Chargers at Cowboys: Who has the edge?
November 22, 2017 | Administrator
CHARGERS (4-6) at COWBOYS (5-5)
When: Thursday, 1:30 p.m. PT
Where: AT&T Stadium
Line: Chargers by 2
TV/Radio: Ch. 2; 640-AM, 980-AM (Spanish)
CHARGERS OFFENSE vs. COWBOYS DEFENSE
The Chargers scored 54 points last Sunday, their highest-point total since Philip Rivers became their quarterback. But the offense only accounted for four of the team’s six touchdowns, and got an average starting field position six yards shy of midfield. Given how much the Chargers have struggled to find an offensive rhythm, it’s still to early to declare whether or not their blowout of the Bills was the start of a turnaround, or a blip in a season-long trend.
The Cowboys rank top 10 in the league with 28 sacks — but bottom 10 with a 96.3 passer rating allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The absence of Sean Lee, ruled out again this week with a hamstring injury, could help the Chargers stay locked in. Dallas has allowed an average of 379 yards in three games without its Pro Bowl linebacker, compared to just over 311 when he plays. EDGE: EVEN
CHARGERS DEFENSE vs. COWBOYS OFFENSE
The Cowboys have given up 12 sacks in the last two games — although left tackle Tyron Smith could return from a groin injury this week, the All-Pro offensive lineman may not be at 100 percent. Either way, Dallas will have to contend with a defense that looks like one of the best in the league. The Chargers’ pass rush has looked great all season, and now they’re getting even more help from the secondary. Cornerback Casey Hayward is in Pro Bowl form, and he and safety Tre Boston have combined for seven of the team’s 12 interceptions.
Dak Prescott won’t likely repeat his three-pick performance against the Eagles this past Sunday, but the Cowboys quarterback hasn’t been as effective without Ezekiel Elliott, the star tailback who is serving a six-game suspension for domestic violence allegations. EDGE: CHARGERS
While complimenting the Chargers this week, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett noted their “playmakers in the kicking game.” It’s unclear just exactly who he was referring to. The Chargers switched kickers in early October, but still rank dead last in the NFL with a 64.7 percent success rate on field goals. Punter Drew Kaser has been good, but not exactly Pro Bowl-caliber. Travis Benjamin can be dynamic on punt returns — but he also gave up a comical safety in Week 8.
Dallas could be close to welcoming back Dan Bailey, the most accurate kicker in league history. Due to a groin injury, the former Pro Bowler has not appeared in a game since Oct. 22. Receiver Ryan Switzer also ranks third in the NFL with 26.2 yards per kick return. EDGE: COWBOYS
Anthony Lynn spent two seasons coaching running backs in Dallas, leaving after Bill Parcells’ retirement in January 2007. That same month, the Cowboys hired Garrett as their offensive coordinator. Lynn has switched teams three more times since then, but Garrett has stayed in North Texas. He’s been moderately successful as head coach, winning 53 games in six full seasons but only making the playoffs twice. Lynn waited much longer to get his first shot in the big chair, but his 4-6 start is comparable to how Garrett began each of his first three campaigns. EDGE: EVEN
Both teams are currently lurking outside the playoff picture, but the Cowboys are in worse position despite their superior record. Eight NFC teams have winning records, as opposed to just five in the AFC — which means that even just falling below .500 could doom Dallas’ postseason chances. The Chargers are fighting an uphill battle too, but their opponent could be playing with more desperation in front of a raucous home crowd. EDGE: COWBOYS
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence vs. Chargers right tackle Joe Barksdale/Michael Schofield: Lawrence is tied for the NFL lead with 11.5 sacks, holding pole position despite just one takedown in his last three games. Will he break through again on Thanksgiving? The Chargers have only allowed two sacks in their last three outings — giving up none against the Jaguars, who lead the league with 40. They’ve done this without Barksdale, who has missed four straight games with a foot injury. The starting right tackle could return this Thursday; if not, Schofield has held his own at the position too.
The Chargers might have been heavy underdogs had they visited Dallas six weeks ago. But Lynn has his team playing its best football of the season, and they happen to be catching the Cowboys while they’re still undermanned. If Rivers and company leave Jerry World with a victory, it’ll be worth taking them seriously as a playoff contender. CHARGERS 21, COWBOYS 20