Cowboys Countdown to Bears

The Cowboys play the Bears for the first time on Sunday night since 2007. Here are 10 stats to keep an eye on as we get ready for the 7:30 p.m. Central kickoff.

It's a 7:30 start tonight at AT&T Stadium, Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys ... Here's The Countdown ...

10: Dallas' rank in red-zone conversions -- The Cowboys offense is 50 percent on red zone TD's, ranking 10th-worst in the NFL. The fact this is so is baffling when considering the Cowboys have ostensibly the greatest active offensive line, a bevy of talented running backs, and a playmaking receiver whose highlight reel in the NFL consists of big catches inside the 20-yard line. The Cowboys have to figure a way to correct this against Chicago, a squad that also ranks 10th in the NFL -- 10th-best as a defense in the red zone, only surrendering 44 percent of their stands as touchdown drives. To get to 2-1, the Cowboys must find ways to send Dan Bailey out for extra points after entering Chicago's red zone, not field-goal attempts.


Rookie QB Dak Prescott seems ready to do his part.


9: The Cowboys' rank for rushing attempts -- The Cowboys are tied with the Broncos for ninth-most rushing attempts in the NFL with 60 through two games. The difference is the Cowboys have a 3.4 yards per carry and Denver has 4.7. Chicago's defense is also ranked ninth in the NFL with a 3.4 yards per carry, meaning that running the ball against the Bears could be challenging. If that is the case, and Dallas offensive coordinator Scott Linehan still wants to run the ball, he could employ the read-option or give opportunities to Alfred Morris or get the ball in space to his assortment of backs.




Most likely, though, this is Ezekiel Elliott's show ... even with last week's pair of fumbles.


8: The Bears' rank for scoring drives against -- Chicago's defense has been scored on 44 percent of its drive, which is the 8th-worst in the NFL. The opportunities are there for the Cowboys to take if they can have productive, sustained drives. As alluded to in the first stat of this piece, the problem for the Cowboys offense has been what happens inside the red zone. Nevertheless, Chicago is bleeding points here and there and Dallas has to take advantage of this.



7: Anthony Brown's number of snaps last week -- The sixth-round rookie out of Purdue did not see a snap on defense last week in Washington, so all of those snaps were on special teams. He may see more if veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick is not able to play, which is possible given that he did not practice one time this week due to his double hamstring injury. (We'll keep you posted from the stadium here on Twitter @FishSports ).Certainly cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr will hold their own against their draws, whether the hobbled Alshon Jeffery, second-year Kevin White, or Eddie Royal. Brown's job is not be the weak link and let his assignment light him up for a big day on the one-week fantasy sites, as was the case last year when Scandrick missed all of 2015.



6: Number of wins and losses Brian Hoyer has on the road -- The eight-year journeyman has a .500 record on the road and a 2-1 record in prime time overall. Despite getting blanked 30-0 by the Chiefs in the playoffs last year with Houston, or being replaced by Johnny Manziel in the last month of 2014 in Cleveland, Hoyer is a quarterback who can win games if given the opportunity. Though Jim Schwartz was probably calling off the dogs after a 29-7 lead in the fourth quarter, Hoyer nonetheless went 9/12 for 78 yards in relief duty for Jay Cutler, playing the entire fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Taking on Hoyer won't be a sure win for the Cowboys defense, but they have shown the ability to handle his tier of quarterbacks given Kirk Cousin's 84.0 passer rating, two sacks, and interception last week in Washington.





5: Number of fumbles Chicago's rushing offense has -- The Bears are tied with the Giants and Seahawks with four fumbles through two games. Dallas had a shot at one of those fumbles against New York but failed to capitalize. If the Bears are going to follow the G-Men's suit at AT&T Stadium and put the ball on the carpet, the Cowboys defense has to come up with the loose balls. As we will see in some upcoming stats, takeaways for the Cowboys is an ingredient for winning football. (It can all start with good D-line play for Dallas, which is making some changes in that department for tonight. From Terrell's Toe to Tyrone Butterfly, check it all out here.)



4: Number of turnovers Chicago's offense has surrendered -- Giving free opportunities to the Cowboys is not a good idea in 2016. Unlike last year, the Cowboys have 14 points off of takeaways so far, good for 7th-best in the league. After forcing the Giants into a Brandon Carr interception and wiping away Washington's red zone drive with a Barry Church pick, the Cowboys converted those freebies into touchdowns. Chicago can't afford to let Dallas have more opportunities to score on Sunday night if they want to get off the schneid.



3: Number of sacks the Cowboys defensive line has -- The Dallas defensive line has three sacks total thanks to defensive ends Benson Mayowa and Jack Crawford and defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford through two games. Some of this has been due to conventional means, while some of it has been due to defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli kicking out Tyrone Crawford to end and rush from the outside, where he got a sack on the final drive against Washington last week. Chicago's offense has similarly surrendered eight sacks through two games, tied with the Bengals for the most surrendered in the NFL. It is entirely likely the Cowboys extend their streak of consecutive games with a sack to 12 after Sunday night.





2: Number of remaining teams that have yet to throw a passing touchdown -- Incidentally, both of these teams -- Dallas and Los Angeles -- have rookie quarterbacks on the roster with one starting and the other not. If the Chicago rushing defense is going to be a little less lenient along with the Giants and Washington, then the Cowboys are going to have to find ways to score through the air. Chicago's defense may make that a little easier given they have surrendered three touchdowns through two games, good for 15th-best in the NFL. Perhaps Sunday night won't be a question of when Dak Prescott will throw his first NFL touchdown but to whom.



1: Cowboys' third-down conversion rank -- The Dallas offense has converted on 16/29 of their third downs, good for the best overall in the NFL. This is the prime piece of why Prescott has been impressive in his first two starts, despite our friend, Babe Laufenberg, posting stats insinuating Prescott hasn't been as productive as Brandon Weeden last year:


While true, it is also true that Weeden's Cowboys were 5/18 on third downs in his first two starts against the Falcons and Saints. Prescott's Cowboys have trebled the first downs with just 11 more attempts. The Dallas offense has been rolling in crucial spots with Prescott under center. Chicago's defense has been 15/35 on third down through two games, ranking 14th-worst overall. While not entirely bad, it is still markedly better than Washington's top spot with 15/26.

And tonight? One way or another, it'd be nice if the 1-1 Cowboys -- looking to break the NFL's longest-active streak of home losses at eight -- need to be markedly better than the Bears.


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