The upcoming Week 2 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Chargers got a lot more interesting over the past few days. Since dropping a close one to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1, the Cowboys were forced to move Randy Gregory to the reserve/COVID-19 list and and then both Michael Gallup and DeMarcus Lawrence to injured reserve -- the latter two set to miss multiple weeks with a calf and foot injury, respectively.
The return of perennial All-Pro right guard Zack Martin is a huge boost to the offensive front, but there are justifiable question marks about the ability of tackles Terence Steele and/or Ty Nsekhe to keep All-Pro pass rusher Joey Bosa at bay for four complete quarters. (It's a tough ask for even Collins, and even more so for those backing him up.) Injury concerns aren't exclusive to the Cowboys, though, because starting safeties Nasir Adderley (groin) and Derwin James (toe) join starting tackle Bryan Bulaga (back/groin), linebacker Kyler Fackrell (knee) and cornerback Chris Harris Jr. (shoulder) as players who did not practice Wednesday and stand to be less than 100% when/if they take the field Sunday.
In all, both teams are entering with some expected strengths and unexpected weaknesses the other could take full advantage of, but who will and who won't?
You're going to want to tune in and find out, because this could be the game of the week.
How to watch
There isn't any time to think about what happened in Tampa, especially when you factor in everything that's occurred in Dallas over the past several days since dropping a close one to the defending champs. Not only will the trek across three time zones take a bit of a toll on the Cowboys, but so will the presence of Justin Herbert, a young talent who's shown the ability to take over games. Herbert isn't Brady, though, and that's where the still-forming Cowboys defense might find an edge, most noticeably in his overall inexperience that Dallas hopes will show itself on more than one occasion. But without Lawrence and presumably without Gregory to apply definitive pressure on the edges, they'll have to lean on first-round pick Micah Parsons and a stable of unusual suspects to get the job done in that regard, because rattling Herbert (if they can) is the name of the game.
A usually takeaway-thirsty Dallas team found its groove in that respect as the 2020 season came to its conclusion, and it once again displayed that mojo when it intercepted Tom Brady on two occasions and forced two fumbles on the evening. The added problem for Dan Quinn's defense, however, is in how good Herbert is at not giving the ball away. He threw only 10 interceptions to 31 touchdowns in Year 1, so when/if he does make a mistake, the Cowboys must capitalize to give Prescott and Co. as many extra chances as possible.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys offense will have its hands full against the Chargers' pass rush led by Joey Bosa versus players not named La'el Collins at the right edge, along with an opportunistic secondary. But the Chargers aren't without their own concerns, because while James looks back to form after suffering a season-ending injury, he is battling a toe injury that held him out of practice Wednesday. Adderley is dealing with a groin issue that held him out as well.
It'll be interesting to see if Prescott tests their health early and often, and if he'll have the time to do so.
Key matchup to watch
This one isn't rocket science by any stretch of the imagination.
With Collins absent at right tackle, it'll be backup tackles Terence Steele and Ty Nsekhe doing their best to contain Bosa, one of the best pass rushers in all of football. If the Cowboys leave either on an island, it'll be a death sentence, so the expectation is they'll send assistance by way of Ezekiel Elliott and their tight ends -- hoping to slow Bosa to a crawl. It's a tall task, to say the least, but this matchup will likely decide the outcome of the game. If Bosa is allowed to blast off, Prescott and the high-flying Cowboys offense will be grounded.
Both Adderley and James are set to have their hands full with Prescott and the Cowboys receiving corps -- even without Gallup on the field -- and being less than 100% won't help their cause. In a game wherein home field advantage will be negated (SoCal is a second home to the Cowboys, and they have a rabid fan base there who'll show up en masse), the edge here goes to a more experienced Prescott, but one false move and they'll fall to 0-2 on the season. That false move would include not throwing as much help toward Bosa as possible.
Pick: Cowboys 30, Chargers 27
Check out CBSSports.com for even more predictions on this game and the rest of Week 2.