Monday Night Football Preview: Seven Straight for the Cowboys?
Think of a superlative. Any superlative, positive or negative. I can almost guarantee you that superlative has been used to describe the Dallas Cowboys some time between August and now.
The Cowboys have positioned themselves atop the NFC East with a 6-1 record. Now, they get a Washington team that has been outscored 156-104 while going 1-4 over their last five games. It's a great start, but it's also time for a reality check. Where does this team rank (narratives aside), and what can we expect from them tonight on Monday Night Football?
We can get those answers from numberFire's Game Projection for premium subscribers.
How Good Are the Cowboys?
As disappointing as this may be, the Cowboys are neither the best nor the worst team in the NFL. Sad face. But both their offense and defense have performed admirably this year.
Heading into Week 8, the Cowboys were ranked fourth in numberFire's Power Rankings behind the Broncos, Ravens and Colts. This was with the third-rated offense and 11th-rated defense. Add in the fact that they're facing a Washington team ranked 21st in the rankings, and you get yourself a 10-point spread.
Even with this start and the Cowboys' non-hyperbolic encouraging start, you still can't immediately count Washington out of this one before the start.
Both of the top two similar games on the matchup profile resulted in victories for the teams representing Washington. The most similar game was between the Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers in December of 2005.
In that game, San Diego (representing Dallas) had 13 more first downs than Miami (representing Washington), 41 more yards, over 20 more minutes of possession, but they lost 23-21. Why was that? San Diego turned the ball over three times. Turnovers have never been a concern for Dallas, though, so everything's Gucci, y'all.
numberFire's algorithms don't foresee this situation being duplicated. They have Dallas averaging 1.41 turnovers with Washington at 2.04. Color me shocked that a team starting Colt McCoy would be expected to turn the ball over.
Another reason for San Diego's victory in this similar match-up is that Miami relatively contained LaDainian Tomlinson (this game's version of DeMarco Murray). Tomlinson had only 75 yards on 21 carries to go with zero receiving yards on one catch. Tomlinson was so bad at footballing.
The projections are kinda love-drunk on DeMarco, and I can't blame them. Murray was the top-rated running back in numberFire's Week 8 projections. While they "only" have him at 96.44 rushing yards, which would break his streak of consecutive 100-yard games, that's a median projection. There's still a good shot he keeps that puppy rolling. Add on a projected 3.61 receptions for 31.29 yards, and you've got some tasty totals.
Can Washington Contain Dallas' Passing Offense?
Tony Romo's fantasy production has been hard to peg. The first two weeks, he scored a total of 20.28 points in standard leagues. He has eclipsed that total twice since then and has not been held below 15 in a game. Not great, but certainly not bad. That said, you can describe his real-people production in one word: dopetastic.
Through the first seven weeks, Romo ranked fourth in the league in Passing Net Expected Points (NEP), a numberFire-stat to track efficiency that you can read more about in our glossary. On a per-pass basis, Romo ranked third, ahead of Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. This is probably aided by Murray's efficiency, but Romo has been nothing short of superb this year for the Cowboys.
Now, he faces a Washington defense that ranks 20th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per Play (which is adjusted for strength of schedule). Tony finna eat. numberFire projects him for a modest 301.52 yards, 2.22 touchdowns and 0.70 interceptions. Bow down to your new overlord, the talented Mr. Romo.
Obviously, this means splendid things for his friends catching the footballs, as well. Dez Bryant, who has scored a touchdown in six of his last nine games, is slated for 86.51 yards and 0.72 touchdowns. Terrance Williams is down for 48.16 yards and 0.40 touchdowns. Throw in Jason Witten's projected 52.25 yards and 0.50 touchdowns, and you've got yourself some pretty happy campers. This is not uncommon when facing Washington.
Which Washington Players Can You Trust?
There's certain people you just can't trust, you know, Luke? Never trust anyone who doesn't like dogs. Never ever EVER trust anyone in fantasy football that plays for Washington. And you sure as poo don't marry them.
I assume this is what Ben Kingsley actually meant to say in The Wackness, but the director was a Kirk Cousins truther, so it got nixed. And while the statement may have been a bit drastic, the sentiment is not too far off.
Obviously the quarterback situation is a good, ol'-fashioned dumpster fire with a touch of train wreck. McCoy is projected to finish with 206.03 yards, 1.48 touchdowns and 0.79 interceptions. That would be the highest yardage total for McCoy since December 8th of 2011. In that season, McCoy had the fifth worst Total NEP (includes rush attempts) of any quarterback that attempted at least 350 passes. So things could be better in Washington.
Then there's Alfred Morris. He hasn't topped 54 rushing yards in three weeks, nor 63 yards in four weeks. His last touchdown was over a month ago. He's projected to go for 75.26 rushing and 15.67 receiving yards with 0.44 total touchdowns. That would certainly be encouraging for season-long Morris owners (me), but it's at the point where you kind of need to see it first.
Then there's the receivers. Good luck figuring that one out. DeSean Jackson has certainly had this moments this year - he has three 100-yard games. But he has yet to top 62 yards in any of the four other games. He has received nine or more targets three times, with five or less in the other four. He's projected at 4.38 receptions for 68.32 yards and 0.43 touchdowns for tonight. If you want a guy that holds the boom stick at receiver, he's your guy. But if you want to not pull your hair out and inevitably eat said hair while curled up in the fetal position, he's probably not your guy.
Then there's Pierre Garcon, about whom numberFire's AJ Weinberg wrote last week. Garcon has been held below 40 receiving yards four times this season. It's more inconsistency on a team that is consistently inconsistent. Garcon is projected at 5.76 receptions for 60.31 yards and 0.45 touchdowns. Again, if you're looking for a home run when an opponent is heavily favored, you can roll with these guys. Outside of that, proceed with caution.
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