The Dallas Cowboys will be on the road taking on the New York Jets this Sunday in what should be an intriguing matchup.
On one hand, you have a Cowboys (3-2) team that started the season 3-0 while outscoring their opponents 97-44 in those games. Since then, however, the wheels have come off and the team has dropped two straight, including a 34-24 home loss to the Green Bay Packers last Sunday.
Then, you have the Jets. Yes, they’re winless (0-4) through the first quarter of the season, but they do have reinforcements back to help the cause.
Can they secure their first victory of the season against a team looking to put the skids on their own losing streak?
Dallas at New York
Kickoff: Sunday, Oct. 13 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Spread: Dallas -7
Three Things to Watch
1. The return of Sam Darnold
Darnold was taken third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft to become a franchise quarterback. His rookie season had a lot of ups and downs (2,865 yards, 57.7 completion percentage, 17 TDs, 15 INTs), but the ceiling is clearly there.
Unfortunately for the Jets, the USC product was forced to miss the past four weeks (three games) with mono. But after that extended absence, Darnold is back and set to start on Sunday.
How much of an impact will his presence have in this game? That’s hard to tell, but he should be a massive upgrade over third-string quarterback Luke Falk. In three games (two starts), Falk didn't throw a touchdown while tossing three interceptions and one fumble. He managed just 416 yards through the air in those three games total while taking 16 sacks.
2. Can Dallas bounce back?
The Cowboys were on a roll to start the season, but back-to-back losses to the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers have many analysts wondering if they’re true Super Bowl contenders.
There’s hope that the team’s bookend tackle duo, Tyron Smith and La’el Collins, will be able to return from injuries, but that’s still going to be a game-time decision for head coach Jason Garrett.
That development could prove to make a significant difference in this game, as the Jets continue to get back some of their key players on defense.
Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott has been turning the ball over at a high rate during this losing skid, with twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdown passes (two) after starting out with a 9:2 ratio.
3. Will Quinnen Williams take the next step?
One player who could make life for Prescott more difficult is Williams. The No. 3 pick out of Alabama is a potential terror getting after quarterbacks, but a calf strain followed by a sprained ankle caused him to miss action to start the season. In his first game back last Sunday, Williams racked up five tackles, which is a great stat line for a guy who hadn’t been able to do a whole lot for several weeks prior.
Now, it’s time for Williams to turn things up a notch, as the team is still waiting for the return of star free agent acquisition C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker. Yes, there are still plenty of playmakers on that side of the football (Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, etc.) but the younger Williams is one of the few players who can truly take over a game.
Even with the return of Sam Darnold, it’s tough to imagine a scenario in which the Jets get the win. But crazier things have certainly happened, especially during this NFL season.
The injuries to the Dallas offensive line will make a difference, but it won’t quite be enough to prevent the Cowboys from getting that bounce-back victory.
Prediction: Cowboys 24, Jets 20
— Written by Clint Lamb, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRLamb.