I spoke with Blogging the Boys’ Connor Livesay to find out.
With the NFL trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the Von-less 4-4 Broncos head to Dallas to face off against the 6-1 Cowboys. I’m not going to sugar coat things, this game looks like it could turn ugly. The Fangio defense will enter the game with a skeleton crew at linebacker and edge, and they won’t have Bryce Callahan to help lock down the slot. Things are so bleak on the defensive side of the ball that an ailing Dak Prescott or Cooper Rush could still make a go of things because the Broncos lack the personnel to take advantage.
To get a better idea of what’s to come, I reached out to Blogging the Boys’ Connor Livesay.
Not just saying this because of tonight, but there aren’t three quarterbacks better than Dak Prescott active in the NFL rn.
It’s Mahomes, Dak, and Rodgers in a three-way race.
— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) September 10, 2021
1st and 10
There seems to be some uncertainty about Dak Prescott’s availability for this game, but we only just watched Dallas beat the Vikings with Cooper Rush. How does the gameplan change if Rush is starting vs. Prescott, if at all?
Livesay: I don’t think it’s crazy to say the Cowboys are the best team in the NFC heading into week nine. Heading into the week at 6-1) the Cowboys look like one of the most complete teams in the league, which was expected on offense, but very unexpected on defense. While it’s tough to buy into, given my preseason expectations, they’ve played some pretty good offenses to start the season, and done well in almost all of those games. If Dak and the big three on defense (Randy Gregory, Micah Parsons, and Trevon Diggs) stay healthy they can play with anyone in the league right now.
I think this is a very realistic possibility and the PRP injection should decrease the risk of reinjury.
Smart decision to hold him out W8.
— Jesse Morse, MD (@DrJesseMorse) November 1, 2021
2nd and 12
The Von Miller trade hangs over everything in Denver right now, and it dramatically impacts this upcoming game. The Broncos run defense has been abysmal for most of the last three weeks, and while Fangio made some chicken salad out of feathers along the defensive front last week, but he did so against a Washington line minus 3 starters. How does the Dallas line look right now? Do you expect Kellen Moore to try and pound the ball on the ground?
Livesay: Dallas’ run blocking has been fantastic for most of the year. It was weird to see them somewhat struggle in that area against the Vikings who had been giving up some yards on the ground. With Tyron Smith likely to miss this game (50/50 right now), La’el Collins should find himself back at either RT with Terence Steele sliding over to LT, or getting his first ever start at LT. I think Collins is hungry and wants to prove himself to his teammates and his coaches, so I’d expect a really good game from the offensive line both in the run blocking and pass blocking department.
Kellen Moore is one of the league’s best coordinators right now in my opinion. He’s gonna kill defenses in any way he can. So if the pass is working they’ll throw it a ton, if the run’s working they’ll run it a ton. Right now the offense is humming, and if Dak does play, he’s going to be sure to get right play loaded up based on what he see’s pre-snap.
I have no idea how you can dig into the Cowboys and come away from it hoping for Dan Quinn instead of Kellen Moore as the Broncos next head coach.
— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) November 2, 2021
3rd and 3
Trevon Diggs and the Cowboys pass defense has been one of the bigger surprises of the 2021 season. What do you expect Dan Quinn to do with Diggs? Will he follow a receiver around the formation or does he tend to stick to a side? Of the Broncos receivers, who stands out as perhaps the scariest matchup for him?
Livesay: I’d expect Diggs to follow Sutton more than likely. They’ve done things different in each week to start the year. Sutton is a player Diggs matches up well with, more so than a guy like Juedy. It’s an interesting matchup because I do like Denver’s wideouts a lot, but I think Diggs matches up well with Sutton and the way he likes to play, and I do like the way Anthony Brown matches up with Jerry Juedy and the way he likes to play. Could be a big day for Tim Patrick, or if Juedy primarily plays in the slot against Jourdan Lewis, that could provide some mismatch issues with the Cowboys if they can give Bridgewater time.
I saw that Dallas is struggling vs. TEs by DVOA where they currently rank as the worst team in the league. Do you think that could mean a big day for Noah Fant and/or Albert Okwuegbunam?
Livesay: I think that’s an area they’ve improved in mightily over the last few weeks. Playing a lot of big nickel, putting S Jayron Kearse, Malik Hooker, and Damontae Kazee in those coverage situations over guys like Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, and Micah Parsons in the beginning of the year. Obviously if they do play a lot of that big nickel looks on Sunday, the Cowboys front six will need to be on their A game to stop Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon in the running game.
Good news for the Cowboys, CB Trevon Diggs left stadium with two shoes on and walking without a limp. He said he is fine. https://t.co/XSHjg6LPFw
— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) November 1, 2021
4th and inches
The Broncos have given up a ton of pressure this year and will head to Dallas without Garett Bolles in the lineup. What could Pat Shurmur can do to try and slow down the Cowboys pass rush?
Livesay: The Cowboys pass rush isn’t the scariest unit in the league, but Randy Gregory is playing out of his mind right now. If Bolles is out, Gregory is likely in for a big day. I could see Denver continuing their short-passing game to limit pressure and to attempt to stay ahead of the chains. Cowboys have gotten some good play recently out of their interior linemen in Osa Odighizuwa, Carlos Watkins, and Justin Hamilton, so if the Broncos do look to give the LT some help on Gregory it could open up things for those interior guys or Basham/Armstrong on the other side who have played well over the last two games.
This was a *chef’s kiss* call from Dan Quinn. 3rd down, so DAL shows Cover 0 pre-snap before rotating to a Tampa 2 post-snap, which forces Cousins to hold the ball and provides Randy Gregory the necessary time to wrap around the corner for the sack. #Cowboys pic.twitter.com/TXnSw3ouJa
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) November 2, 2021
What’s your prediction for the game? Cowboys win if…? Broncos win if…?
Livesay: Cowboys win 35-23 IF Dak Prescott plays. While the Broncos pass defense has been solid to start the season, any defense looking to defense CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Cedrick Wilson, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Dalton Schultz, and possibly the return of Michael Gallup is in for a long day. This will be a great test for the Cowboys receivers against some good cover corners, but I think with Chubb and Miller gone, Prescott will have the time he needs to make the plays. If the run defense is as bad as it’s looked for Denver, Elliott and Pollard will control the game as well. As we keep mentioning, the balance of this offense is as good as it gets, and it’s tough to see anyone giving them issues if their on their game.
Broncos win 27-21 IF Dak Prescott rests another week and Cooper Rush plays. Even after pulling out a win against a solid Vikings team, Cooper Rush wasn’t very good for a large part of that game against a banged up Vikings secondary. Could see things rolling downhill if Rush is forced to win the game for the Cowboys again, against a better secondary both at corner and safety. Still think Dallas has a good chance to win the game either way, but Rush did have two turnovers against the Vikings (could have had at least four), and playing a defense with a few more ballhawks in it, gives me some worry.