The Dallas Cowboys are still alive for the NFC East, but they’ll need some help in the form of a loss from the Philadelphia Eagles. They will also need to take care of business themselves and that starts with beating the Detroit Lions on Saturday night. Can they rebound and pull out the victory? Here are five things to keep an eye on when the Cowboys welcome in the visiting Lions.
1. DAK ON TRACK
While the Lions' defense as a whole isn’t great, they do rep a strong run defense as their 3.7 yards allowed are the fourth-best in the league. That’s fine. The Cowboys can’t run the ball anyway. The Lions pass defense ranks in the bottom 10 in the league. There are yards to be gained through the air.
After the bye week, Dak Prescott went on a stretch where he threw for at least 299 yards and three touchdowns in five of his next six games, the only outlier being against Carolina where there wasn’t much need to throw the ball. However, over the last three games, Dak hasn’t reached those passing yards nor has he thrown three touchdowns in a game. Some have even suggested he’s played himself out of the MVP running, but Prescott is still one of the better-performing quarterbacks this season.
Dak Prescott is the only QB who has thrown 30 touchdowns this season. He also has the best TD/INT ratio in the league. Seven QBs have thrown for 3,700 yards this season, but he's the only one who doesn't have double-digit picks.— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 26, 2023
Game manager, interception prone...my ass. pic.twitter.com/Zq6Tx38ZHm
A vulnerable pass defense could be just what Prescott needs to right some ships and get this offense back on track. Don’t be surprised if they are once again talking about Dak in the MVP conversation next week.
2. PICK YOUR POISON
Last week we talked about the Cowboys facing an arsenal of offensive weapons from both the Dolphins rushing and passing attack. The defense did a good job holding them in check as Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane didn’t do much and Jaylon Waddle had just one catch (albeit, a 50-yarder). Tyreek Hill was the only one who caused an issue and even he was held under 100 yards receiving.
The Lions pose similar issues. Their running back duo of David Montgomery and Jamyr Gibbs both have over 1,000 scrimmage yards and their star receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown, has over 100 catches already and is just shy of 1,300 yards. Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta has emerged as a strong weapon for their offense, especially in the red zone. He has 74 catches, 776 yards, and nine touchdowns on the year.
The Cowboys have done a good job taking away certain guys, but it’s a battle when a team has so many of them. They took away Christian McCaffrey, but then George Kittle went crazy. They took away Stefon Diggs, but then James Cooks ran wild. How will this Cowboys' defense do against such a strong assortment of weapons?
3. CAN’T SILENCE THE LAMB
It’s remarkable to see the type of season CeeDee Lamb is having. He leads the league in catches and has 1,424 yards so far this season. He’s only 179 yards away from the Cowboys single-season record by Michael Irvin (1,603) set back in 1995. When the Cowboys get Lamb the ball, good things happen.
We have also seen Lamb’s usage disappear at times and the receiver has quietly shown his frustration. We saw him sulking on the sidelines against the 49ers, and then a week later he went on his tear with three straight games with 14+ catches and 150+ yards. Last week, Lamb was seen throwing his hands up in the Miami game when the offense was making poor decisions and faltering. Expect the Cowboys to once again heed his call and feed him the ball. It’s been 10 years since Calvin Johnson’s big receiving game in Dallas, and we could see another one on Saturday. Don’t be shocked if Lamb breaks Irvin’s record with a 200+ yards performance against the Lions.
4. POSSESSIONS ARE PRECIOUS
Last week, long drives shortened the game and the Cowboys offense only had eight possessions. And one of them was wasted away when they dropped the ball at the goal line. To beat Detroit, the Cowboys will need to capitalize on every opportunity they get. That means touchdowns and not field goals, and taking care of the ball.
All five of their losses have come when they have lost the turnover battle. The defense hasn’t forced a takeaway in each of the last two games. The Lions are similar as their last five games have all been decided by who won the turnover battle. They were sloppy and turned the ball over three times against Green Bay and Chicago. They lost both of those games. They had four takeaways last week and they won.
Taking care of the ball and creating turnovers is of utmost importance and it could be the deciding factor in this one.
IT’S GONNA TAKE MORE THAN 24
Can you believe the Cowboys have scored at least 24 points against the Lions the last ten times these teams have faced off? Did you know the Cowboys are a perfect 9-0 this season when they have scored at least 24 points?
Keeping that 24-point streak going shouldn’t be a problem against this Lions' defense, but it might take more than that to beat them. Luckily, the Cowboys have scored at least 30 points in every game at AT&T this season and are averaging 39.9 points a game at home. That’s a good thing because it’s going to take a lot of points to come away with the win in this one. Brace yourself for a shootout.