Writer Predictions for Cowboys at Chargers

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After a narrow loss to the Buccaneers in Game 1 of the season, the Cowboys are back on the road in Los Angeles to face the Chargers 1-0. The good news? They get Zack Martin back after missing the Buccaneers game with COVID-19. Oh, and Dak Prescott looks a lot like him, which is huge.

The bad news? Just about everything that has happened since that loss. La’el Collins is suspended, Michael Gallup will miss several weeks, Randy Gregory is likely to miss this match with COVID-19, DeMarcus Lawrence is on the injured reserve, and starting safety Donovan Wilson has been ruled out.

That’s a very long list of important players for the Cowboys who won’t fit for this game. But the Chargers are also deprived of a few key players. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga and top cornerback Chris Harris Jr. are both missing, while defensive tackle Justin Jones is uncertain. Both starting safeties were injured this week, with Nasir Adderley questionable for the game and Derwin James set to play, although he was limited to training. All of this is preparing for a shootout between Dak Prescott and Justin Herbert. So what do our writers think?

Prevent big games

Justin Herbert has had a phenomenal rookie year, and it aptly culminated in winning the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Oregon rookie finished the year 13th in the QBR and fifth in the EPA. Much of his success was his willingness to let him tear it apart. Of quarterbacks with 12 or more starts last year, Herbert had the fourth highest pitching rate in tight windows; of the three guys with more shots in tight windows, only one had a higher than expected completion percentage than Herbert. In other words, Herbert was playing like a gunslinger and hitting his risky throws quite often.

Under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, former Saints quarterbacks coach, Herbert has so far continued this trend. Only three quarters threw themselves into tight windows at a higher pace last week, although Herbert didn’t have as much success against Washington. The Chargers had the second third attempt at a drop last week, and although they converted nearly three-quarters of it, that conversion rate is highly unlikely to hold. If Dallas can stop Herbert from hitting those big plays he regularly made last year and force the Chargers to more third downs, they could win.

Attack the lunge

The Chargers’ pass defense struggled last week against the duo of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke, and it was with Harris playing all but one in defense. Playing in his 11th season, Harris is the Chargers’ best defensive back and also their best slots corner. With Harris out, that likely means rookie Asante Samuel Jr. will be entering the slot machine for this game.

Samuel looked good playing mostly away last week, but this week he will have plenty of clashes against Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb. It is not an easy task for a rookie, no matter how good they are. The Cowboys’ top two receivers should be able to take advantage of his inexperience, and if Dak Prescott can get into the rhythm with these guys, it could open up everything else for offense.

Now let’s move on to the predictions of your BTB editors …

Tom Ryle:

I know the Cowboys are missing a lot of key players for this game, but they still have Dak Prescott and all his guns aside from Michael Gallup. The offensive line may have to rely on Terence Steele, but I agree with the theory that Zack Martin will help them and the staff won’t leave him on an island. The defense needs to find a way to at least slow down Justin Herbert and the Chargers offense.

I think they’ll manage just enough, and the Cowboys will get a 31-27 win.

Terence Watson:

The Cowboys are looking to bounce back from their tough loss to the Buccaneers. They’ll have to do it shorthanded on both sides of the game. The losses of La’el Collins (suspension) and Michael Gallup (calf injury) in attack and DeMarcus Lawrence (foot), Donovan Wilson (groin) and possibly Randy Gregory (Covid) in defense present a new challenge for the Cowboys . But they will be up to the task when they win. Thanks in part to the performance of Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard who will slow the game down enough to keep the Chargers’ explosive offense off the field.

Cowboys 31, Chargers 21

Justin Morris:

Welcome to Joey Bosa’s show. With La’el Collins sidelined, the ‘Boys have a huge gaping hole on the right side of their line, and I don’t believe Terence Steele is the antidote to quelling the onslaught. The Chargers’ offense was not at its best in their first game of the season against Washington, but Justin Herbert and his team will see a slight increase in production in their second offering. Defensive saves will be key and whoever wins the turnover battle is likely to win the game. Dak will be stellar as usual, and the two defensive troops will struggle in a two-way shootout that will be won by the team with the last possession. I believe it will be the Chargers.

30-27, LA

Matt Holleran:

The past week has been a nightmare for the Cowboys. After an extremely encouraging performance against Tampa on opening night, things took a turn for the worse. Even after losing Michael Gallup, La’el Collins and Randy Gregory, I still believed the Cowboys could win this game. But once the DeMarcus Lawrence news fell on Wednesday, I think the Cowboys’ fate was sealed. I see no way this Dallas defense can hold up rising star Justin Herbert enough to win this game. Dak and offense will do enough to keep the Cowboys in the game, but the defense simply won’t be able to get enough saves, dropping the Cowboys to 0-2 for the first time since 2010.

Give me the Chargers, 33-24.

Darreck Kirby:

I think despite all the bad news the Cowboys went through last week, they’re going to respond with a big win. It will be a competitive game but Dallas comes off with a 27-23 victory behind Prescott and Elliott.

Aidan Davis:

After a competitive loss to the defending Super Bowl champions, this is where the Cowboys must prove they can beat a playoff-caliber team. However, these aren’t the same Los Angeles Chargers who finished 7-9 last year. With Derwin James returning from injury and several offseason additions, the Chargers finished with the highest PFF cover rating in Week 1. Pair that with the best team stopping the race on the first try and this defense presents a real threat. If the Cowboys are to win this game, they’ll have to pass the first downs by setting up short ground distance conversions.

With Trevon Diggs likely to line up against Kennan Allen for the majority of this game, there’s no one in the Cowboys high school who can explain Mike Williams. Despite being injury prone, Williams has the athleticism to point the ball and win in contested catches. This game will depend on the Cowboys’ ability to convert to the ground and cover Mike Williams. With injuries in play and an inability to reach the quarterback without DeMarcus Lawrence, the Cowboys are losing another nail.

Final score: Los Angeles Chargers 28, Dallas Cowboys 27

Tony Catalina:

From the moment the Cowboys left the field on Thursday night, it has looked like a roller coaster on the downside. Covid, injuries, suspensions, name it, they were dealt with in the last 10 days leading up to this game. The point is, this team is going to have to buckle up and play football no matter who is or is it’s not going to be there. Losing both of their passer is going to hurt, and the defense will suffer, but expect the Cowboys to be more exotic in the way they deploy Micah Parsons and even Jaylon Smith to try and make up for the lack of pass rushing. .

Also, we get to see Malik Hooker for the first time and I think his ability has a chance to help the back of this defense improve. Overall this game will be an offensive affair with both teams coming and going. all day. Give me the Cowboys in the near with Greg Zuerlein catching up on his woes of week one.

Dallas Cowboys 31 Los Angeles Chargers 28

Brian Martin:

No Michael Gallup or La’el Collins in attack and no DeMarcus Lawrence or Randy Gregory in defense. With so many starters set to miss this Week 2 game against the Los Angeles Chargers, it’s hard to believe the Dallas Cowboys have much of a chance for the win.

Believe it or not, I’ll predict one anyway. The Cowboys offense was strong last week and I expect them to pick up where they left off. It won’t be pretty, but I think the Cowboys can put more points on the board than the Chargers and in the end that’s all that matters.

David Howman:

I expected this one to turn out to be a shootout pretty much since the teams were determined. Justin Herbert isn’t as good as Tom Brady, but he’s a different danger. While Brady beats you with quick timing and precision, Herbert is one of those guys who can do something out of nothing with consistency. It’s hard to see the Cowboys’ defense fighting, especially without their top two passer.

The good news for the Cowboys is that they have Dak Prescott, and he’s playing at a very high level. I’m not too worried about Terence Steele starting right tackle considering what we watched last week; Kellen Moore knows how to work around the gaps in the offensive line. With Chris Harris Jr. out and the two safeties smashed, things are preparing well for the Cowboys’ offense to really kick off. And if Dak and Herbert both deal, I pick the best quarterback to win.

Cowboys win 43-41


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