Cowboys vs Colts: Gut projection
Projection: Dallas Cowboys 34, Indianapolis Colts 17
While the Cowboys top the Colts defensively by allowing just 17 points per game to their 20, the Colts are actually one slot better in the NFL in regard to total yards per game allowed. Dallas allows 309.6 yards, while the Colts just edge them by allowing 308.9 yards per game.
The ‘Boys are the top passing defense in the NFL, surrendering only 177.6 yards per game through the air. The Colts aren’t far behind, though, giving up just 190.6 passing yards per game. The run defense is where there is room for improvement on each team. The Cowboys give up 132 yards per game on the ground, while the Colts allow 118.
The problem for the Colts is scoring. They muster just over two touchdowns per game at a clip of 15.8 points per game on the season. Compare that to Dallas (25.4 points per game on the year, and 33.8 points per game over their last five), and there is a wide disparity of offensive success between these teams.
The recipe for Dallas is simple. They want to run the ball well, keep the defense honest and in vanilla schemes, and hurt them with well-timed play-action passes. Dak wants to find Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb down the field for chunk plays, and utilize his quartet of tight ends in Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon, Peyton Hendershot, and Jake Ferguson underneath.
Defensively, Dallas and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn know that Jonathan Taylor is the key to success for the Colts. Rely on the run defense once again, and this matchup could turn sideways in a hurry. Should the Cowboys force obvious passing situations, they can rid themselves of any thoughts of a mobile quarterback hurting them. Matt Ryan will be a sitting duck in the pocket.
Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, Dorance Armstrong, and Sam Williams could all notch a sack in this one if the Cowboys get up early. The Colts lead the league in sacks given up with 43. That number could take another sharp uptick. Trevon Diggs will have an advantage over the Colts receivers, and while he has been a coverage machine, he is eager to get another interception and could be a beneficiary of pressure creating errant throws.
In our estimation, Dallas turns this into a one-sided affair early as the more rested and overall better team playing at home. This game is the first in a stretch of three in a row against the lowly AFC South, and is a great starting point to stack more wins on top of each other on the march to locking up a playoff berth.