The Dallas Cowboys right now should be 0-3-0. Nobody told the Atlanta Falcons “hands team” that they could pounce on an onside kick before it went 10-yards. Despite the 1-2-0 record, Dallas is a team just waiting to bust out.
The Browns are coming off a 34-20 win over the Football Team in which their opponent had three interceptions and four fumbles, two of which they lost. Cleveland then connected on 21 points off those miscues.
Both of Cleveland’s wins came against teams that had the worst and second-worst records last season.
And now, Dallas. Their offense is a juggernaut with probably the league’s best wide receiver group featuring Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Cedrick Wilson and the rookie CeeDee Lamb. Ezekiel Elliott is a powerful stud running back while their offensive line is known for its protection abilities. K Greg Zuerlein has one of the NFL’s strongest legs.
So, what will it take to beat Dallas Sunday?
1. Dak versus Baker
There are many who believe that Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott is on another level above Cleveland signalcaller Baker Mayfield.
Currently, Prescott has a 98.5 rating while Mayfield’s is 91.5, so there isn’t much difference in total ranking. Both have thrown five touchdowns and only two interceptions; which mean they are protecting the ball plus their offensive lines are giving them good protection in passing situations.
The main difference between the two players is total yardage. Prescott has thrown a league-leading 1,188 yards compared to Mayfield’s 564 yards. Prescott has 143 pass attempts while only 85 passes for Mayfield.
That means the Cowboys live and die with the passing game. The Browns are built for the run-first mentality and feature Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt at the running back position.
Mayfield is going to have to become a very good game manager. In this contest, he won’t be able to throw the dink passes all game long. At some point, the Browns’ offense is going to have to unleash the power of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, Jr. who always has big games against Dallas including that one-handed grab that elevated his status as one of the best receivers in the league.
Cleveland will need to win this game by running the ball while Mayfield has to up his game against a very good opponent despite their losing record. OBJ is prime for a big game especially the deep ball.
Mayfield is getting enough protection so far. Start with some play-action, stick to the run and set up the long ball to OBJ. All it will take is one or two big plays. When OBJ was a member of the New York Football Giants, they played Dallas twice a season and Beckham historically had great games against the Star.
Right now, Dallas’ secondary is depleted.
The Cowboys are going to score points. All Mayfield has to do is keep up.
2. Big day for Myles Garrett
Nobody on the Browns’ defense is having a better season than DE Myles Garrett. Against Dallas, he will need his best game to date.
To stop the Cowboys’ offensive juggernaut, the Browns will need to keep constant pressure on Prescott. He does not do well when flushed from the pocket and will make poor decisions although he will gain positive rushing yardage.
The Browns’ secondary is not going to be able to stay with Dallas’ receivers all game. This situation will become the game’s storyline unless Garrett and the rest of the defensive line can make things uneasy for Prescott for most of the game.
Garrett is currently second in the league in QB pressures with 19. He doesn’t have to sack Prescott, just keep him uncomfortable which will force him to make awkward decisions and hopefully force a few mistakes.
3. Control the game with the run
Nobody has to tell you that the Cowboys can score points. They can.
Dallas is tied for fourth in total touchdowns with 11. Their offense leads the NFL is total passing yards (1,188), passing attempts (145), passing completions (96), first downs (54), pass completions of 20-yards or more (18), and pass completions of 40-yards or more (5).
Cleveland is tied for the third-best rushing attack in the NFL with 511 yards on 99 attempts.
Chubb and Hunt are the double-dragons for the Browns. The offensive this year, with the influx of new talent with tackles Jack Conklin and rookie Jedrick Wills, Jr., are opening good holes for the duo. RG Wyatt Teller is having his best season ever while the other guard, Joel Bitonio, is having a Pro Bowl caliber year to date. Center J.C. Tretter is always the steady power lineman.
To keep the Cowboys’ offense at bay, the Browns are going to have to control the game by running the damn ball often. This will burn clock and keep that potent Dallas attack off the field.
The Cowboys know how to play from behind and don’t get rattled when faced with a double-digit deficit. They have won - and almost won - in these situations.
Dallas ranks 23rd in run defense. In the latest Pro Football Focus rankings, they place Chubb number one in the elusive category while Hunt comes in at number three. This stat measures how a running back acts after drawing contact.
By killing the clock, the Browns will limit that potent Dallas offense opportunities to score.