Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Tennessee Titans

Dec 24, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws during the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Game preview: Dallas Cowboys vs. Tennessee Titans


Dallas Cowboys (11-4) at Tennessee Titans (7-8)

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

TV/radio: Amazon Prime / SiriusXM 226, 105.3 The Fan, KVMK 107.5 La Grande (Spanish)

What’s at stake: Until they aren’t, the Cowboys are still in a fight for the NFC East title, so there should be no letdown on Thursday night against a Titans team that appears to be limping toward the offseason with five straight losses. If a division title isn’t enough motivation for Dallas, because of what needs to happen – Cowboys must win their last two games, and the Eagles must lose their last two games, then how about good ole momentum? The Cowboys need it heading into the playoffs. They lacked it last year at home in the Wild Card round and exited at the hands of San Francisco.

When the Cowboys have the ball: The Cowboys have established themselves as an offense that likes to run the football, with a mix of Ezekiel Elliott (204 carries, 829 yards) and Tony Pollard (186 carries, 988 yards) as the primary ball carriers. With Pollard unavailable Thursday due to a thigh injury, look for Elliott to get the bulk of the carries, with Malik Davis mixed in to spell Zeke. The running game has set up quarterback Dak Prescott and the passing game, which is red-hot. Despite Prescott’s interception problem, the Cowboys signal caller will continue to be aggressive with his throws, which have also led to back-to-back 100-plus yard games for CeeDee Lamb (91 catches, 1,207 yards). Against a Titans’ defense that ranks 23rd in the NFL, giving up 359.7 yards per game, and a Cowboys offense (366.1 yards, 28.9 points per game) that is on a roll, there should be plenty of yards and points for the road team.

When the Titans have the ball: Without Ryan Tannehill under center, the Titans will be more reliant than ever on the running game, which has been led by star running back Derrick Henry. Henry is second in the NFL in rushing with 1,429 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. However, Henry has been officially ruled out, meaning that the touches normally earmarked for Henry will likely go to rookie fourth-round pick, Hassan Haskins. Like Henry, Haskins is a big, physical back, so don’t look for the game plan to change too much. Haskins is an unproven back at the NFL level, so his success in filling Henry’s shoes will be a huge storyline to watch on Thursday night. Without Tannehill, the Titans will turn to Josh Dobbs, not rookie Malik Willis, to run the show. The rookie made three starts and never passed for 100 yards in a game. So now Dobbs, who has not seen regular-season game action since 2020 as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will try and jumpstart the offense. Robert Woods leads all receivers with just 448 yards this season on 44 grabs. He has 44 of the 111 catches made by the nine wide receivers who have played snaps this season. Malik Willis is more mobile than Joshua Dobbs but has really struggled passing the ball downfield this season. With Dobbs under center instead, expect a more traditional, running back-focused ground approach from the Titans. Against a Cowboys defense that ranks just 22nd against the run, it could be a big day for the Tennessee ground game, even without Henry in the lineup.

Key Cowboys to watch:

CB Mackensie Alexander – Without injured corners Anthony Brown and Jourdan Lewis, the Cowboys have struggled. Alexander made his Cowboys debut last week against the Eagles, getting in on 19 defensive snaps. He finished with just one tackle after taking over late in the game for Nahshon Wright. His play should earn him more snaps Thursday night, as the Cowboys continue to look for help in a depleted secondary.

C Tyler Biadasz – The Cowboys center has quietly put together his best season for the team. He has played 1,004 of a possible 1,012 snaps this season, given up no sacks, and only committed four penalties. Biadasz has been an anchor for the Cowboys’ left side of the line, playing with first-time starters Connor McGovern at left guard and Tyler Smith at left tackle.

S Jayron Kearse – The Cowboys starting safety is the leader of the defense. Kearse calls the plays and alignments for defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. He has racked up 67 tackles, which is good for third on the team. He has two sacks, two fumble recoveries, and an interception. Despite missing three games early in the season, Kearse has come back to play 705 snaps this season.

K Brett Maher – The Cowboys kicking game was going in a different direction when the team opened training camp back in July. But, after inconsistent kickers sent the team searching and in stepped Maher for Week 1. Since then, he has put up the best season of his career. Maher has knocked through 47-of-49 extra points and 27-of-30 field goals – including 9-of-11 from beyond 50 yards, for 128 points with two games left to play in the regular season.

The bottom line: If the Cowboys want to have success in the playoffs, then they need to keep the train rolling, and that means showing no mercy to a Titans team that looks ready for the offseason. Dallas has struggled with injuries on the defense over the last several weeks, so finding players that can be counted on in the secondary will be a priority in a game against a Titans passing attack that has been nonexistent and is now being run by a quarterback who hasn’t played meaningful football since 2020. While it isn’t a must-win game, a loss in Tennessee would be a blow to this team’s confidence and the fans who follow them just one week from the postseason.

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *