The Patriots’ robust stretch for the primary quarter (or so) of the season continues Sunday towards one of many league’s most gifted groups.
They journey to Dallas to tackle the Cowboys, who many would understandably argue have one of many league’s high few rosters within the league, even after dropping to the Cardinals final week.
Listed here are eight gamers to watch on that Cowboys roster for Sunday’s recreation.
After throwing a league-high 15 interceptions in simply 12 video games final season, Prescott vowed to maintain his turnovers down in 2023, aiming to throw fewer than 10 interceptions.
Thus far, Prescott is on tempo to carry onto that promise. He’s thrown only one interception via the primary three video games. It ought to be famous although that the Cowboys held a double-digit lead via a lot of the primary two video games, so Prescott hasn’t needed to essentially make many high-leverage passes.
That might change Sunday if the Patriots’ protection continues to get its approach. The Patriots’ protection has allowed simply 52 factors via the primary three video games, forcing stress on opposing quarterbacks to make large performs in an effort to win video games.
Prescott delivered the final time he went up towards the Patriots, throwing for 445 yards and three touchdowns, together with the game-winning rating in additional time. Nonetheless, Prescott additionally put his group in a spot the place they needed to come again late attributable to two crimson zone turnovers, throwing an interception to Kyle Dugger and fumbling whereas making an attempt to interrupt the airplane.
Crimson zone points have plagued Prescott and the Cowboys thus far this season. They’re tied for the fourth-worst crimson zone effectivity within the league thus far this season. Prescott’s lone choose this season got here within the crimson zone, throwing a key interception late in final week’s loss to the Cardinals.
If the Cowboys can’t ship within the crimson zone once more and Prescott reverts to his turnover-prone methods, the margin for error will get bigger for the Patriots.
There are a number of the reason why Ezekiel Elliott is now not with the Cowboys. Pollard’s emergence in 2022 may need been chief amongst them.
The twin-threat working again rushed for 1,0007 yards on 5.2 yards per carry and had 371 receiving yards final season, scoring 12 whole touchdowns. That helped him earn the franchise tag over the offseason, paving the way in which for Elliott’s launch.
Pollard has been one of many league’s high rushers thus far this season, rating fifth in speeding yards (264). He hasn’t been as environment friendly, however has posted a decent 4.3 yards per carry.
However the cause why Pollard’s effectivity is likely to be down could possibly be associated to Elliott’s launch and the Cowboys’ lack of ability to discover a alternative for him. Pollard’s accounted for 74 of the Cowboys’ 108 touches out of the backfield thus far this season (68.5 p.c).
So, Pollard is ready to get his yards. It’s only a matter of how environment friendly he’ll be. Nicely, the Patriots have solely allowed opposing working backs to go for 4.03 yards per carry thus far this season, and that’s together with Raheem Mostert’s 121-yard day in Week 2. Pollard actually has the expertise to duplicate that type of efficiency.
CeeDee Lamb and Brandin Cooks
For the fourth straight week, the Patriots are going up towards a large receiver with star expertise.
Lamb was sixth in receiving yards (1,359) and tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns (9) final season. He’s additionally torched the Patriots previously, recording 149 receiving yards and two touchdowns in that aforementioned matchup.
As Lamb’s manufacturing has been regular for a lot of the previous few seasons, the play of the receivers round him hasn’t. The Cowboys thought Michael Gallup might step up for Amari Cooper final season, however he didn’t, resulting in the commerce for Cooks over the offseason.
Thus far, Cooks has been a non-factor for the Cowboys. The previous Patriots receiver has solely caught 4 receptions on 11 targets for 39 yards in two video games, lacking the Week 2 win towards the Jets.
Whereas Cooks simply turned 30, he nonetheless has proven expertise in latest seasons. He had 1,037 receiving yards in 2021 and 699 receiving yards in 13 video games with the Texans final season, largely catching passes from Davis Mills.
Might this be the week Cooks will get off the schneid? Christian Gonzalez has emerged as one of many league’s high corners thus far this season, incomes Defensive Rookie of the Month honors for September. But when he’s overlaying Lamb for a lot of the sport, that might enable Cooks to have a good matchup towards a Patriots secondary that’s handled accidents via a lot of the early a part of the season.
You possibly can’t check out the Cowboys with out mentioning Parsons, the present favourite to win Defensive Participant of the 12 months.
The standout linebacker has continued his dominant methods to begin his third NFL season, recording 12 mixed tackles, 4 sacks, and a pressured fumble via three video games. He’s additionally recorded 17 pressures (fifth-most within the league) and 9 run stops, per Professional Soccer Focus.
Parsons strains up nearly in all places alongside the line of defense for the Cowboys, speeding from each edges and up the center gaps. That’s clearly going to be a problem for the Patriots offensive line, which nonetheless has questions at proper sort out and considerations at left guard with Cole Unusual dominated out for Sunday’s recreation. Trent Brown had a powerful displaying final week, however he doubtless received’t be sufficient by himself to decelerate Parsons.
The Cowboys’ sturdy cross rush doesn’t cease with Parsons.
Lawrence has been one of many league’s high cross rushers since 2017, recording 47.5 sacks since then as he’s complemented Parsons over the previous few years.
However what makes Lawrence one of many league’s most extremely regarded edge gamers is his potential to comprise the run. He recorded 65 mixed tackles final season and had 33 run stops, which was the second-most amongst all edge rushers, through PFF. He was additionally third in run stops in 2020 with 26, setting the sting for Dallas constantly.
The Patriots lastly obtained some momentum working the ball final week with Elliott speeding for 80 yards on 5 yards per carry. Rhamondre Stevenson, nevertheless, has struggled, speeding for simply 134 yards on 2.9 yards per carry thus far this season.
Now, the Cowboys allowed James Conner to hurry for 98 yards on seven yards per carry final week, so their run protection isn’t indestructible. Nevertheless it’ll actually be robust for Stevenson to flip the script on his season thus far going up towards Lawrence.
Stephon Gilmore and DaRon Bland
Trevon Diggs’s season-ending ACL damage forward of Week 3 means each Cowboys nook has to maneuver up a slot, if you’ll, basically making Gilmore CB1 and Bland CB2.
Each gamers actually have the expertise to adequately fill these roles. Patriots followers actually keep in mind Gilmore from his days in New England, during which he was one of many recreation’s greatest corners over the 4 seasons he performed with the group.
Gilmore may not be taking part in on the stage he was at when he received Defensive Participant of the 12 months in 2019, however he isn’t too far off. He was sturdy in cross overage final season with the Colts, recording two interceptions to earn one other Professional Bowl nod.
This will even mark the third time Gilmore’s gone up towards the Patriots since they traded him in October 2021, taking part in with a distinct group every time. He had an interception towards the Patriots when he performed for the Panthers in 2021. Final season, he was solely credited for permitting two catches for simply 11 yards when he performed the Patriots.
The 33-year-old has largely been good for the Cowboys thus far this season, solely recording a significant blemish in Week 2 when he gave up a 68-yard landing reception to Garrett Wilson. Together with that play, Gilmore has allowed 9 receptions on 17 targets for 167 yards this season, based on PFF’s monitoring information.
Bland, alternatively, had 5 interceptions final season as he largely performed slot nook. For the primary time in his profession, he recorded extra snaps at boundary nook than as a slot nook in final week’s recreation towards the Cardinals. He gave up two receptions on two targets for 26 yards, through PFF.
Mac Jones said an emphasis on finishing extra passes down the sphere when he spoke to reporters this week as he’s statistically been among the many worst in 20-plus yard throws thus far this yr. The unknown issue with Bland might assist the Patriots in that regard this weekend. However his potential to get the ball might damage them, too.
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