The Bears (3-4) come into the game on Sunday vs the Cowboys (5-2) hoping to win back to back road games for the first time since 2020 while the Cowboys are trying to move up the standings in the competitive NFC East. Here is a position by position breakdown of the Cowboys:
Quarterback: Dak Prescott just made his return last week as the starter vs the Lions after injuring his thumb in the season opener against the Buccaneers. During his absence, Cooper Rush was the starting quarterback and guided the Cowboys to a record of 4-1 during his starts. The offense only averaged 20.2 points per game and Rush served mostly as a game manager on offense.
During the game vs the Lions, the Cowboys rushed the ball a season-high 32 times which could have been a way to ease Prescott back from his injury. The Bears should be prepared for the Cowboys open up the playbook now with Prescott back as the starting quarterback and making his third start of the season.
Running Back: The Cowboys have one of the best running backs combos in the league with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard. Elliott has gotten a slight majority of the snaps this season but is only averaging 63.3 rushing yards per game which is the 2nd lowest in his career.
Pollard so far this season has had career highs in rushing yards per game and is averaging 5.6 yards per rush. In the game on Sunday against the Lions, he had 83 yards rushing on 12 carries which lead the Cowboys. Pollard has had five of the six longest rushes this season for the Cowboys and has been the more explosive running back this year for the Cowboys.
Pollard will be a unrestricted free-agent after this season and will be a sought after player this offseason. The run game will be a focus for the Bears as they look to continue to their impressive run defense from Monday.
Offensive Line: Coming into the season, the offensive line was facing a lot of changes from last season. Tackle La’El Collins signed with the Cincinnati Bengals in the off season and guard Connor Williams signed with the Dolphins both players were starters for the Cowboys last season. Then, left tackle and possible future Hall of Famer Tyron Smith suffered an injury in the pre season and has still not returned back to the lineup.
However, the Cowboys replaced Smith place on the line with rookie Tyler Smith who was drafted to play guard but was moved out to left tackle and has only allowed 4 sacks this season and has been helpful for the Cowboys until the return of Tyron Smith which owner and general manager Jerry Jones expects later this season.
Currently, the Cowboys ranked eighth in ESPN run block rate in the league. The Bears have only faced one other team this season that is currently in the top 10 in run block rate and that was the Vikings who the Bears gave up 117 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Also, the Cowboys have allowed the fifth fewest sacks this season. The Bears need to be prepared for this offensive line to impose their will on them during the game on Sunday.
Wide Receivers: Like the offensive line, this group also changed from the previous season with Amari Cooper being traded to Cleveland and Cedrick Wilson leaving via free agency to sign with the Miami Dolphins. The duo had a combined 113 catches, 1,467 yards and 14 receiving touchdowns. In addition to the loss of Cooper and Wilson, projected starter Michael Gallup got hurt in the preseason missed the first three games of the season.
This group has struggled to make an impact which I think is due to the fact that Prescott missed some time and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore limiting the amount of passes for Rush. This year, was expected to be a breakout season for Cee Dee Lamb but he has not lived up to the hype. He currently ranks 16th in receptions and 14th in yards in the league and has yet to have a 100 yard receiving game. Lamb had only six targets vs the Lions which was a season low.
With Gallup missing time, the second leading receiver has been Noah Brown. Prior to this season, Brown had not started more than one game but this year given the opportunity he leads the team in yards per reception and is second on the team in receptions. If the Cowboys expect to be playing deep in January, someone is this group is going to need to emerge.
Tight Ends: Dalton Schultz was the starter going into this season looking to secure a long-term deal with the Cowboys however the two sides were unable to come to an agreement. Schultz agreed to a franchise tag and will be one of the free agents the Cowboys will have to make a decision about for next season.
He has missed two games this season with an injury to his knee but in the games he has played he has only had 129 receiving yards and needs to get to on-track to provide a receiving threat for this offense. His backup Peyton Hendershot has stepped in and has contributed 7 catches for 70 yards and one receiving touchdown.
The Bears have allowed the fifth fewest yards to tight ends this year and will need to be aware of Schultz as he is coming back from injury.
Defensive Line: The Cowboys have a league leading 29 sacks this season and the defensive lineman have 17 of those sacks. The defensive linemen that has caused the most havoc this season has been Dorance Armstrong Jr. Armstrong currently has six sacks which is tied for second in the league among defensive linemen. Prior to this season, Armstrong Jr. season-high in sacks was five. Opposing offensive linemen can’t just focus on Armstrong Jr, because at least six other defensive lineman have recorded sacks as well.
The Cowboys forced four fumbles in the game vs the Lions and the defensive line forced two of those fumbles. The defensive line has been great against the run as well only allowing one running back to have more than 100 yards rushing against them.
Justin Fields will be under constant distress on Sunday and the offensive line will have to deal with Armstrong and company on Sunday if they plan to win this game.
Linebackers: There is only one person to talk about in this group and that is linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons, who won the defensive rookie of the year last year is the heavy favorite to win the Defensive Player of the Year this season. Parsons is tied for second in sacks, fifth in quarterback sacks, third in forced fumbles and has the highest pass rush win rate this season according to ESPN. Parsons is a dynamic pass rusher and one of the best defensive playmakers in the league.
Last week, the Bears did not do a good job of dealing with the Patriots linebacker Matt Judon as he recorded 2.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. The Bears first priority on offense is to find Parsons and make sure they keep him away from Bears quarterback Justin Fields.
Secondary: The Cowboys are tied for the fourth most interceptions in the league this season with seven and have given up 185 yards per game which is also the fourth fewest in the league. The player that gets the most recognition for his cover skills in the secondary is Trevon Diggs. Diggs lead the league in interceptions last year with 11, but he also lead the league in yards allowed last year and penalties which is due to the his aggressive playstyle. This year, quarterbacks are completing 60% of their passes on him and is second in passes defended this season.
The secondary has only allowed one receiver to have more than 80 yards this season and have only 4 receptions over 40 yards this season. A team like the Bears that struggles to make passes will have difficulty making passes versus this secondary.
Kicker/Special Teams: Kicker Brett Maher has made made 15 out of 17 field goals this year and had a game-winner vs the Bengals in week 2. He is third in made field goals this season and is having a great year kicking. Punter Bryan Anger ranks 19th in punt yardage this season so it is possible the Bears could be given some decent field position in the game.
Kickoff and Punt Returner KaVontae Turpin ranks third in punt return yardage and fifth in kick return yardage this season. The Bears rank near the bottom of the league in return yards this season and will need to have their full attention to speedster like Turpin.
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