Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ron Jenkins/AP/Shutterstock (13388030ix) Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) rolls out of the pocket in the first half of a NFL football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Arlington, Texas Buccaneers Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 11 Sep 2022
Dallas Cowboys (4-2) vs. Detroit Lions (1-4)
Game time: Sunday, 12 p.m. CT
TV/radio: CBS / SiriusXM 227, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande
What’s at stake: With franchise quarterback Dak Prescott back under center, what’s most at stake is increasing the production of the Cowboys’ offense. And what better team to return against than the Detroit Lions, currently boasting the last-ranked defense in the NFL? With just seven sacks this season, the Lions’ defensive pressure is the perfect foe for Prescott to test his surgically repaired thumb against. After last week, the Cowboys need Prescott to be healthy and prove it against the Lions, as games against Green Bay and Indianapolis, both with top-10 defenses, are coming up on the schedule.
When the Cowboys have the ball: The Cowboys will be fully loaded at the skill positions when the game kicks off on Sunday afternoon. Quarterback Dak Prescott will have his choice on whether to run or pass, depending on what the Lions’ defense shows. With a full complement of weapons, Prescott can hand it off to either Ezekiel Elliott or Tony Pollard in the run game or throw it to receivers CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Noah Brown and tight end Dalton Schultz in the passing game. Despite the same group, minus Gallup, putting up just three points the last time they were together on the field in Week 1, the Cowboys have had five weeks to work out the kinks while backup quarterback Cooper Rush led the charge. That should only benefit Prescott in what should be the Cowboys’ least difficult test of the season.
When the Lions have the ball: Quarterback Jared Goff leads the charge for an offense that is second in the NFL in yards gained per game with just over 411. The offense also ranks in the top 10 in yards per play (6.18), rushing yards per game (151.4), yards per attempt (5.4), passing yards per game (260.4), yards per pass completion (6.96), sacks per pass attempt (3.74%), first downs per game (21.4) and red zone efficiency (75%). The Lions have only given up seven sacks this season, but three came against Washington, the best defensive front Detroit has faced this season. When Goff has time, he has three excellent weapons at his disposal – wide receivers Amon-Ra St. Brown (27 catches-271 yards-3 touchdowns) and Josh Reynolds (23-355-2) and tight end T.J. Hochenson (19-267-3). On the ground, Jamaal Williams and DeAndre Swift share the load, but Swift is the main guy when healthy. In only three games this season, Swift carried the ball 27 times for 231 yards, an 8.6-yard per carry average. With Swift hobbled, Williams leads the team in rushing yards with 332 and six touchdowns.
Key Cowboys to watch:
S Jourdan Lewis – If it hadn’t been for an injury that kept him out of the Cowboys’ Week 4 win over Washington, Lewis would be close to the team lead in snaps played this season. Instead, he has played 284 of a possible 340 snaps, which doesn’t include the 74 snaps missed in Week 4, or nearly 84% of the snaps in the five games played in this season. Lewis has racked up 15 solo and eight assisted tackles this season, as well as one sack while lining up in coverage on most plays.
LS Matt Overton – The Cowboys signed the 37-year-old Overton the week after starting long snapper Jake McQuaide went down with a season-ending injury in Week 4. What has been a strength of the team with McQuaide, has not missed a beat with Overton. Since taking over, the Cowboys have punted eight times and made 14 of 16 field goals and eight of nine extra points, with error-free snaps from Overton. Overton’s snaps will be important every game as the Cowboys continue to push for the playoffs in a league where less than three points separates teams from winning and losing every week.
DT Trysten Hill – Hill, the Cowboys’ second-round pick and first of the draft in 2019, has had a slow start to his NFL career, but the defensive tackle is starting to find his way this season. Playing sparingly before this season, Hill will play in his seventh game this season when he enters the contest on Sunday. It will equal his rookie season, when he also played in seven games, the most of his career in any season. Surely set to pass that mark this season, Hill has contributed six tackles this season while being used in the second rotation of the defensive line. The Cowboys need Hill to improve his playmaking on interior runs, a place where the Cowboys have been susceptible in the first six games.
C Tyler Biadasz – Replacing an All-Pro is never an easy thing to do, especially when he was the anchor of the best offensive line in the NFL. It is exactly what Biadasz had to do after Cowboys’ center Travis Frederick unexpectedly retired at the end of 2019. Biadasz split time as the starting center in his rookie season of 2020 before taking over as the full-time starter last season. Despite having to live up to Frederick’s play, Biadasz has done a solid job for the Cowboys. He always answers the bell, starting 23 straight games and playing every offensive snap this season. In his 377 snaps, Biadasz has allowed no sacks while committing just two penalties – an ineligible man downfield and a false start.
The bottom line: With a healthy Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are the better team, but this is the NFL, and the Lions have talent up and down the roster. If Prescott needs time to knock the rust off after missing five straight weeks, then this game could be left to the Dallas defense to come up with another victory. To do that, they will have to halt the air attack of Goff to Brown, Reynolds, or Hochenson, a great test for a Cowboys defense that thrives on proving its dominance. A win over the Lions and the Cowboys are back on track for a playoff berth, with games against Chicago, Green Bay, and Minnesota next on the schedule to finish off four-straight against a weakened NFC Central.