Monday night promises an exhilarating clash between two teams vying for a crucial win to close the gap on their division leaders. The Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers will undoubtedly provide a thrilling contest, showcasing explosive moments on both ends of the field.
The Cowboys initiated the season in splendid fashion with a resounding shutout of the Giants. Their offense followed up with a spectacular 40-point performance, hinting at a promising start for 2023. However, recent weeks have seen the Cowboys grapple with containing opposing offenses. Their unexpected loss to the Arizona Cardinals was followed by a dismal defeat to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 5. Now, the question is whether Dallas can halt this downward trajectory or whether lightning will strike twice in prime time.
The Chargers, on the other hand, are riding the momentum of two consecutive wins and a bye week as they aim to illuminate SoFi Stadium with a significant victory against one of the NFC’s top teams. Justin Herbert, having made an impressive start to the season, welcomes the return of Austin Ekeler from an ankle injury. This game also holds a tinge of revenge, with Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore facing his former team.
As we approach the Cowboys’ visit to the Chargers on Monday night, here are four key aspects to watch:
- Cowboys’ Response After Prime-Time Setback: Following a humbling defeat to the 49ers, Dak Prescott expressed the profound impact of the game on him. Prescott is now entrusted with steering the Cowboys back on course and restoring their confidence. So far this season, Prescott has amassed 1,061 passing yards, five touchdowns, and four interceptions (three of which occurred in Week 5). The Chargers defense boasts the formidable Khalil Mack, a pass-rushing juggernaut who nearly set an NFL single-game record with six sacks in Week 4 against the Raiders. The Cowboys’ offensive line faces a significant challenge in combating Mack’s prowess. While Prescott boasts a respectable 21-11 record in prime-time matchups, his road record dips to 9-7. This week presents a substantial test for the two-time Pro Bowler as he ventures to Los Angeles, aiming to secure a memorable victory under the prime-time spotlight at SoFi Stadium.
- Austin Ekeler’s Return: Monday marks Ekeler’s much-anticipated comeback to the field. After playing in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, Ekeler spent the past four weeks rehabbing from an ankle injury. His full participation in practice throughout the week signifies his readiness for Monday’s game. In his sole appearance against the Dolphins, Ekeler managed 117 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown from 16 carries. Despite missing three games, Ekeler’s total scrimmage yards of 164 are only 48 yards less than his replacement, Joshua Kelley, who played in three additional games. Ekeler’s return is expected to bolster the Chargers’ running attack.
- Herbert vs. Cowboys Defense: Justin Herbert, despite dealing with a finger injury, aims to take full advantage of the home-field setting. The Cowboys’ defense is hungry for a resurgence, having faced challenges in the form of injuries, such as Trevon Diggs’ season-ending injury and Leighton Vander Esch’s neck injury. However, linebacker Micah Parsons currently leads the league in quarterback pressures, placing pressure on Herbert’s offensive line to provide adequate protection. The game also marks a significant moment for Kellen Moore, who faces his former team for the first time since his move to the Chargers. The Cowboys have acutely felt Moore’s absence, with a noticeable decline in scoring (21.2 points per game) and total yardage (327.4 yards per game) since his departure.
- Productivity of Tony Pollard and CeeDee Lamb: In the wake of the 49ers’ defensive onslaught, the Cowboys’ offense requires a swift recovery. The competitiveness of the team hinges on improving the performance of players like Lamb and Pollard. In Week 5, Lamb received only five targets, resulting in four receptions and 46 receiving yards. Lamb has recorded fewer than five receptions in four of the five games in 2023. Meanwhile, Pollard experienced a season-low with just eight carries for 29 yards last week and has had back-to-back games with fewer than 12 carries. He has also achieved a career-low 4.2 rushing yards. Head coach Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys’ play-caller, faces the challenge of reigniting the productivity of these two vital players.
The Cowboys-Chargers clash promises an evening of intense action, as both teams seek to reestablish their winning momentum and solidify their positions in their respective divisions.
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