Editor’s note: As we head into Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Dallas Cowboys, we welcome David Halprin of Blogging the Boys— our sister SBNation site covering the Dallas Cowboys— for Five Questions with the Enemy.
1) NFL.com’s Greg Rosenthal has Dak Prescott as his No. 1 quarterback. Is Dak worthy of that title based on what we’ve seen so far this season?
Ranking quarterbacks is a pretty subjective endeavor, so while I won’t go as far as definitively saying Prescott is the #1 QB this season; I will say you can certainly build a case that he is worthy of that title. But getting beyond rankings is just the fact that Prescott is playing at an elite level. He’s only had one clunker game in 2021 (against Denver) and outside of that he looks so poised and in command of the offense and what they want to get done. Because Dallas also relies on the running game to some extent, and utilizes Ezekiel Elliott at the goal line, some of Prescott’s stats may not overwhelm even though he is pretty high in some volume stats. He also does well in advanced stats. But where he really stands out is at the line of scrimmage. Prescott has gotten to the point where he sees everything in a defense and gets the Cowboys in the right play. He also is so poised and will kill blitzes if they don’t get home. You could see this coming at the start of 2020 before he was injured, and part of his ascendance is offensive coordinator Kellen Moore opening up the offense and giving Prescott a lot of control on the field. Obviously it helps to have the offensive line he has, and the weapons at receiver, but credit Prescott for not wasting that talent and for maximizing the potential of the Cowboys offense. I don’t know about rankings, but Prescott is playing as well as any QB in the league right now.
2) Who will be the guys that get pressure on Patrick Mahomes?
Well, that is certainly an issue for Dallas. Among the current defensive linemen that will play in the game, Dorance Armstrong is the best bet to be disruptive in the backfield, but that’s not saying much. He’s been a reserve his whole time with Dallas and has never truly broke through, but he did have a very nice game last week. Rookie defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa is also a guy who can disrupt a play, but he’s not really a classic “sack” guy. With DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory out, the Cowboys will have to cobble something together that relies on stunts, disguised blitzes, and that talents of linebacker Micah Parsons. He’s the real threat. There have been games where they basically lined him up as a defensive end, but for the most part they rotate him between playing a standard off-ball linebacker and a pass rusher. My guess is that this week, he will be used more as a pass rusher/spy on Patrick Mahomes to try and keep him from making those incredibly gifted plays that he sometimes makes. Parsons has rare athletic ability and good pass rush moves, so he would be the guy to most worry about for the Chiefs.
3) How do you stop Cooper, Gallup and Lamb?
(Editor’s note: Cooper was ruled out after Dave answered the question for us.)
The old saying goes: You don’t really stop them, you can only hope to contain them. I mean I truly can’t spell out a scenario where you stop them. If you sit back in the secondary they will catch it underneath and get YAC. If you pressure them at the line you better have quality corners or you are going to get beat over the top. If you blitz to get pressure on Dak, you will pay the price if you don’t get home. So if your front four can generate pressure without needing to have a blitz, and you got corners who are sticky, you can slow down the passing game. Or you can hope that Prescott has a really bad game like he did against Denver. In general, I would tend to be conservative and make the Cowboys work down the field instead of being aggressive and possibly giving up chunk plays. Make Dallas take a lot of plays to score and hope they hurt themselves along the way because the Cowboys will pick up penalties. Dallas can on occasion shoot themselves in the foot. Give them plenty of opportunity to do that by making them work long drives.
4) Which Chiefs player are you most worried about taking off on Sunday?
I’m guessing this is outside of Patrick Mahomes because if he goes off it will be trouble for Dallas. I think the obvious choices are either Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce. They look like the most dangerous threats and they have a long history of being elite. The Cowboys have to be able to control those guys to some extent. Hill and Kelce will get theirs, but you just hope they don’t explode. A sneaky pick is Clyde Edwards-Helaire if he plays. The Cowboys defense doesn’t hold up that well against the run, and teams having to play catch up with the pass is the only reason it hasn’t been exploited more against Dallas. They are vulnerable in that area and the Chiefs could really make them pay especially if Edwards-Helaire plays. Of course, after what Darrel Williams did last week, he might be the guy to be worried about although much of that was through the air.
5) How does one play out? Score prediction?
I’m going to with the obvious and say this is going to be a shootout. The Chiefs offense looked like it found itself last week, and unless Mahomes turns the ball over, they are likely to put up points on the Cowboys defense. The Cowboys defense is much better than it has been in past years, but they can still be beaten, especially if they are not creating turnovers. On the other side, I think the Cowboys will put up points too. Outside of the Denver game, the Cowboys offense has been a machine. So it will be a back-and-forth affair with lots of big plays on offense, but I’ll take the Cowboys to win, 34-31.