A trap game. Surely you’ve heard the phrase before.
The 3-2 Dallas Cowboys, who are expected to contend for the NFC East crown and much more, are going on the road for a Week 6 matchup against the 0-4 New York Jets. The Jet are looking for progress in a season that has been anything but a stepping stone up to this point.
All signs point to Dallas handling their business – as they have all season against teams with losing records – but in the realm of sports, it’s dangerous to look past an opponent and assume victory.
Under normal circumstances one might buy the trap game theory, however the Cowboys could draw on extra motivation while looking to avenge a loss.
Two consecutive defeats, in fact, might have already changed the narrative for this one, as back-to-back losses to New Orleans and Green Bay have marred the Cowboys’ early season success. But there is another defeat that might have lingered for Cowboys’ players with longer memories.
The history that Dallas will be looking to upend is a loss to the Jets in their most recent matchup. Now offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was then a debuting QB who took most of the snaps in the last game these two teams played. Moore threw one touchdown and three interceptions in a three-point defeat during a very forgettable 2015 season.
That isn’t to say that Dallas will need much more motivation. Righting the 2019 ship will be more of a priority than avenging their old QB turned new OC.
This may not be a must win for Dallas this early in the season but it’s important for the Cowboys to win this game against a lesser opponent before heading into a critical first matchup with Philadelphia in Week 7 for what will likely be a battle for early NFC East supremacy.
The Eagles and Cowboys are currently tied but if the playoffs started today, Dallas would get the nod with the better division record. Dallas would like to keep it that way. But before they can gear up for Eagles week, they have to deal with the Jets in Week 6.
To do so, Dak Prescott needs to shake off the couple of poor performances, as you might expect. Here are a few more keys to keep in mind as Dallas looks to avoid the trap in New York:
Make no mistake, the Dallas offense has struggled the last two weeks. It’s not that they haven’t been able to move the ball -- they have. Dallas averaged 410 yards in their two recent losses.
No, the Cowboys' Achilles heel has been finishing drives. Through the first three games, Dallas had scored the second most touchdowns of any team in the league with 13. These last two weeks, Dallas has scored four touchdowns total, which is tied for the 3rd worst in that span.
The Jets, it should be noted, have scored just once over the last two weeks. Seeing the fruits of their labor in terms of touchdowns needs to be a point of emphasis for Dallas against what many would call inferior opposition. The Cowboys have been able to put away such teams this season by hitting pay dirt and will need to do it again.
Get Ezekiel Going
The Cowboys’ two losses have come at an extra cost with an injury toll currently being paid. With that in mind, the team needs to see franchise cornerstone Ezekiel Elliott carry more of the load this week.
The Cowboys are dealing with injuries to both starting tackles along the offensive line. While the team is “optimistic” that both can play, they don’t need to subject Prescott to any situation where he could get punished in the pocket if Tyron Smith and La’el Collins miss this one.
Allowing Elliott to do what he was just recently paid to do – run the football and wear down opponents – is exactly what the doctor ordered. Rookie Tony Pollard can be the change up runner that really breaks the back of the Jets’ defense if Dallas is able to get Zeke going.
The Jets were most recently getting pummeled by the Eagles in Week 5 but Philadelphia didn’t exactly run all over New York in that 31-6 contest. That said, they showed Dallas the blueprint for how to get the job done. And to be fair, they don’t have a back the caliber of Elliott. Dallas should plan to run the ball, just as they have designed their offense to do.
Release The Hounds
The defense came into the season as the team’s best overall unit and they will need to set the tone on Sunday. The best way the Dallas defense can do that is by getting after the quarterback. Second year QB Sam Darnold will be back for the first time since Week 1 and the duo of Robert Quinn and DeMarcus Lawrence should aim to welcome him back with a sack party.
The Jets’ quarterbacks have been sacked 23 times through four games. Yes, most happened with Luke Falk under center while Darnold was out with a case of mononucleosis, but there will be opportunities for the Hot Boyz to get home and alter the game.
Putting pressure on Darnold and letting this defense get some confidence before next week’s test against the Eagles would go a long way toward setting things right in the standings. A takeaway or two would be more than welcome, as well.
The Cowboys have taken care of the teams they should beat and the expectation is that this week will be no different. I foresee Dallas covering the spread with a 34-13 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
Do you think the Cowboys will be able to end their slide and pick up a fourth win of the season? Share your predictions for Sunday’s contest against the Jets with Patrick on Twitter @DraftCowboys.
More Cowboys coverage from WFAA:
- Dallas Cowboys’ Travis Frederick not taking New York Jets lightly
- 25 facts about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' birthday
- Lack of takeaways on defense coming back to haunt Cowboys
- Solution for struggling Cowboys: back to the basics
- Dallas Cowboys C Travis Frederick raises $250,000 for local food banks