Thursday Night Football Preview: Can Jason Garrett Rally the Troops?

Thursday Night Football Preview: Can Jason Garrett Rally the Troops?

For this Thursday Night Football Preview, we have two opposite forces colliding as we have the Chicago Bears, winners of three out of their last four games playing host to the Dallas Cowboys, losers of three of their last four. Although this should probably be coined ‘The Mediocrity bowl’ given these two teams middling records, there will be several interesting storylines to follow and monitor throughout this game.

So without further ado, let’s dig in.

Matchup: Dallas Cowboys (6-6) at Chicago Bears (6-6), 8:20 ET, FOX/NFL Network

Odds: DAL (-3)

Total: 43

(All spreads and totals as of Thursday at 5:00pm ET. Lines subject to change)

The windy city should have no trouble living up to its name tonight, as winds around 10-15 mph are expected come game time with gusts up to 25 mph possible as well. The temperature should hover right around the mid-30s, further hampering any offense these two teams might bring. This is shaping up to be an old-school slugfest of a game, with two beloved, storied franchises duking it out in hopes of just keeping their season alive, or in Jason Garrett’s case, his head coaching job alive. 

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you have no doubt heard Jerry Jones as well as Troy Aikman and a few others put the Cowboys on blast, specifically the front office and the head coaching position. Jason Garrett could very well be coaching for his job in this game.

When you compare the talent level of these two teams on offense, they really shouldn’t have the same record. Dallas ranks in the top 5 of nearly every offensive category, while Chicago may have one of the worst offenses in the league this year. David Montgomery, a highly touted running back out of Iowa State praised for his ability to break tackles, has been nonexistent this year. Mitchell Trubisky has shown us time and again that he can only succeed against bottom half defenses. 

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That being said, this Dallas defense is not 100 percent healthy right now, the most notable inactive being emerging star linebacker, Leighton Vander Esch. With multiple pieces missing from this underrated Dallas defense, will Trubisky and Co. be able to pull off an upset against America’s team? 

If Chicago is able to pull this off, it will be because of Khalil Mack and their suffocating defense. While Dallas’s offense has been quite vaunted this year, a deeper look at their season so far tells a bit of a different story. Dallas’s hot start to the season can largely be credited to a cushy opening schedule, as three of their first four games were against less than stellar defenses (Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins). Anytime Dallas has had to go against an upper tier defense, they’ve looked quite clueless. 

Ezekiel Elliot, now the highest paid running back in the league, hasn’t quite looked like his usual dominant self this year. This game sets up perfectly for him to take over the game script, like we’ve seen him do so often in the past. The cold, windy conditions will be more conducive to running the ball, and the one Achilles heel to the Chicago defense is that they do allow opponents to run all over them, especially in the last few weeks. If Dallas is smart, they will feed Zeke and center their offensive game plan around him, and just let him do his thing. 

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My Bets Placed: CHI (+3), Under 43

Chicago very quietly has won three of their last four games. It’s never that pretty when they do, but they’ve been able to find a way to (somewhat) weather the storm in recent weeks. While this team still has a multitude of problems on offense that they need to fix, I think they pull off the upset in front of their home crowd.

This Dallas team has absolutely no momentum. They’ve lost three of their last four, the most recent being the nationally televised Thanksgiving defeat by Buffalo, when they let Josh Allen and the entire Bills offense run all over them. Immediately after the game, there were reports of players screaming in frustration out of the Dallas locker room, and this team looks to be in complete disarray. 

While the total of 43 may seem a bit low, it’s hard to envision this game turning into a shootout. Both teams will be looking to run the ball and be more physical because of the adverse conditions, and even if Zeke does go off which I strongly believe he will, the game script for both teams will call for a lower total. I wouldn’t be surprised if this total dips down closer to 40 as we get closer to game time and more accurate weather reports start to come out. However, I would take the under even if this was a sunny mid-September game, as Chicago’s offense is broken and Dallas has proved that they can only score points against inferior defenses. 

This game will be much more reminiscent of the 20th century NFL, when typical game scores were 16-10 and defenders could actually play defense and not get flagged for breathing on a wide receiver. Here’s to hoping the NFC East actually turns into a competitive division by season’s end.

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