Mandatory Credit: Photo by Tony Gutierrez/AP/Shutterstock (13488843z) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott looks downfield during the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, in Arlington, Texas Lions Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 23 Oct 2022
Dallas Cowboys (5-2) vs. Chicago Bears (3-4)
Game time: Sunday, 12 p.m. CST
TV/radio: FOX / SiriusXM 226, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande
What’s at stake: The Chicago Bears are still trying to find their way with a young quarterback, and that should have a revved-up Cowboys defense licking their chops come Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium. With a week off on the horizon, the Cowboys should be at maximum effort in all three phases, looking to play their best game of the season. Quarterback Dak Prescott is back for his second game since missing Week’s 2-6 with a hand injury. Last week he spent most of the game trying to knock the rust of inactiveness off, throwing for just 207 yards and a late touchdown in the win. Building on his performance from last week, and coming out healthy, would be just what the doctor ordered heading into their Week 9 bye. A loss, and the Cowboys could find themselves two games back of first place in the NFC East come Sunday night.
When the Cowboys have the ball: The most successful part of the Cowboys’ offense has been the running game this season, particularly the duo of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. The two have combined for 818 of the 852 yards rushing the Cowboys have put up this season. But with Elliott not practicing all week and being a game-time decision, Pollard could be getting the majority of the carries this week and shouldn’t miss a beat against a Bears defense ranked 29th against the run this season. What the Cowboys will miss with Elliott is the exceptional blocking he provides in the passing game. That will put more pressure on quarterback Dak Prescott to be quicker in his decision-making process in just his second game back from the thumb injury that kept him out for five games.
When the Bears have the ball: The Bears’ offense revolves around the play of quarterback Justin Fields. Below average throwing the ball, Fields is most dangerous when he takes off and gets outside the pocket. Fields is currently second in the league in rushing yards for quarterbacks, with 364 yards on 68 attempts. And while his 5.25 yards per rush average isn’t all that scary, the fact that he has rushed for 25 first downs should be frightening enough on this Halloween weekend for the Cowboys’ defense. If it isn’t Fields trying to carve up the defense, it is the running back duo of Khalil Herbert and David Montgomery. The two have combined for 772 of the 1,267 yards the Bears have gained on the ground this season. When Chicago goes to the air, Fields will be looking for wide receivers Darnell Mooney (20 catches, 294 yards) and Equanimeous St. Brown (10-158) and tight end Cole Kmet (12-148).
Key Cowboys to watch:
LB Damone Clark – Expected to miss all of 2022 after undergoing spinal fusion surgery in late March of this year, Clark has made an amazing recovery and was activated to the 53-man roster this week. Despite a herniated disc in his neck that was discovered at the NFL scouting combine, the Cowboys selected Clark in the 5th round of the 2022 NFL draft. Clark, an elite run-defending linebacker at LSU, finished his senior season with 135 tackles, good for second-best in the SEC while adding six sacks and 23 QB pressures. The work he gets this season is just a bonus for his development.
DT Jonathan Hankins – The Cowboys have struggled to defend the run this season, so they went out and acquired Hankins, who has 366 tackles, and 14.5 sacks in 133 games played, to help in that area. The 9-year veteran defensive tackle is listed at 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, and should give the Cowboys’ middle-of-the-defensive line rotation a needed boost. With 10 tackles, two for losses, in five games this season for Las Vegas, Hankins is currently listed as the backup for Quinton Bohanna at right defensive tackle.
TE Peyton Hendershot – Hendershot is one-half of the Cowboys rookie tight end duo that is quickly making a name for themselves. Undrafted out of Indiana, Hendershot caught the Cowboys coaches’ eyes in training camp, earning him a spot on the practice squad. But an injury to veteran Sean McKeon forced the Cowboys to bring up Hendershot for Week 1, and the rookie has made the most of his opportunities. In seven games, Hendershot has been in on 148 offensive snaps, or just over 33 percent of the plays run on offense. He has made seven catches for 70 yards and one touchdown.
DE Dante Fowler Jr. – The Cowboys brought Fowler in during the offseason to give their pass rush a boost after losing Randy Gregory in the offseason. Fowler has settled in as the backup to Dorance Armstrong on the right side, playing nearly 31 percent of the defensive snaps this season. The former first-round pick for Jacksonville in 2015, Fowler, who has 210 tackles and 38 sacks in 98 career games, has 10 tackles and three sacks in 143 snaps played this season.
The bottom line: The Cowboys need to keep this winning train rolling down the tracks, and to do that, they will need to see the Dak Prescott, that has full command of the offense. That Prescott hasn’t been around these parts since midway through last season, and now trying to come back from an injury to his throwing hand won’t make it any easier. Prescott doesn’t have to throw for 445 yards like he did in an overtime win over New England or for four touchdowns like he did in a close victory over Carolina, both in 2021. But he does have to produce more than he has in the two starts he has made this season – 341 yards passing combined and 1 TD.