On Thursday, the Dallas Cowboys are back on home turf at AT&T Stadium to take on the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys are the first team in NFL history to win each of their first five home games by 20+ points and want to keep their home win streak alive. Dallas’ 13 straight home victories are the longest active streak in the NFL.
What are some key aspects and players in this Thursday night matchup that could be game-changers for both teams?
Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks Game Preview
The Cowboys are favored by nine points in this matchup, but this game kicks off a stretch of “measuring stick” games for them.
The Cowboys’ opponents for the last three weeks have been considered games the team should easily win against the Giants, Panthers, and Commanders. However, with the narrative changing from the Cowboys not beating lesser teams, the new question remains if they can beat teams that pose challenges.
This game will test Dallas’ Achilles heel of the run defense, which starts up front with Johnathan Hankins, Osa Odighizuwa, and Dorance Armstrong.
According to Next Gen Stats, Odighizuwa has the highest quarterback pressure rate in the NFL when being double-teamed, with 18.4%.
Interesting stat via @NextGenStats –
Highest QB pressure rates in the NFL when double-teamed:
1. Osa Odighizuwa- 18.4%
2. Micah Parsons – 15.8%
3. Ed Oliver – 14.4%
4. Danielle Hunter – 14.3%
Just another piece of Odighizuwa’s pass-rush ability in the interior.#DallasCowboys
— Nick Harris (@NickHarrisDC) November 29, 2023
If the Cowboys can win in the trenches, this game can put pressure on Smith early on.
All eyes will also be on the linebacker room with Damone Clark, Markquese Bell, and Micah Parsons to stop the run, minimizing big plays that could allow Seattle’s offense to get down the field.
As for the Seahawks, this could be the team’s final chance to keep a pulse for postseason contention, making this a must-win game for them.
Geno Smith and the offensive line are struggling. He’s been sacked 27 times so far this season. In this matchup, Smith must emphasize releasing the ball quickly to avoid Dallas’ pass rush.
If the Seahawks want to succeed in this game, Smith must make explosive plays, whether in the run game or taking deep shots down the field. Seattle’s wide receivers — DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba — can all pose threats to the Cowboys’ secondary if allowed.
However, Smith will need to pick and choose when to throw deep down the field, as DaRon Bland will pose a threat cutting routes and ball-hawking for interceptions and pick-sixes.
Cowboys-Seahawks Stats From Inside Edge
- The Seahawks have gone three-and-out on 33.3% of their drives since Week 9 — second worst in the NFL.
- The Cowboys have forced three-and-outs on 27.9% of opponent drives since Week 9 — fourth best in the NFL.
A critical factor in this game for both teams will be who can get off to a quicker start on the first drive. If Dallas’ defense can set the statement early and make Seattle’s offense go three-and-out, it will set the tone early in the game.
However, the Seahawks can’t miss any opportunity to put points on the board, especially with how productive the Cowboys’ offense has been after their bye week.
- Seahawks TEs have gained 516 yards on 43 receptions (12.0 YPR) this season — third best in the NFL.
- The Cowboys have allowed 11.3 yards per reception to TEs this season — fourth worst in the NFL.
The Cowboys’ secondary’s matchup with tight ends comes down to a size difference that the linebackers and defensive backs can’t always beat. Yet, with Smith dealing with an elbow injury, the passing game might be less of a threat.
- The Cowboys have run 18.1% of offensive plays in the red zone since Week 9, which is third best in the NFL.
- The Seahawks have allowed their opponent to run 18.8% of plays in the red zone since Week 9 — tied for worst in the NFL.
The Cowboys have drastically improved their production in the red zone since the start of the season — specifically, their ability to score once they’re inside the 20.
Seattle must try to keep Dallas out of the red zone and drive down the field for their best shot at minimizing how productive they’ve been with Dak Prescott playing lights out.
- The Cowboys have gone three-and-out on 12.5% of their drives in the second half this season — third best in the NFL.
- The Seahawks have forced three-and-outs on 9.4% of opponent drives in the second half this season — second worst in the NFL.
The Cowboys’ offense hasn’t struggled with their production, but the issue comes with the three-and-outs being in their first couple of drives in the game.
If you want to be nitpicky about an aspect of Dallas’ offense, it can be to get off to quicker starts and prepare themselves for the more formidable teams ahead that will put points on the board early.
- Seahawks RBs have averaged just 0.8 yards after contact per carry since Week 9 — tied for second worst in the NFL.
- Dallas has allowed just 0.8 yards after contact per carry to RBs since Week 9 — tied for best in the NFL.
The Cowboys’ defense has emphasized tackling and not allowing yards after contact from their opponents.
The most significant aspect of the run defense being an issue is allowing big bursts and runs to happen. If Dallas’ defense can contain the big run plays, which start up front, they can keep the Seahawks from rushing down the field.
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