Despite the loss of superstar quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys remain a factor atop the NFC East. Sunday (6:00pm UK) in Dallas, they look to solidify their position, while also pushing the rival Washington Commanders’ season closer to the brink.
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Washington Commanders team news
After an impressive comeback win in Week 1 over the Jacksonville Jaguars (which looks much more impressive now than it did at the time), in which Carson Wentz threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns, the Commanders’ offense has steadily deteriorated.
Sure, Wentz threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2 against the Lions, but that was after a scoreless first half, and with the Commanders trying to battle back from deficits of 22-0 at halftime and 29-15 after three quarters. The greatest evidence of the offensive deterioration can be found in the running game, where, in Week 2, Wentz’s two scrambles for 23 yards were not only good enough to qualify him as the team’s second-leading rusher, but put him within five yards of Antonio Gibson’s top spot.
Week 3 is where the deterioration in attack was plain for all to see, as the team’s first eleven possessions yielded: eight punts, one fumble, and two turnovers on downs. OOF.
Not only did Wentz struggle, completing just 25 of 43 pass attempts for 211 yards (under five yards per attempt) and enduring a staggering nine sacks, the running game once again offered nothing. Wentz’s three runs for 22 yards were again good for second-best on the team, again behind Antonio Gibson, who this time managed just 38 yards on 12 carries.
For all the theoretical capabilities this Washington offense possesses, the personnel to maximize it, whether from a play-calling perspective, under center or on the offensive line, simply does not seem to be in place.
Washington’s story on defense isn’t dramatically better. After a strong performance against the Jaguars in Week 1, the Commanders were well and truly roughed up in Detroit, as Jared Goff threw for 256 yards (on over seven yards per attempt), four touchdowns and 121.7 passer rating, while and three different Lions rushed for at least 53 yards, en route to the 36-27 win. The situation only got worse last week, as Jalen Hurts lit up the ‘Ders’ D, to the tune of 340 yards on 35 pass attempts, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It speaks to the impotence of Washington’s offence that Philly needed basically no success on the ground (the Eagles had 82 yards on 31 attempts) to secure an easy 24-8 win.
Dallas Cowboys team news
The Cowboys’ offense, meanwhile, is enjoying the exact opposite trajectory. This, of course, is shocking given the fact that franchise quarterback Dak Prescott was lost in the season opener against Tampa Bay. Even more shocking is the fact that it was with Prescott on the field that the offense looked completely hapless. It’s not the ‘Boys have suddenly morphed into a juggernaut with Cooper Rush leading the way, Rather, in each of their last two outings with the second string man starting under center, both he and the team have put together exceedingly competent performances, worthy of the wins that they’ve yielded.
In Week 2, Rush completed 19 of 31 pass attempts, for 235 yards for a touchdown, with no interceptions and was sacked just once, as the Cowboys leaned on their ground games (Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard combined for 96 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries) and the defense to edge past the defending AFC champion Bengals 20-17 in overtime.
It was more of the same last week in New Jersey against the then-unbeaten Giants, as Rush completed 21 of 31, for 215 yards, a touchdown and, again, no interceptions. This time, Pollard (13, carries 105 yards) and Elliot (15 carries, 73 yards and a TD) were outstanding. Combined with another strong defensive showing that shackled Giants QB Daniel Jones and limited Saquan Barkley to a good (14 rushes for 81 yards and a TD, plus four catches for 45 yards) but not great game.
It’s here where we should probably talk about the Cowboys defense. First and foremost, the story has to be Micah Parsons. I can’t remember a young defensive star bursting into the league, drawing comparisons to Lawrence Taylor and having thing play out well. Now, I’m not saying that this guy is the greatest-ever-defensive-player in waiting, but that kind of talk feels real here in a way that it simply doesn’t with others.
Through three games, Parsons has nine solo tackles, five of them for loss, nine QB hits and four sacks. Impressive as that stat line is, it hilariously undersells Parsons’ dominance. This is a destroyer of opposing offenses the likes of which we’ve rarely ever seen.
It’s worth nothing, though, that Parson has been far from alone. The past rushing duo of DeMarcus Lawrence and Dorance Armstrong Jr. have combined for six sacks, seven QB hits, seven tackles for loss and 15 solo tackles, while, in the secondary, safety Donovan Wilson and corners Anthony Brown, Jourdan Lewis and, of course, All-Pro Trevon Diggs have combined for 56 solo tackles (Wilson has 19!), 10 passes defended and a pair of interceptions. This defense surprised us last season as it establishing itself was one of the best in the NFL. At this point, not only should we no longer be surprised, but the opposing offenses should be actively frightened about what awaits them with this new-look ‘Doomsday Defense’.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys (-3), with the Washington Commanders scoring under 19 points.
Given the general unpredictability and ‘zag when everyone expects us to zig’ nature of NFL results in general, to say nothing of the funky results the first three weeks of this season have thrown up, we should probably hold our noses take Washington as a three-point underdog. You’re free to do this if you’d like. However…
Based on the performances I’ve seen and the information in front of me, not only cannot not get anywhere in the vicinity of such a decision, for me (I look forward to having egg on my face come Monday), Dallas at home as a field goal favorite, with the Commanders to scoring fewer than 19 points feels… easy??