Continuing to examine the 2018 Tennessee Titans schedule by taking a look at their Week 8 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Now that most rosters are largely set in stone following free agency and the draft, we can finally begin to look ahead to next season and gauge how the Tennessee Titans’ roster will match up with opponents’, as well as start to put together a rough estimate for wins and losses. With the preseason looming, let’s take some time to preview how each team the Titans will face has changed over the offseason and whether that team is trending up or down in 2018.
The 2017 season can’t be considered anything but a disappointment for the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off of a surprise playoff run spearheaded by rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, the team had bolstered the defense with additions such as Taco Charlton, Chidobie Awuzie, and five other defensive rookies to balance out the roster. This was a smart move by a Dallas front office that had succeeded in 2016 on the back of a dominant offense and suspect defense. Adhering to a ball-control gameplan would become much easier with more defensive talent. All of this made sense in theory, but the wheels fell off the bus rather quickly for the Boys, as they limped to a 9-7 finish and missed the playoffs.
After Elliot missed six games with a suspension, the Cowboys offense struggled to compete. Prescott, following a superb rookie season, took a massive step back without the comfort afforded to him by an elite rushing attack. To make matters worse, a young secondary experienced growing pains throughout the season that kept the offense on its back foot far more often than in 2016. The defense ranked near the bottom of the league in yards allowed despite all of the new defensive additions and DeMarcus Lawrence breaking out with 14.5 sacks in a contract year.
After all of the disappointment last year brought, the Cowboys are a difficult team to figure out. The offense clearly never recovered from Zeke’s suspension, but Dak’s issues also did not right themselves when Zeke returned, which indicates that perhaps Dallas needed to do more to help their young passer succeed than just hope that Zeke’s presence would make him better. Instead, the Cowboys released their best wide receiver and signed the inconsistent Allen Hurns to replace him. Simultaneously, they lost Jason Witten to retirement, which leaves Rico Gathers in the unenviable position of filling his shoes.
After a season in which their young franchise passer struggled to succeed, the Cowboys should’ve been expected to add more talent in the receiving department to help him return to form. Unfortunately for Prescott, they let two of the franchise’s all-time greats leave before massively downgrading at both positions, leaving Prescott with one of the league’s most nondescript receiving corps.
Zeke can take this unit a long way behind one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, but unless Dak is in a position to succeed, the Cowboys will not replicate their 2016 playoff run. Although the defense will be solid in 2018, it is nowhere near the level of a team like the Jaguars that can afford to lean almost entirely on its rushing attack and defense to win games.
Back on the subject of offseason additions, outside of Hurns, the Cowboys signed few free agents of note. In the draft, the Cowboys added LB Leighton Vander Esch in the first round to complement Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith, as well as potentially add another pass rushing terror off the edge to complement DeMarcus Lawrence. They then added Connor Williams in the second round to man the guard spot vacated by Jonathan Cooper in free agency.
Finally, they added a pass catcher in the third round by drafting Michael Gallup, but with all due respect to Gallup, a third round rookie will not be able to command the same kind of attention or put up the same numbers as a player like Bryant.
Had the Cowboys prioritized their receiving corps by drafting a player like Courtland Sutton or Calvin Ridley in the first round, this offense would look a lot stronger heading into 2018. Jerry Jones and Co. have overestimated just how far Elliot and Prescott can take the Cowboys offense on their own, and they will pay for it in the scoring column during the regular season.
On the other side of the football, the Dallas defense should be solid against both the run and the pass, but solid will simply not be enough against an offense with as many talented weapons as Tennessee. If Dallas shuts down Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis can pick up the slack. If Delanie Walker can’t get open all game, Corey Davis will take advantage of new openings in the defense. So on and so forth. The Cowboys don’t have that kind of luxury. Unless Elliott has a big game on the ground, the passing game will have no chance of succeeding and pulling out a win.
When a multi-dimensional team faces off against a one-dimensional one, the multi-dimensional roster can be expected to emerge victorious. For this reason, I anticipate the Titans pulling out an important win halfway through the season against a Dallas team that has put all of its eggs in Zeke Elliott’s basket heading into 2018.
Predicted Outcome: Win
Current Predicted Record (Updated Each Installment): 6-2