Foxboro, MA (CBSDFW)- The Dallas Cowboys are currently clinging to a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East division race. In a year in which it looks like only one team from the division will make the playoffs, that is enough to make any fan nervous. Compound that with the fact that the team now has to head on the road to Foxborough to take on the New England Patriots, and the anxiety is high.
The Cowboys (6-4) enter the matchup after beating the Detroit Lions 35-27, a game in which quarterback Dak Prescott threw for over 400 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll be hard pressed to match that performance this week. The Patriots defense ranks first in the league in passing efficiency, first in total yards allowed per game (249), and first in yards per play (4.3).
In last week’s win against the Philadelphia Eagles (for which Dallas fans were surely grateful), New England allowed just one touchdown and 255 total yards. They sacked Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz five times and held the Philly running game to just 81 yards on 21 carries. The run defense had looked like a weakness against the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, but the Patriots had answers last week.
That said, Prescott does present more of a dual-threat option than Wentz, and running back Ezekiel Elliott is better than any of the Eagles backs. So, in theory, Dallas should be able to take some pages out of the Baltimore game plan this week. Well, CBS Denver sports anchor Michael Spencer doesn’t see it that way.
“This, to me, seems like a classic trap game for the Cowboys. They always seem to play well and then all of the sudden they get the prime-time game, and then they blow it,” said Spencer. “They have a big matchup, and they can’t live up to the hype.”
To Spencer’s point, the Cowboys are just 2-3 in national window games this year (3:25 or 7:20 p.m. starts) with the two wins coming against the Giants and Eagles, divisional rivals. But, this Patriots team does have flaws of its own, particularly on offense. New England mustered just 17 points against an Eagles defense that Dallas thrashed for 37 earlier this season. And three of those points came thanks to a short field after a Philly turnover.
The Dallas defense has had its struggles against opponents’ passing games — look no further than Jeff Driskel’s 209-yard two-TD performance last week — but the Patriots weapons in the passing game are dealing with injuries. Mohamed Sanu, acquired before the trade deadline from the Atlanta Falcons, is dealing with an ankle injury and could miss this game. Phillip Dorsett, who left last week’s game against the Eagles with a concussion, could return, but his status is uncertain. That would leave Tom Brady a receiving corps of Julian Edelman, rookie N’Keal Harry and undrafted rookie free agent Jakobi Meyers.
Still, despite the banged-up Patriots offense, Spencer says the Cowboys have failed in this type of situation too many times to rely on them this week.
“I have to go with the Patriots in that one, because too many times the Cowboys have let their fans down in big games that would’ve been nice for them to win on the national stage. And I have a hard time going against the Patriots at this point.”
The Cowboys and Patriots kick off from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts on Sunday at 3:25 p.m. Central Time.