with the Los Angeles Rams who are coming off a tough, controversial loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Let’s take a closer look at this matchup and see who, on both teams, may end up being X-factors for Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys X-factor:
This is a big week not only for Markquese Bell, but for the Dallas Cowboys as well. The team has left themselves paper thin at the linebacker position. So much so that they went out before the bye week and signed NFL veteran LB Rashaan Evans to try and bring depth and experience into the room as Leighton Vander Esch went on injured reserve.
Why it is big is because with another quality performance from Bell at the linebacker spot this week, the Cowboys may have slipped, fell, and stumbled, into a quality linebacker who was actually brought in originally to be a safety.
Bell’s performance against the Charges was phenomenal, and his impact as he made big play after big play turned heads nationally, and within the Cowboys locker room. What feels like another Dan Quinn special could truly end up being a saving grace at a position that many had thought they were handcuffed at.
If Bell falls back down to earth and struggles this week, it wouldn't be the end of the world as the Cowboys are actively trying to cover their backs if that were to happen. However, if he were to ball out once again, it could change the front seven of that defense for years to come. Hence Bell is an easy X-factor pick not only for Week 8 but for beyond.
Los Angeles Rams X-factor:
The darling of the NFL world comes to Big D this week. While the Rams have Cooper Kupp already in the fold and he is a known threat, rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua is taking the NFL world by storm with his performance so far. He will command a lot of attention from the Cowboys' secondary on Sunday.
Through the first seven games of his career, Nacua has lit up the stat sheet with 58 receptions, 752 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. While the Cowboys are surely going to scheme a way to try and limit Kupp and his impact, not accounting for Nacua would be detrimental for Dallas.
Who and how they choose to match up with Nacua is a huge factor. They can’t afford to bracket or double-cover both guys, meaning someone in the Cowboys secondary is going to need to win their one-on-one matchup. Could the team opt to bracket cover Kupp with Lewis and a safety and allow Stephon Gilmore to try and cover Nacua head up? Or will it be reversed?
The answer to these questions, along with Nacua’s impact, is the x-factor for this week’s Week 8 matchup.