Whether it’s internal strife, injuries, poor play on both sides of the ball, or really any issue an NFL team can deal with, the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks have seen it all this season.
Now the two NFC squads who were each viewed as a early Super Bowl contenders look to build some momentum in Sunday afternoon’s Week 8 matchup at AT&T Stadium.
In the midst of a four-game losing streak, most recently losing 27-20 to the rival New York Giants on the road, Dallas enters the game as a six-point underdog despite playing at home. The loss dropped Dallas to 2-4 and last place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys did gain 460 total yards against the Giants, but struggled with four turnovers and are now averaging 20.2 points per game (No. 27 in the league), compared to last year’s squad putting up better than 29 a contest.
The poor play of Brandon Weeden led head coach Jason Garrett to tap veteran Matt Cassel to start for the first time this season, but the results were largely the same, with the former Patriot and Packer chucking three interceptions.
But the Cowboys and Cassel’s fortune could turn with star wide receiver Dez Bryant returning to practice this week after missing the last five games while recovering from a broken foot sustained in the season opener against the Giants.
Bryant, who has scored 41 touchdowns the last three seasons, was a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice and could increase his workload on Thursday, but according to NFL.com Garrett wants the 26-year-old to fully participate and build a rapport with Cassel before he returns to the field.
One of the positives Dallas can draw from the loss to New York was the play of running back Darren McFadden, who tallied 152 yards and one touchdown off 29 carries and has now surpassed Joseph Randle on the depth chart.
However, Randle’s status with the team is unclear after he skipped a treatment for a strained oblique that forced him out of the Giants matchup, and the team is reportedly frustrated with his actions over the last few months, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Randle was arrested twice in a four-month span in the offseason.
On the other hand, the Seahawks are looking for a second-straight road victory after pummeling San Francisco 20-3 on Thursday night, and need to find ways to protect quarterback Russell Wilson.
The fourth-year quarterback has been sacked a league-worst 31 times, including five times against San Francisco, and the unsettled pocket’s led to five interceptions compared to eight touchdown passes. Wilson threw a mere seven picks and took 42 total sacks last season.
Still the 3-4 Seahawks maintain one of the NFL’s top rushing attacks with 143.3 yards per game, and starter Marshawn Lynch notched his first 100-plus yard game of the season with 122 yards and one score last week after dealing with a hamstring injury last month.
Defensively, Seattle’s looked far weaker than the prolific unit that couldn’t be stopped the previous two seasons. The Seahawks have allowed only 18.3 points per game, but they’ve allowed 20 or more points in four games this season compared to six times all of last year.
But there were encouraging signs of change against the 49ers limited offense. Seattle generated six sacks to now rank sixth in the league with 19 on the year, allowed only one third-down conversion, and 142 total yards.
Betting Odds: Seattle -6 points
Over/Under: 41 points
Prediction: Seattle over Dallas, 24-13