Final thoughts on New England Patriots versus Dallas Cowboys
There’s plenty on the line today when the New England Patriots (9-1) return home to host the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) in a must-win game for both teams.
The New England Patriots are going to need every bit of available help they can get from their roster today if they want to hold off the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium. Phillip Dorsett is out with a concussion and Mohamed Sanu is out with an ankle sprain, leaving an already thin wide receiver depth chart even thinner this weekend.
It now appears that Julian Edelman – who is nursing a shoulder injury himself – is the only pass-catcher healthy enough to play for Tom Brady today that’s been in the lineup all season. Edelman will be joined by rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers in three-receiver sets; the only other possible receiving option for the Patriots is special teams ace Matthew Slater, who has just one career reception during the regular season.
New England will undoubtedly lean on Edelman in this game, as well as on their running backs – all of whom have become more active in the passing game this season out of sheer necessity. James White is the most experienced and adept at catching the ball out of the backfield; he could have a huge day today if the Patriots fall behind the Cowboys early. Rex Burkhead is also a dependable receiver, as is Brandon Bolden.
Sony Michel is primarily more of a straight-up-the-gut bruiser, but he has notably improved his skills catching passes this season, and could find himself more involved in this aspect of the offense this evening if needed. Michel has nine receptions on 15 targets this season for 74 yards, and is averaging 8.2 yards per catch.
Tight ends Matt LaCosse and Benjamin Watson also figure to receive more snaps today with all the injuries at wide receiver. Ryan Izzo is out against Dallas, although that seems more like a healthy scratch than anything else, given Brady’s familiarity with Watson and LaCosse’s abilities as a receiver probably being better than Izzo’s.
Defensively, the New England Patriots will be without their No. 2 cornerback today in Jason McCourty. Taking his place is second-year man J.C. Jackson, who should see a lot of Michael Gallup today with Stephon Gilmore expected to shadow Amari Cooper most of the game. Slot cornerback Jonathan Jones will probably match up against Randall Cobb, and New England’s safeties – Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon, and the returning Patrick Chung – will be tasked with keeping an eye on Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
Of course, New England’s primary defensive responsibilities today will be containing Dallas QB Dak Prescott and the always-dangerous Ezekiel Elliott in the Cowboys backfield. Prescott leads the league in passing yards this season, and Elliott is one of the top five running backs in the NFL today. The Patriots front seven will undoubtedly have their hands full slowing down both players at the line of scrimmage, and will trust their top-end secondary to shut down the lethal Dallas vertical passing game.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is undefeated in his career against the Dallas Cowboys. The last time these two teams met was in 2015, when Brandon Weeden started for the Cowboys in place of an injured Tony Romo.
The Pats will surely have a much more difficult agenda this time around given the Cowboys’ status as the No. 1 offense in the NFL this season. Thankfully, New England counterpunches with the No. 1 defense in the league this season.