In a fair and just world, we would be 2-0 and getting ready to face an 0-2 Cowboys team in full desperation mode, but that's not the world we live in.
Instead two 1-1 teams will be squaring off on Monday, and I would say that we need this win a lot more than the Cowboys. Our schedule suddenly looks a lot tougher with the Panthers and the Raiders playing really well, so if we don't win this next game, we could be out of the playoff race and wondering who we will draft by the time we get to the Lions.
Against the 49ers, we attacked a weak group of corners with deep balls that worked exceptionally well on one play and then didn't work the rest of the game. Hurts blew one opportunity, Reagor blew two chances (this may not be entirely true, but I thought he ran a poor route on one of his deep targets, and obviously went out of bounds on the TD that was called back), Landon Dickerson ruined one play by getting blown up, and we had another max protect play that was wrecked by poor offensive line protection.
This was obviously gut wrenching. Smith was open deep on two occasions where he just needed a shot to make a catch and we couldn't get the ball to him. I am hoping that Quez Watkins gets more reps on the outside, as Reagor is strictly a slot in my eyes. I re-watched the game film, and to me he isn't doing enough to earn starting reps over Watkins. More importantly, if we don't get the deep passing game on track, this team is going to struggle. The plays are there to be made, we just have to make them. And I trust Watkins more right now than Reagor.
Like the 49ers, the Cowboys are coming into the game with injury concerns. Their defensive line is a mess, with Lawrence and Armstrong out. Their starting defensive ends are likely to be Micah Parsons and Randy Gregory, who are both undersized, so we should be able to run the ball. But it will also mean that they will be more difficult to run screens and short passes against, due to their quickness and ability to chase down runners from behind.
A healthy dose of read option runs should be at the front of the playbook. These plays worked well against the 49ers, and the Dallas defense is a clear step below them. If we can hit on deep pass plays to keep their safeties deep, we should be able to move the ball quite easily.
On defense, things aren't looking so rosy for us. Dak is obviously legit and they have a running game that can pile up yards. Amari Cooper being banged up is a huge help, especially for those of us who have CeeDee Lamb on our fantasy teams, but the Cowboys ran all over the Chargers, and we struggled against the run last week. So things aren't looking great.
It seems like both teams will be trying to do the same thing - run effectively on early downs to keep out of third and long situations, hit on deep passes to keep the safeties deep and hope they can outscore the opposition.
Can we win? I think we have to win. This is probably the easiest game we have for the next month. If we can shut down their run game and force Dak to beat us, I think we have a chance. Our offense should be able to move the ball on their defense. But this is also the kind of game where we don't want to be way behind, as that will allow their defensive ends to focus on getting to the qb. The Cowboys beat the Chargers because Herbert made more mistakes than Dak. If Hurts does the same, we are in trouble.
My brave move for the game would be to play Edwards over Wilson. The Cowboys tight ends are average, and Edwards is far better against the run. Hopefully Rodney McLeod will be ready to play, as our safety play hasn't been great so far. This defense should be in full attack mode for this game, especially if Cooper is out or limited. Against the 49ers we seemed to be reacting to what they did instead of attacking, and I am hoping to see a more aggressive strategy this week. Letting them get seven yards run and Dak complete easy throws seems like a recipe for failure. I would take the risk of giving up a big play if it meant putting them in third and long situations.
It will be interesting to see how aggressive we are on Sunday on both sides of the ball. In poker, scared money doesn't make money, and I think we played too scared on defense against the 49ers. I am hoping that changes this week.