Detroit, MI (CBSDFW) — The Dallas Cowboys lost last week to the Minnesota Vikings and dropped into a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East lead. This week’s NFC North opponent, the Detroit Lions, offers nowhere near the challenge that last week’s did. And the Cowboys tend to dominate inferior opponents.
Detroit is suffering through another disappointing season that promises to get worse. “The Lions,” as CBS digital anchor Katie Johnston notes, “dropped out of the playoff picture, losing five of their last six. Right now, Matthew Stafford is a big question mark for this team. He has a back injury and wasn’t practicing earlier in the week. Obviously that’s not the only hole in this offense, with the extended absence of Kerryon Johnson at running back.”
Even when Johnson was healthy, Stafford was the focal point of this offense. The Lions quarterback has enjoyed a strong season so far, throwing for 312.4 yards per game and 19 touchdowns, both second best in the NFL. But broken bones in his back sidelined him last week against the Chicago Bears for the first time since 2010.
Jeff Driskel was serviceable in relief, going an inefficient 27-46 for 269 yards, but he can’t carry an offense that lacks a running game. The Lions haven’t seen a 100-yard game — or even a 50-yard game — from a running back since late September, when Kerryon Johnson ran for 125 yards against a horrendous Chiefs defense. To expect Driskel or J.D. McKissic or Ty Johnson or Paul Perkins to step up against the Cowboys seems unrealistic.
The Dallas defense allows just 323.2 yards and 18.9 points per game, both top 10. In consecutive weeks, they’ve held Dalvin Cook to under four yards per carry and Saquon Barkley to just two yards per carry. In Johnston’s view, “I don’t think that Detroit’s offense can outplay the Dallas defense here. Dallas takes this one.”
Crossing the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys offense piles up an astounding 437.4 yards per game, best in the NFL. Dak Prescott has emerged as one of the League’s best passers, putting up stats comparable to Stafford and Patrick Mahomes. Amari Cooper deserves some of the credit. Ezekiel Elliott is once again among the League’s top rushers.
The Lions’ defense, on the other hand, can’t stop anyone, on the ground or through the air.
On paper, this lines up as an easy win for the Cowboys, particularly if Stafford sits. If he plays, a case can be made for Lions to steal one; they do tend keep their losses close. And with the Eagles due to face the New England Patriots, order should be restored to the NFC East come the end of the weekend.
The Cowboys play the Lions Sunday @ 12 p.m. CT.