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Cowboys vs. Jets: Each team’s X-factor player for Sunday

Fresh off a dominant Week 1 performance, the Cowboys will look to start the season 2-0 against the Jets.

NFLPA Rookie Premiere - Portraits session Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys head back to Dallas for their first home game of the season versus a talented, but mysterious New York Jets team. What this game was going to look like less than a week ago is drastically different than what it looks like now. Aaron Rodgers is no longer in the picture for the season, and the way the Jets are going to attack teams offensively this year is going to be significantly different than they originally had hoped.

These two teams haven’t met one another since the 2019 season when the Cowboys went to New York and took a loss to Sam Darnold and company. That loss was essentially the beginning of the end for then-head coach Jason Garrett, signaling a change in Big D.

Both teams come into Sunday 1-0, but both teams look to be headed in polar opposite directions. Many around the league are intrigued to see if the Cowboys can build off of their impressive Week 1 outing versus the New York Giants, while the Jets are hoping to figure out if they can still be real contenders with Zach Wilson under center.

Despite Rodgers not being a part of the story any longer, there are plenty of interesting battles and intrigue in this matchup. The Cowboys cannot afford to sleepwalk through this as the Jets have enough talent on both offense and defense to beat them. It may not be a Rodgers-led offense, but their offensive group still has an x-factor to look for, and so do the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys X-factor:

Jalen Tolbert

Jacksonville Jaguars v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Cowboys have been singing the praises of the second-year wide receiver all camp. After a non-factor of a rookie campaign, the Jalen Tolbert hype train is once again alive and well. Tolbert was one of the team MVPs while in Oxnard and this week may be his first chance to put that practice to use.

The status of Brandin Cooks is very iffy this week as he deals with a level 1 MCL sprain. While the injury doesn’t seem to be a huge deal going forward, it does not help this Cowboys offense versus a very good Jets defense. While we wait and see how the Cooks’ situation unfolds either way, this could signal the first real action of Tolbert’s young career.

Whether Cooks plays or not, Tolbert is in line for an increased offensive role on Sunday. The Jets boast an impressive secondary that intercepted Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen three times last week and promises to be a tough test for the Cowboys playmakers.

CeeDee Lamb will demand most of the attention like he does most weeks, but what Tolbert and company may be able to do on Sunday will go a long way in determining the outcome of this Week 2 matchup.

New York Jets X-factor:

Breece Hall

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

With the signing of Dalvin Cook, and the fact Breece Hall was coming off a serious knee injury that cut his rookie season short, Hall was somewhat of an afterthought heading into Week 1. After 10 carries for 127 yards against the Bills, Hall is an afterthought no more. With Wilson under center, the plan of attack for the Jets should be clear - put the ball in their running back’s hands and keep the game manageable for their new QB1. A quarterback’s best friend is a potent rushing attack, and the dynamic duo of Cook and Hall provides just that.

The Cowboys were susceptible to the run last season, and as a result they made a concerted effort to upgrade the interior of their defensive line and linebacker room, with the focus on being able to better manage rushing attacks. While they faced Saquon Barkley last week, the game got out of hand and the threat of the run dwindled as the game went on. If the Jets find a way to keep the game close on Sunday they may be able to keep their gameplan intact and may look to wear the Cowboys' defense down.

The gameplan for the Cowboys is simple - stop the run and force the game into Wilson’s hands. If Hall is able to get loose for over 100 yards again this week it could be a world of trouble for this more talented Cowboys team.

The juice and anticipation of this game may have dissipated a little with the injury of Rodgers, but make no mistake about it - the Jets have more than enough talent to beat the Cowboys on Sunday, and if Dallas is going to start the season 2-0 it will start and end with stopping Hall and the rest of the Jets rushing attack.

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