Somehow, someway, the Cowboys got steamed before Monday Night Football, inexplicably closing as a favorite over the Cardinals, before promptly losing 38-10 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates. Things were already bad for the Cowboys, with Dak Prescott getting knocked out for the season last week in a loss.
But it's worse than it looks and it's worse than you think. The offense is broken, despite Dallas spending hundreds of millions of dollars on that side of the ball. This year is an obvious problem, mainly because Andy Dalton is a capable backup, but one who folds when heavily pressured. And unfortunately for the Cowboys, they can't stop anyone from pressuring Dalton right now. The offensive line, once the best in football, is a shell of itself right now with injuries to multiple players, including a concussion suffered by Zack Martin on Monday night.
The Cowboys have fantastic weapons in Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. But weapons don't matter with Dalton if he doesn't have time to pass. And there's a zero point zero percent chance of the Cowboys stopping anyone on defense. They were better for a hot minute against the Cardinals, but eventually people were just running free. And with Washington, Philly and Pittsburgh on deck in the next three weeks, Dalton and Co. could be in some serious trouble.
Long-term, Dallas should be petrified about what happens to this team. The Cowboys paid Ezekiel Elliott (now fumbling on over three percent of his carries) and Jaylon Smith (an incredible story but unable to handle spy duties on Kyler Murray Monday) while letting Byron Jones (looking pretty good in Miami) and Dak Prescott go unpaid.
Prescott's importance has never been more emphasized than on Monday night. Dalton wasn't the reason the Cowboys lost, but he also wasn't elevating the Dallas offense. Prescott's performance early in games was questionable too, but it's pretty clear missing him is going to cause even bigger problems for Dallas' offense.
Making matters worse is the need to pay him. Can the Jones family justify not giving him $40 million per year now, once seeing how bad the offense looks without him? No chance. The Cowboys have to -- and will, as CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported on Sunday -- tag Prescott.
Prescott is going to be on a tag, without a guarantee for a long-term deal, Elliott is a massive salary-cap weight, the defense will need every single defensive pick to pan out in order to find any success on that side of the ball. They've allowed 14 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns through six games, the first team to do it since the San Francisco 49ers in 2005 ... coached by Mike Nolan.
This doesn't even bring into account the concern about Mike McCarthy. The former Super Bowl winner was supposed to embrace analytics as he took over the Cowboys, but it's very clear he's the same coach he was before. Kicking a 58-yard field goal down 25 points? Yikes. I get you want to make it three scores, but it basically told the Cowboys they were quitting.
Prescott being absent this year and the NFC East being winnable with four victories will probably cause Jerry Jones to keep the status quo going, but there's a lot of reasons to be worried about the Cowboys long term.
Are the Bucs the new 49ers?
I only mean that in the sense of they're a breakout defensive team with an impressive offense that just curb-stomped the Packers. Green Bay flat-out quit on Sunday afternoon. At one point Ronald Jones plunged into the end zone for a second-half touchdown and there were multiple Packers defenders just milling around. Green Bay didn't try to score in the second half and didn't try to come back.
They quit. And it felt identical to those games against the 49ers last year. So my concern here -- despite Aaron Rodgers saying this could be a good loss for Green Bay -- is the Bucs realizing they can punch the Packers in the mouth and get them to quit. Tampa's run defense was a concern coming into this game with Vita Vea going down for the season. They answered the bell in a big way. Lavonte David and Devin White are the next great linebacker duo. Todd Bowles is dialing up really impressive game plans every week and deserves consideration again as a head coach after this performance (he was secretly good with the Jets too, it was just a terrible spot).
Matt LaFleur said following the game that left tackle David Bakhtiari dodged a serious injury and that's a BIG win for the Packers. If he was lost for the year or missed serious time, the Packers rushing attack could fall off a cliff. Rodgers had been kept clean most of the year so far, but he was under siege against the Bucs and he just didn't have time to get throws off. There's no excuse here either, with Davante Adams back for this game.
Rodgers doesn't throw pick sixes. He just doesn't do it. But he threw one on Sunday, and ended up with a pair of picks. It could have been worse. He finished 16-of-35 for 160 yards on the day.
I don't think the Packers are fraudulent or anything like that. They have a consistent offense and a decent enough defense. Rodgers is playing really well. But I do think there's cause for concern here -- what if the Bucs are this year's 49ers and Green Bay just can't get through them? That will be a problem in the playoffs.
Cousins in danger?
The Vikings' season is slipping away from them pretty quickly -- they're staring up not just at the 5-1 Bears and 4-1 Packers, but the 2-3 Lions as well. The climb to the playoffs would be a long one from this point. Minnesota would need Kirk Cousins to magically flip the switch and start playing well, but the quarterback admitted after an ugly loss to Atlanta he might be closer to getting benched than breaking out.
This is a stunning turn of events for a quarterback who previously just didn't throw interceptions. Cousins is throwing them in spades, having coughed up a league-leading 10 picks and an interception rate north of 5 percent, which is wildly out of character.
Using PFR's Stathead database, I filtered for players in the last 20 seasons (including this year) with sufficient playing time (10 games played and 200 passing attempts) who managed to record a interception rate of five percent or higher in the last 20 years. Here are those quarterbacks:
Some pretty good names on there! Unfortunately the seasons for those players weren't exactly great. That's the rookie year for Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. Jake Delhomme was cut by the Panthers after 2009. Brett Favre and Peyton Manning retired following their disaster seasons.
So we're talking about rookie quarterbacks thrown into the fire or washed up old men. As you can see, Cousins is not one of those things right now. He's a veteran on his second team in his third year with the Vikings. He shouldn't be falling off a cliff like this all of a sudden. If he doesn't magically find a way to flip things around, the Vikings are toast.