The Cowboys Report

Cowboys face Bucs with playoff berth in reach

Jason Garrett
Jason Garret and the Cowboys are close to clinching. Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys (8-6) lost to the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) on Sunday by the score of 23-0. It was their first loss in their last six games and it looked like they were never mentally in the game. It was probably due to the fact that even though they lost, they still have a 97.7% chance to win the NFC East according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

The Cowboys didn't have any motivation and their offense was weak. They struggled to move the ball and failed to make plays in key moments. A dropped pass, bad play calling, and turnovers were the pivotal factors that led to the loss.

Ezekiel Elliott was the lone offensive bright spot. He carried the ball 18 times for 87 yards and caught 7 passes for 41 yards. He was credited with a lost fumble on the Colt's 3 yard line but it was on a fourth and goal play where he was stopped short of the end zone and the Colts were taking over possession no matter what.

Quarterback Dak Prescott did not play well and only got the ball to superstar receiver Amari Cooper 4 times for 32 yards. He looked uncomfortable and was never allowed to settle in. He was 24 of 29 for 206 yards, NO touchdowns, and 1 interception. The Colts sacked him three times and didn't allow him to use his legs to scramble.

The Cowboys defense played hard and did their best to stay in the game but ultimately ran out of gas. They held Pro Bowl quarterback Andrew Luck to under 200 yards passing and didn't allow him to throw any touchdowns. The problem was they were torn up on the ground. Running back Marlon Mack carried the ball 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns.

Dallas is now only up one game on both the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and the Washington Redskins (7-7), but Dallas owns the tiebreaker over them and is essentially up two games with two left to play.

  1. Players to Watch
  1. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): Still the NFL's leading rusher and has a good chance of locking up the title this week as he will be going against Tampa Bay's 27th ranked rush defense. After the loss, I think the Cowboy offense will be looking to make a statement.
  2. Amari Cooper (Wide Receiver): Had a sub-par game last week but has a great matchup this week against the 27th ranked Buccaneer pass defense. The Cowboys should get him the ball early and often to come away with another win.
  3. Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Xavier Woods, and Jeff Heath (defensive secondary): These guys are going to have to play another great game because they will be facing the NFL's #1 passing offense which is led by star receiver Mike Evans. Evans has the ability to score any time he touches the ball and the Bucs like to throw it to him a lot anytime they are near the end zone.

The Dallas Cowboys (8-6) will be at home taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) on Sunday afternoon. Kickoff is set for 12:00 pm CST at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX (AKA: Jerry's World). Dallas should be driven to win and lock up the NFC East and the #4 playoff seed. The only way they don't win the division is if they lose both games and either Philadelphia or Washington wins both of their games.

If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:

Cowboys: Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR), Dak Prescott (QB)

Buccaneers: Mike Evans (WR)

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are -7.5 and the over/under is 47.5. I believe the Cowboys will be looking to finalize their playoff hopes this week and basically earn a bye week in Week 17 so Dallas would be the play but I would try and get the number at 7 or less.

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Will all the Texans playmakers be satisfied with their roles in the offense? Composite Getty Image.

ESPN Texans reporter DJ Bien-Aime joined The Mina Kimes Show this weekand shared his thoughts on the Texans outlook this season.

When looking at the Texans offense, Bien-Aime pointed to Houston's play calling as being a possible issue in 2024. Bobby Slowik did a terrific job in his first season as an offensive coordinator. But he will have his hands full keeping all his playmakers happy with Stefon Diggs joining the team, and Nico Collins expecting a ton of looks after signing a massive contract extension.

Which got us thinking, are there enough catches to go around?

We took a deep dive into the 2023 numbers and here's what we found. CJ Stroud averaged 21 completions per game. And here's a breakdown of how many catches his receivers averaged last year.

Nico Collins 5.3 catches per game

Stefon Diggs (with Buffalo) 6.29 catches per game

Dalton Schultz 3.93 catches per game

Tank Dell 4.27 catches per game

Texans running backs 3.05 catches per game

If we add those up, the total is 22.84. Which means the Texans top receivers should expect a similar amount of production compared to last season. Of course, players like Noah Brown, Robert Woods, and Brevin Jordan will take targets away from Stefon Diggs and company from time to time.

But it's good to know that the Texans top pass catchers should produce numbers close to their 2023 averages. Which is a big deal for a player in a contract year like Diggs.

Another thing to note. We're factoring in that the Texans are expected to run out of 11 personnel most of the time. Which means Diggs, Collins, Dell, Schultz, and Mixon will be the only pass catchers on the field the majority of the time.

Are there concerns about the defense?

Both Kimes and Bien-Aime designated Houston's secondary as the big x-factor this year. Bien-Aime named cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. as the only player in the secondary that he truly trusts. Is he right?

Be sure to watch the video above as we react to Kimes and Bien-Aime's outlook for the Texans this year, and share our thoughts on the possible pitfalls the team will have to navigate in the short and long-term.

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