With two weeks left in the regular season, every game counts. However, in some cases, one team fits better than the other.
The Thursday Night Football game between the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys is one such game. No matter what happens Thursday night, the Titans will face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 as he battles for the AFC South title. But the game has taken on added significance for the Cowboys after beating division rivals the Philadelphia Eagles last week. If they win and the Eagles lose, Dallas will win his NFC East. So this game means a lot more to Dallas than it does to Tennessee.
Will the Cowboys rack up more wins and put more pressure on the Eagles, or will the Titans be able to pull off an upset at their home stadium? Before we delve into matchmaking, let’s take a look at how to spectate a game.
date: Thursday, December 29 | time: 8:15 PM ET
position: Nissan Stadium (Nashville)
Streaming: Amazon Prime Video
follow: CBS Sports App
odds: Cowboy -11, O/U 40
when the cowboys have the ball
If you’re excited to see what this explosive Dallas offense looks like against Tennessee’s defense, you may have to wait four more years for these two teams to play again. Tennessee listed Jeffrey Simmons, Bud Dupree, Amani Hooker, Zach Cunningham, and Dylan Cole as ineligible for the game, and also listed Denico Autry and Christian Fulton as questionable. In other words, more than half of the Titans’ defensive starters may not be available in this game. So while Dallas could potentially be without Tony Pollard (who didn’t practice at all this week due to a thigh injury but traveled to Tennessee with the team), the Cowboys will attack in this contest. You should be well prepared to be successful.
If Pollard sits down, Ezekiel Elliott could take on the bulk of the snap. But I wouldn’t be surprised if undrafted rookie Malik Davis played his 1B type role against Elliott’s 1A. In his two games Elliott was out earlier this season, Davis played a total of 30 snaps behind Pollard and handled a total of 15 touches. But the Cowboys were intentionally using those games to gauge how much more Pollard’s body could handle than it gave him. We already know, and since returning from injury, the reduced snap load he has been carrying has allowed him to remain healthy and effective.
Tennessee’s run defense has been one of the best in the NFL all this season, and while the Cowboys’ reorganized offensive line is better in run blocking than in pass protection units, run defense is down to Simmons and Dupree. , Cunningham, and potentially Autry, and the Cowboys are already one of the most flammable secondaries in the league, and should have a huge advantage in the passing game even without both Fulton and Hooker.
Since Dak Prescott’s return from a broken thumb, Sheedy Lamb is on 58 passes for 796 yards and six touchdowns, and he’s in great form. That’s 1,507 yards on 110 catches and 11 full-season pace. Among his 274 players who have run more than 100 routes, Ram ranks him ninth in the NFL in yards per route, according to Tru Media. He is the fifth such player out of his 199 since Dak’s return. Ram lined up there with his 55.6% of snaps since Week 7. This is up significantly from his 35.9% slot percentage he recorded last season. Of note, only three teams have provided more receptions to players lined up for the slot this season than Tennessee.
Prescott progresses so fast that sometimes he strays away from targeting Ram, like he did last week against Philadelphia when he managed just three looks after halftime. But despite his flashy interception totals, Dak is currently playing at a very high level. For example, he’s tied for sixth in the NFL in EPA per dropback, even though he threw 12 interceptions in just 10 games. Professionally his football focus is that he rated six of these interceptions as not turnover worthy plays. (Like the game-ending pick 6 against the Jaguar that bounced off both Noah Brown’s hand and Rayshawn Jenkins’ arm.) In this matchup, Prescott can quickly and easily identify and move targets down the field. The ball should pass through the air relatively easily.
when the titans have the ball
Ryan Tannehill is out. Ben He Jones and Taylor his Luwan are on injured reserve. Nicolas Petit Freres is out. Derrick Henry is questionable. If you’re able-bodied and live in Tennessee in general, the Titans may require you to wear an assault suit.
Dallas’ defense has taken a step back in recent weeks, but the way they beat this group was mostly from the air. I made it closer. In his three starts, Tennessee totaled 40, 57, and he 88 passing yards. Willis himself has 276 yards (his 4.5 yards per attempt) and he has 31 of 61 yards (50.8%) with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. He’s not particularly efficient as a running quarterback, averaging 4.5 yards per running back-wind carry. The Cowboys had trouble with Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields earlier this season, but Willis is still out of Harts’ and Fields’ leagues.
Without Henry, the Titans also seem unlikely to power the ball through the Dallas defense, as their offensive line is so short-handed. We don’t have Hankins yet, but DeMarcus Lawrence and Micah Parsons (if he plays) can scuttle Tennessee’s offensive plans if King Henry isn’t on the field. The game is essentially pointless for Tennessee, so there’s little reason for the Titans to put him there.
Featured game | | Tennessee Titans vs Dallas Cowboys
Predictions: Cowboys 30, Titans 10