Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brandon Wade/AP/Shutterstock (13435805cm) Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons (11) is seen during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders, in Arlington, Texas. Dallas won 25-10 Commanders Cowboys Football, Arlington, United States – 02 Oct 2022

Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Indianapolis Colts


Dallas Cowboys (8-3) vs. Indianapolis Colts (4-7-1)

Game time: Sunday, 7:20 p.m. CST

TV/radio: NBC / Westwood One, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande

What’s at stake: Keeping the victory train rolling down the tracks toward a playoff berth. A win over a 4-win Colts team that has already changed head coaches this season will do just that. The Cowboys, who are in a tight race for the playoff’s top seed in the NFC, cannot afford a letdown game against a team they should have very little problems with. However, Matt Ryan, now seventh on the NFL’s all-time passing yards list with 62,377, and running back Jonathan Taylor will make sure the Cowboys earn the victory on Sunday night.

When the Cowboys have the ball: Despite their 4-7-1 record, the Indianapolis Colts have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Led by linebacker Zaire Franklin, who is second in the NFL in tackles with 121, the Colts rank just in front of the Cowboys in yards allowed at 308.9 per game. Led by cornerback Stephon Gilmore and safety Rodney McCleod, the Colts boast the fifth-best pass defense in the NFL, which will test Dak Prescott and his right arm. Firing on all cylinders, the Cowboys’ passing offense has put up 1,309 yards and seven touchdowns in the last three games. Mixing in a dominating run game averaging 139.2 yards per game, the Cowboys should find big plays against Indianapolis.

When the Colts have the ball: It will be a fun chess match to watch, as Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Indianapolis quarterback Matt Ryan match wits. The two spent four seasons together in Atlanta, including 2017, when the Falcons made a trip to Super Bowl LI. Now on opposite sidelines, Quinn will be tasked with shutting down Ryan, who is averaging 264.2 yards passing over his 10 starts. Ryan has had a consistent trio of receivers to throw to, led by Michael Pittman Jr. and his 74 catches for 739 yards. When Ryan hands it off, it will be to Jonathan Taylor, who has 779 yards rushing on 171 carries. The Cowboys’ defense will have their hands full with the Colts’ many options.

Key Cowboys to watch:

DE Takkarist McKinley – Takk McKinley has only been with the Cowboys since Nov. 16, when he signed as a free agent. But it won’t take long for the six-year veteran to get up to speed with Dan Quinn’s defense. During Quinn’s tenure as head coach, McKinley was the 2017 first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons. During their second season together, McKinley had his best season, finishing with seven sacks. McKinley, who has one tackle this season in 16 snaps with the Rams, will backup starters DeMarcus Lawrence and Sam Williams on the depth chart.

LB Micah Parsons – Despite being listed as a linebacker, Parsons has continued to be more of a pass rush specialist this season. In 11 games, he has rushed the quarterback on 53 snaps, the second most in the NFL behind only Bradly Chubb. He is second in the NFL in sacks with 12, just one behind Matt Judon. He is third in quarterback pressures with 29, while also accumulating seven quarterback hurries and 10 quarterback knockdowns. Where Parsons has fallen short is when forced into pass coverage situations, giving up 10.3 yards to every player who catches the ball against him.

OT Terrence Steele – There may be no better compliment for an offensive lineman than not being mentioned during a game. That has been the case for Terrence Steele in nine of his 11 games this season. After a rough start to his first season as the starting right tackle, where Steele was called for four penalties, he has been called for just one penalty since in 720 snaps. Add to that he has given up just one sack, and the move from La’el Collins, who has been flagged five times and given up three sacks in 726 snaps for Cincinnati this season, to Steele could not have gone smoother.

P Bryan Anger – Anger is quietly having another solid season for the Cowboys, which has included an NFL long 83-yard blast against Chicago. Averaging 42.9 net yards per punt this season, he ranks 10th through 11 games. But his numbers are increasing, boosting that net average to 45.0 yards per punt in the last three games. That kind of production has helped the Cowboys punt coverage unit become one of the best in the NFL, allowing opponents just 7.5 yards per punt return. Anger has booted 43 punts this season, with 20 being returned for 150 yards. Of the 23 not returned, 18 were downed inside the opponents 20-yard line.

The bottom line: This is a must win for the Cowboys if they want to solidify their positions in the playoff race. Dallas has played a first-place schedule this season, with games against both of last year’s Super Bowl participants and multiple division winners. But Sunday night’s game against the Colts starts a stretch of three straight against some of the worst teams in the NFL. It starts with Indianapolis, a team that the Cowboys must beat. No time for let downs, as the race for the playoffs continues to tighten in the NFC.

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