Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#271 Dallas Cowboys vs.
#272 New England Patriots
Sunday, October 17, 2021 at 4:25pm EDT
Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
Written by Jordy

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The Dallas Cowboys head on the road for a potential trap game against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Since losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the opener, the Cowboys have surged to four straight wins, including a divisional blowout victory over the New York Giants. The Patriots haven’t blown anyone out, but they have been in several dogfights this season. They recently knocked off the Houston Texans on the road in an ugly 25-22 victory.

Cowboys look for real

I completely understand the trepidation for some still waiting to jump on the bandwagon of the Cowboys being a legitimate Super Bowl contender, but that offense is feasting with Dak Prescott under center.

Oh, and do you remember when people were trying to poo-poo the team’s decision to award Ezekiel Elliott with that six-year, $90 million extension back in 2019? Well, he’s making up for it in 2021 with the third-most rushing yards so far this season behind Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. But even with all of that talent, the Cowboys have never beaten the Patriots in the Bill Belichick era.

We’ll see if they can end that streak on Sunday.

So much has been made about the amazing job cornerback Trevon Diggs is doing—and rightfully so—that people seem to forget the Cowboys have the worst passing defense in football. The big-play ability is certainly there with Diggs and company in the secondary, but the consistency hasn’t been there all season. It doesn’t help matters that Diggs has been out of practice with an ankle injury.

Patriots rookie quarterback Mac Jones is still working to put the pieces together, but he could find a light at the end of the tunnel against the Cowboys’ secondary, especially if Diggs is out.

But all of that pales in comparison to seven-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tyron Smith potentially being compromised with a neck injury. The Patriots have quietly crept back into the top-10 in average sacks per game (2.6), and it could be a problem if Prescott is left on an island with powerhouse linebacker Matt Judon breathing down his neck. But then again, the Patriots secondary got carved to pieces by Davis Mills and the Texans’ moribund offense last week. Prescott has Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Dalton Schultz to throw passes to downfield. He isn’t the least bit concerned.

Can Jones take another step?

Mac Jones was efficient against the Texans last week, but he struggled to make the big plays. Make no mistake, that isn’t all on him considering the team was playing without four starting offensive linemen, and the patchwork receiving corps is still struggling.

But fans in New England are patiently waiting for the team to loosen the reins a bit and unleash Jones and the passing attack.

There have been a lot of check downs so far that leads to high completion percentages in games, but the Patriots are struggling to get the ball in the end zone. You know it’s been a rough year when kicker Nick Folk is the leading scorer on the roster.

Sunday’s game presents a unique opportunity for the team to test some throws downfield against a Cowboys defense allowing an average of 311 passing yards per game. Throwing the football is a must for Jones and company against Dallas’ fifth-ranked run defense. He’s building a strong chemistry with tight end Hunter Henry, and wideout Jakobi Meyers continues to be one of the more reliable receiving talents on the field.

Dallas’ pass rush has been relatively non-existent, but they might find opportunities to get home if the Patriots’ offensive line is still full of backups. Running back Damien Harris is also a bit banged up heading into this game, and Folk is dealing with a knee issue.

The Patriots defense needs to make this game as ugly as they made it for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple of weeks ago. Granted, that game against the Bucs had a personal element to it with Tom Brady returning to Foxborough, but the defense needs to find a way to channel that same energy against the Cowboys on Sunday. It’ll be a herculean challenge for the unit that looked sloppy against the Texans last week. Dallas is averaging the second-most total yards in the league behind the Baltimore Ravens

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This one has trap game written all over it.

The Patriots run hot and cold with the frequency of a kitchen facet. They’re currently going through this weird identity crisis where they’re trying to find themselves with a rookie quarterback under center. As of right now, they look like a team that typically plays to the level of the competition. They came within a missed field goal of toppling the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple of weeks ago before winning by a field goal against the lowly Houston Texans last Sunday.

Gillette Stadium is still a tough place to play at for a visiting team, and the Cowboys have yet to defeat the Bill Belichick-coached Patriots. Throw in the fact that their secondary is an absolute mess and Mac Jones is clearly in a position to make some noise on Sunday.

The Cowboys can shut down a running game in a heartbeat, but their defensive front isn’t getting quarterbacks to the ground consistently enough. So Jones could be left with time to actually pick apart their shaky secondary.

However, the real difference makers will be on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots. They had a rough day against the Texans, but I’m not too concerned considering the emotions they put into the loss to the Bucs in the previous week. That energy will be high once again on a primetime stage against a team some have already listed as an early Super Bowl contender. The Cowboys look good now, but there’s always that head scratcher of a performance that sneaks up and makes people question their legitimacy.

What better time than against Bill Belichick and the Patriots at Gillette Stadium? Give me the points and New England in an upset.

Prediction: New England Patriots (+3)

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Don’t get too caught up with the Patriots’ ugly defensive showing on the road against the Houston Texans last week. It’s hard to get up for a bad opponent after losing the sort of heartbreaker New England suffered at the hands of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a couple of weeks back. Cowboys Pro Bowl offensive tackle Tyron Smith is banged up, and the Patriots’ defensive front has terrorized teams in the early going.

Matt Judon is clearly one of the best defensive players in the league, and he’s proving it in his ability to rack up 6.5 sacks in the first five games of the season. That Cowboys’ offensive front can’t hold up all day, and eventually, it’ll lead to Dak Prescott making some mistakes.

This is the same defense that held Tom Brady and the Bucs’ high-flying offense to only 19 points. I’m taking the under in this one.

Prediction: Under (50.5)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.