While most of Cowboys Nation was enjoying the holiday weekend with family and friends, the Cowboys were hard at work slugging it out with the division rival Eagles. With the riveting 40-34 win, Dallas kept the slight hopes of capturing the NFC East crown alive behind Dak Prescott’s three touchdowns, two of which went to CeeDee Lamb along with his 120 yards on 10 catches, and the defense’s four forced turnovers.
Now the Cowboys will turn their attention to the reeling Tennessee Titans on a short week on Thursday Night Football in Nashville. The Titans, losers of five straight, are coming off perhaps their most deflating loss of the season to the Texans at home. At 7-8 they’re in a dogfight for the top in the AFC South with the surging Jacksonville Jaguars in hot pursuit.
Week 17 from the Music City, start banging the drums and picking the guitars. Here are the five storylines for both the Cowboys and Titans.
- It had been no secret that Dak Prescott had been struggling with interceptions since his return to the field this season, and Saturday against the Eagles did not get off to a great start. But after throwing a pick-six on the opening drive, Prescott was sensational the rest of the way with 347 passing yards, including the game-changing third-and-30 conversion for 52 yards to TY Hilton late in the fourth to set up the game-tying score to Lamb, and by going 16-16 after the interception.
- Although Hilton’s lone catch of the game was the biggest catch of the game, the veteran receiver proved his value in other ways in his first start for the Cowboys. Hilton drew a pivotal illegal contact play against Darius Slay on fourth-and-8 in the second quarter to help continue the drive that was capped off with a 36-yard score to Lamb.
- After a scary car accident on Thursday, rookie defensive end Sam Williams is expected to play against the Titans this week. The Cowboys held Williams out against the Eagles out of an abundance of caution with a neck strain and a concussion. The Ole Miss product has been a valuable piece of the Cowboys defense with 20 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and three recoveries.
- The Cowboys’ secondary has been a point of contention in recent weeks given the injuries they have sustained and the uncertainty surrounding it. While Trevon Diggs did not have his best game against the Eagles, rookie fifth-rounder DaRon Bland continues to be an emerging force after picking up his team-leading fifth interception while playing the slot corner and the outside. Nahshon Wright had a career day as the third corner, racking up eight tackles, one of which was for a loss, and two pass breakups.
- Thursday will mark the Cowboys first trip to Nashville since 2014 which resulted in a 26-10 win. DeMarco Murray ran for 167 yards and a score, while Dez Bryant had 103 yards on 10 catches and a touchdown. These two last met in 2018 in Dallas with the Titans winning 28-14.
- Despite their brutal stretch of the last month, the Titans still remain in the hunt for first place in the AFC South with the Jaguars on a three game winning streak pulling them even with Tennessee. That sets the Titans up for a potential winner take all showdown in Week 18 in Tennessee for the division title. The way the tiebreakers fall, it makes Thursday’s game with the Cowboys rather meaningless to their postseason fate. Either way, if the Titans win or lose, or the Jags win or lose, it’ll come down to next week’s game. That being said, look for the Titans to play it smart regarding playing or resting key players.
- The Titans held a 14-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter against the Texans on Sunday, but a late touchdown pass from Davis Mills to Brandin Cooks all but sealed Houston’s second win of the season. With Ryan Tannehill battling an ankle injury, rookie Malik Willis got the start, passing for just 99 yards and two interceptions with 43 rushing yards and a score on the ground. Derrick Henry did what he does, running for 126 yards and a touchdown but also with a fumble.
- The quarterback situation for the Titans took an interesting turn just two weeks ago against the Chargers with Tannehill injuring his ankle and handing the reins over to the rookie Willis. While the former is hoping to return in Week 18 against the Jaguars, he will very likely not face the Cowboys on Thursday. That sets up Wills to make another start while hoping for better results. In eight games this season, the Liberty product has passed for just 276 yards and no touchdowns while taking 10 sacks. In the running game, he racked up 123 yards and one score with two lost fumbles.
- After missing the majority of 2021 with injuries, Henry has returned to his typical form and reasserted himself in the conversation as the best running back in the NFL. He’s quickly approaching the 1,500-yard threshold, averaging just around 95 yards a game. Furthermore, Henry has been the straw that stirs the Titans’ offensive drink with 13 touchdowns of their 30 touchdowns this season.
- Injuries have certainly factored into the Titans’ inconsistent play this season, but the defense has had a Jekyll and Hyde quality about them through 15 games. Tennessee is one of the hardest teams to run the ball against, ranking second in rushing yards allowed per game. The passing game is quite the opposite story though, coughing up almost 280 yards a game, good for 31st in the league.