In a matchup that some are referring to as the “Game of the Year,” the Dallas Cowboys (6-4, first in NFC East) head to Foxborough, Mass., to face the New England Patriots (9-1, first in AFC East). Dallas pulled out a 35-27 road win last week against the Lions, while New England escaped with a 17-10 win in Philadelphia against the Eagles.
Here is a preview for Sunday afternoon’s game, along with odds and a free pick.
By The Numbers
We’ll start with the Cowboys, who under QB Dak Prescott have the league’s top-ranked offense in terms of yards. Dallas leads the NFL with 444.6 total yards and 312.7 passing yards per game. The Cowboys are also fourth with 28.6 points per game and convert on a league-best 52.1 percent of third downs.
Dallas has also been one of the better teams on defense, ranking seventh with 19.7 points allowed and 322.1 total yards allowed. They’re also seventh in passing yards allowed but a modest 14th in rushing yards allowed.
The Patriots are scoring the third-most points per game at 28.7, but a lot of that comes from their defense. Offensively, New England is just 16th in yards with 359.9, which includes the ninth-fewest rushing yards per game. They’re also just 17th on third-down percentage, converting just 38.8 percent of the time.
Despite the pedestrian offensive numbers, the Pats have the league’s top defense by a considerable margin. They’re first in yards allowed with 249.9 and points allowed with 10.8, and also lead the league in takeaways by a wide margin with 28. New England is also second in passing yards allowed and have the league’s top third-down defense.
1. Dak vs. Pats secondary. Analyze this game any way you want, but this matchup will mainly boil down to the league’s top passer against the league’s top defense. Prescott is having a career year, throwing for a league-high 3,221 yards to go along with 21 touchdowns. He’ll face a secondary which is led by Devin McCourty and has been sensational against the passing game and able to force turnovers at a rapid rate. The game will very likely rest on the arm of Prescott.
2. Can Patriots offense get going? The gaudy numbers by the Patriots defense have taken a lot of pressure off of an offense that has really yet to find its stride. In addition to being one of the worst running teams in the NFL, Tom Brady is having a down year by his standards. The future Hall-of-Famer has thrown for 2,752 yards with just 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. Facing one of the league’s most underrated defenses, Brady and the Patriots will likely need more than the 17 points they mustered up last week in Philadelphia.
3. Will Zeke eat? With the passing game getting the attention for Dallas, running back Ezekiel Elliott has gone a little under the radar. The star back has put up just 45 and 47 rushing yards in his last two games, and another sub-par day from Elliott might result in the first time Dallas has had three straight games with under 100 total rushing yards since 2016. In the event Prescott is unable to throw the ball against New England’s stout defense, Elliott might need to play a more significant role if the Cowboys have hopes of winning.
For Dallas, lineman La’el Collins is the main one to watch. Dealing with both knee and back injuries, Collins hasn’t practiced this week, and he’s listed as questionable. Others like Zack Martin and Antwaun Woods have been limited, while Amari Cooper and Demarcus Lawrence have practiced in full and should be good to go.
The Patriots have tons of questionable players on the injury report, the most notable one being Brady, who is dealing with an elbow injury and was limited during Friday’s practice, but he should play on Sunday. His receiving corps may be short-handed, though, as Mohamed Sanu is out, and Julian Edelman and Phillip Dorsett are both questionable.
Odds and Pick
The Patriots are -6.0 at home, a considerable favorite over a good Dallas team. I believe this game will live up to the hype and will come down to the wire. But I think the Cowboys are the more-balanced team, and Prescott is the best passer New England has faced this season. Between him, Zeke, and Cooper, I think Dallas will put points on the board that the Patriots offense won’t quite be able to match. I’m taking the Cowboys +6.0 to win outright on the road against the Patriots.
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