The Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a tough situation entering Week 6. With a 2-3 record, the team desperately needs a win to get back to .500 and keep their playoff hopes alive. A loss and 2-4 record will nearly solidify another wasted season.
Winning won’t be an easy task this week, either. Dallas hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars who have proven over the last two years that they are one of the leagues toughest opponents. The Jags enter the matchup with a 3-2 record, coming off a loss to undefeated Kansas City.
There’s no question that Dallas’ offense has been the blame for it’s slow start. The Cowboys have failed to score more than 16 points in their three losses. It doesn’t matter how well your defense can play if the offense is incapable of scoring 20 points.
Twenty-six teams average at least 20 points every week. The Cowboys are not one of them.
Dallas currently ranks 30th overall in the NFL in points scored at 16.6 per game. Only the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills are behind the Cowboys. They both start rookie quarterbacks.
Things might get worse before they get better, too. The Jaguars have been relevant in recent years because of their stacked defense. They have players all across that side of the ball who play at an elite level.
Jacksonville’s defense is actually first in the league in terms of yards per game while they rank tied for third in points. They’re only surrendering 17.2 points per game and that number is much higher after giving up 30 to spectacular quarterback Patrick Mahomes a week ago.
Even though things may look bleak for Dallas on paper, there is still a way the offense can be efficient enough to pull out a victory this week. It just so happens that Dallas’ biggest strength is Jacksonville’s only weakness.
Despite leading the league in yards, the Jags are very mediocre when it comes to defending the run. On average, they’ve given up more than 100 rushing yards per game, which is only good enough for 14th in the league.
Last week, Kareem Hunt averaged four yards per carry and Kansas City as a team ran for 126 yards on 30 attempts. A few weeks earlier, Tennessee combined for 150 yards on the ground with the bulk of them split between Derrick Henry and quarterback Marcus Mariota. In Week 1, rookie Saquon Barkley rushed 18 times for 106 yards.
If Dallas wants a chance to win this game, it needs to run Ezekiel Elliott even more than it has been. For the year, Zeke has rushed for a league-leading 480 yards on 93 tries. The 5.2 yards per carry is the highest average in his career thus far for a season.
Even though he struggled against Houston on Sunday night, the coaching staff knows their most reliable option is handing #21 the ball. With Dak Prescott struggling and the receiving corps not providing much help, Elliott seems to be Dallas’ only viable option.
If Elliott can perform to his usual standards and the Cowboys can keep the ball for around half the game, the defense should be rested enough to fulfill their duties against Blake Bortles. Don’t expect a lot of points, but don’t count the Cowboys out if Zeke gets plenty of touches.