DALLAS @ HOUSTON | 10/07 | 8:20 PM EDT
With a significant offensive line and RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas will continue to lean on its efficient run game. QB Dak Prescott established perfectly in his second season, but his receivers seldom created separation. With the loss of both WR Dez Bryan and TE Jason Witten, the death game could be a full-blown catastrophe in 2018. The WR and TE depth charts are a who’s- who of third-string skill, which could make for a long season for Prescott. Dallas’ defense was fantastic when POUND Sean Lee was on the field in 2015, allowing 16 PPG in game he played (and 29 PPG when he was harmed). The Cowboys hope first-round draft choice LB Leighton Vander Esch thrives as Lee’s understudy. DE Demarcus Lawrence tallied 14.5 sacks last year and DT David Irving (seven sacks in eight games) has an opportunity to be unique if he can get his personal life in order after serving a four-game PED suspension.
Head coach Bill O’Brien revamped his offense mid-season to fit then-rookie QB Deshaun Watson’s strengths, and Watson responded to with an electrifying five-game run leading up to his split ACL. Houston relied on a lot of misdirection that may not be as efficient after challengers have an offseason of film study. WR DeAndre Hopkins is football’s finest objected to catch artist, though the rest of the Texans skill-position players have actually been irregular. Injuries are partly to blame for Houston’s league-worst 27 PPG allowed. DE J.J. Watt and POUND Whitney Mercilus, both of whom missed 11 games in 2017, are key to making Houston’s five-across-the-line pass-rush work. Their presence also frees up DL Jadeveon Clowney to avoid double-teams and create chaos. The secondary is not built to hold up if the pass-rush isn’t getting home, though the addition of previous Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu might help a bit.
Deshaun Watson finally appears to be getting in a groove, putting up big numbers in his last two games. The Texans had to play three of their first four games on the road, and now they can take advantage of a better-than-average home-field edge. They match up well with the Cowboys when on defense, as the Texans rank second in rush DVOA while giving up just 3.5 yards per carry. Can Dak Prescott win with the passing game on the road? I’m skeptical, as Dallas ranks 28th in pass DVOA and 30th in net yards per attempt.