The 3-4 Tennessee Titans and the 3-4 Dallas Cowboys should both be well rested and healed up for this Week 9 Monday Night Football matchup with both teams coming off a Week 8 bye.
In Week 7, the Titans went for the last second win against the Los Angeles Chargers but came up short on the two-point conversion, even after a defensive holding penalty gave them a zero-time-remaining second chance. No doubt, Tennessee is still hurting from that 20-19 loss, but they’re a 1-3-0 road team playing against a Cowboys team who’s currently undefeated at home.
Despite his career high completion percentage of 66.0, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is not having an impressive season. He’s ranked 31st in total passing yards (1,030) with only 3 touchdowns thrown against 5 interceptions. He’ll face a Dallas pass defense ranked 3rd overall.
The 2018 Dallas Cowboys started out the season with a loss and have lost every other game since. That means that after their Week 7 defeat by a score of 17-20 at the hands of their divisional rivals, the Washington Redskins, they’re due for a win. And seeing as they’re 3-0-0 at home, a Week 9 victory in Arlington seems entirely possible.
Like his Cowboys, quarterback Dak Prescott seems to have up and down weeks, too. This season, his passer rating has floated between a low of 54.5 in Week 3 in the loss against the Seahawks all the way to a high of 118.6 the next week in their win against the Lions. Prescott will face a Titans defense ranked 9th against the pass, having allowed opponents to throw for 226.4 yards per game.
If the Titans win this matchup, they’ll move to 4-4 and a game closer to the current leaders of the AFC South, the 5-3 Houston Texans. But if the Cowboys come out on top, they’ll be 4-4 and get closer to the 5-2 Washington Redskins and the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
Who’s favored to win this Week 9 Titans-Cowboys matchup?
Which team has a better offense? Defense? Special teams?
Which team’s quarterback is more likely to lead his team to victory?
We’re going to compare the Titans and the Cowboys and attempt to answer those questions and more.
The 2018 Titans offense under new management
With their new head coach, Mike Vrabel, and a new offensive coordinator, Matt LaFleur, the Titans followed up a three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak that they’ll try to end in Arlington. Leading the way is quarterback Mariota, who has been sacked 19 times (13th most in the NFL) and has only converted on 38.1 percent of his third downs (ranked 21st).
Second-year receivers Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor along with third-year man Tajae Sharpe help make up a passing offense that’s ranked 30th in the NFL after only moving the ball an average of 173.0 yards per game.
Running back Dion Lewis is coming off his best game of the season against the Chargers where he ran 13 times for 91 yards while catching 6-for-6 balls for another 64 yards. The Cowboys have a top-ten rushing defense, so Titan ground yards will be tough to come by.
The 2018 Cowboys offense having trouble scoring
Dallas’ offense puts up an average of 20 points per game, and only six teams score less. Thankfully, for the Cowboys, the Titans are one of them, averaging only 15.1 points per week.
Quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown for almost 400 more yards than Mariota, but he’s only thrown 8 touchdowns (24th) with just 4 interceptions (24th). Prescott needed the bye week to recover from getting banged up against the Redskins, including getting checked for a concussion.
Receiver Tavon Austin (groin), who sat out in Week 7, will not play Monday night and is said to be looking at a long-term absence. Newly acquired receiver Amari Cooper (OAK) and offseason pickup Allen Hurns (JAX) will both help slot threat Cole Beasley get open against the Titans All-Pro safety Kevin Byard. Tight end Geoff Swaim (knee) is listed as questionable.
The Cowboys have the number two rusher in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, who has run 132 times for 619 yards and 3 touchdowns while catching 25-for-36 for 175 yards and another touchdown. Elliot’s the reason the Cowboys’ rushing attack ranks 4th in the league, bad news for a Titans’ run defense ranked 19th overall.
Titans Defense ranks 11th in the league, Cowboys D ranks 3rd
Actually, the Titans’ defense isn’t bad – they’ve held opponents to an average of 18.1 points per game (ranked 3rd) and they’ve kept whomever they’re playing to 338.7 total yards (ranked 11th). Where they come up short is in interceptions (5, ranked 19th) and sacks (15, ranked 27th).
Injured Tennessee starting safety Kenny Vaccaro (elbow) took part in practice Tuesday after missing three weeks. Vaccaro was reportedly able to extend his right arm to catch the ball during defensive back drills and appears on track to play on Monday night. Linebacker Derrick Morgan (shoulder) has been listed as questionable.
Until Week 7 against the Redskins, the Dallas defense hadn’t allowed an opponent to score on an opening drive for the previous 12 games. They rank 3rd against the pass and 9th against the run. The Cowboys have 19 total sacks (19th) but only 2 interceptions (29th) and they’ve allowed opponents to convert on 39.4 percent of their third downs.
Watch Dallas Pro-Bowl Second-team All-Pro defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who’s had 5.5 sacks, 29 tackles (11 for loss), 10 quarterback hits and a fumble recovery. End Randy Gregory, who just had knee surgery last week, could see playing time on Monday since the extra time off has allowed him to recover. He did not practice on Wednesday, however.
Special Teams Stats Comparison
Tennessee’s veteran punter, Brett Kern, was Second-team All Pro last season and has punted 33 times for a net average of 41.4 yards per punt, ranked 8th in the NFL.
Dallas’s punter, Chris Jones, has been in the league and with the Cowboys since 2011. So far, he’s punted 30 times for a net average of 38.8 yards per punt, ranked 21st in the league.
Tennessee’s placekicker, Ryan Succop, was acquired in 2009 from the Chiefs and so far he is 15-for-17, his longest was a 54-yarder. He hasn’t missed an extra point attempt (7/7).
Dallas’s newest placekicker, Brett Maher, got hired after the surprising release of veteran Dan Bailey. Maher is 16-for-18, his longest a 55-yarder. He hasn’t missed any extra point attempts (12/12).
Tennessee’s punt returner, cornerback Adoree’ Jackson, is ranked 42nd in the league in return average. He’s returned 4 punts for 34 yards and a touchdown, averaging 8.5 yards per return, his longest was for 26 yards.
Dallas’s punt returner, wide receiver Tavon Austin, is ranked 43rd in the league in return average. He’s returned 10 punts for 58 yards and no touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per return, his longest for 22 yards.
Titans–Cowboys prediction and odds
The oddsmakers have the Cowboys favored over the Titans by 5.5 with an over/under of 40.5.
CBSSports.com has two final score predictions:
Pete Prisco goes with the over and has it Cowboys 23, Titans 20
John Breech takes the over and predicts it Cowboys 22, Titans 19