FRISCO, Texas — The Week 2 matchup between the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys was one of the few most of the football world had circled on the calendar because it was going to be future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers once again doing battle with “America’s Team,” its top-five defense and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. However, Rodgersfour plays into “Monday Night Football” against the Buffalo Bills completely changed the tenor of this Sunday’s showcase.
Rodgers has an 8-2 lifetime record against the Dallas Cowboys, including a 3-0 mark on the road against Dallas. That’s something only he and Tom Brady can claim, a road record of 3-0 or better against the Cowboys. However, almost every Packers and Cowboys battle with Rodgers involved felt like a rivalry thanks to the many close finishes over the years. That and the missed opportunity for revenge is why the Dallas players.
“I really did want to play Aaron,” Cowboys two-time First-Team All-Pro linebacker Micah Parsons said Thursday. “I know how great he is, and I loved the matchup last year. It left a bitter taste [the Packers won 31-28 in overtime] and people always talk about how Rodgers dominates guys when he plays in Dallas. So, it would have been nice to break that curse, but I hope he gets healthy, and I hope he comes back next year.”
The focus now shifts to the All-Pro talent on each of the defenses that both ranked top five in points allowed last season and are both coming off of Week 1 wins — the Jets defeated the Bills 22-16 in overtime, and the Cowboys defeated the Giants 40-0 — in which they allowed less than 20 points. New York’s defense employs three All-Pros: 2022 First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, 2022 Second-Team All-Pro linebacker C.J. Mosley and 2022 First-Team All-Pro cornerback Sauce Gardner. The Dallas defense employs five: Parsons, a First-Team All-Pro in each of his first two seasons in 2021 and 2022, 2017 Second-Team All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, 2018 Second-Team All-Pro linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, two-time First-Team All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore, and 2021 First-Team All-Pro cornerback Trevon Diggs.
“It’s always fun because in reality, they do have a great defense,” Parsons said Thursday when asked about the Jets’ defensive flexing on “Hard Knocks” in the lead up to the 2023 NFL season. “You look at in terms of who they have, they have a very similar team and a very similar situation. I don’t knock their defense. I was talking to Cooper [Rush] and Dak saying ‘you guys got your hands full.’ I know this team is a really good defense. You love it because now it’s a battle of the defenses. People usually say ‘who is going to score the most?’ Now, it’s ‘who is going to keep it to the least amount of points?’ Those are the types of games I love.”
Before we break down the matchup between these two defensive heavyweights, here is a look at how you can watch the game.
How to watch
- Date: Sunday, Sept. 17 | Time: 4:25 p.m. ET
- Location: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
- TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click here)
- Follow: CBS Sports App
- Odds: Cowboys -9; O/U 38.5
When the Jets have the ball
“They have two great running backs [Dalvin Cook and Breece Hall], they have a great offensive line,” Cowboys defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said Wednesday. “I think they pride themselves on running the ball. Dalvin Cook is more of an outside runner in my personal opinion. Breece Hall got juice too. I think stopping the run is going to be huge. It may be the key to winning this game.”
Hankins is correct in his assessment that whoever wins the battle at the line scrimmage between Cowboys defensive line and the Jets offensive line will win the game. If New York quarterbackneeds to carry the Jets offense on Sunday, the game is a wrap. The Cowboys sacked New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones seven times and hit him 12 times in their 40-0 Week 1 shellacking of the G-Men, both the most by any team in both pass-rushing categories in first week of the new season. Since 2021, when McCarthy hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and they drafted Parsons 12th overall, Dallas leads the NFL in takeaways (70), sacks (102), quarterback pressure rate (40.4%), points off turnovers (243), and defensive touchdowns (10, tied with the New England Patriots). Parsons’ 96 quarterback pressures since the start of the 2022 season are the most in the NFL, two more than 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa’s 94 in the same span.
“I told y’all, that’s all I was thinking,” Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said when asked what was going through his mind while watching the Cowboys defense dismantle the Giants in Week 1. “Excited to see those guys fly around and get a hold of the quarterback. Obviously, they can’t get a hold of Dak. They always talk to me about how many sacks they had at practice. But I always tell them how open I am on the back end. To get the opportunity to see that up close and personal, it’s exciting to see.”
The Jets offensive line allowed a quarterback pressure on 50% of its dropbacks in in Week 1, the third-worst rate in the NFL. Their 35.9% figure from the 2022 season ranks as the seventh-worst from that year. Wilson, the second overall pick in the same draft, has the unique distinction of being the only quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to finish last in the NFL in passer rating in consecutive seasons (69.7 in 2021 and 72.8 in 2022). The Jets have averaged 17.2 points per game with him as their starting quarterback since 2021, the third-lowest mark by any team’s starting quarterback who has made at least 10 starts in the last three years. Between those facts and the Cowboys ranking as the 11th-worst run defense in 2022 (129.3 rushing yards per game allowed), it makes the Jets or any team desire to keep Parsons and company out of clear passing downs.
“You have to stop the run and the play-action passing game too,” McCarthy said Thursday. “There are big play opportunities there that I’m sure they’re going to challenge us with. We know that’s [running the football] is how people are going to come after us. It’s important to stop it and keep it stopped. Both of these backs can take it to the house. That’s definitely a focus for us.”
Hall showcased that ability during a second quarter run he took nearly the distance of the entire football field on Monday against Buffalo with an 83-yard explosion, the longest in the NFL through Week 1. Hall finished Monday with 127 rushing yards on 10 carries for a league-leading 12.7 yards per carry.
“All you have to do is look at the 83-yard run, that tells you everything,” McCarthy said. “He can run between the tackles, has good vision and acceleration. Hits the crease, doesn’t jump around and waste steps. He can take it the distance. Very impressive runner.”
His complement is Cook, the only player to rush for at least 1,100 yards in each of the last four seasons. Cook totaled 33 rushing yards on 13 carries in Week 1, showing some of the rust from holding out for a contract he liked until Aug. 16, near the end of the preseason.
“We have to be dominant [at the line of scrimmage],” Parsons said. “We have to earn the right to stop these great backs. We’re very familiar with Dalvin from the past couple of years [playing against the Vikings]. Breece Hall is a little bit of a different back from Dalvin, but still a really good back. We just got to be prepared.”
Should Dallas get out to another big lead early like they did against the Giants, it won’t matter if 2022 Offensive Rookie of the Year receiver Garrett Wilson is open. The football isn’t getting there.
“It was a great catch, an acrobatic catch,” McCarthy said of Wilson’s 3-yard touchdown catch on “Monday Night Football.” “He’s a good, young receiver. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. I think we’ll be ready.”
When the Cowboys have the ball
On the flip side, the Cowboys allowed a quarterback pressure rate of 20%, tied for the second-lowest in the entire NFL in Week 1 with the Packers. Only the Raiders (13.8%) rate was lower in Week 1. However, that metric was aided by Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott averaging the fastest time to throw (2.37 seconds) in the entire NFL in the 2023 season’s opening week among qualified quarterbacks in the rain-soaked conditions of MetLife Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.” They’ll need a similar performance when facing Gang Green’s front whose 36.5% quarterback pressure rate is the fifth-highest in the NFL since the start of the 2022 season.
“, it’s good,” Prescott said Thursday with a smile when talking about McCarthy’s revamped Cowboys offense. speeding up his team to throw. “It equalizes a pass rush like that. Those guys [the Giants] and honestly these guys coming in [the Jets], just being able to get the ball out of my hands quick. It says a lot about the receivers, them flying off the ball, them getting to their spacing, them getting on the timing, getting to where they need to be and me feeling comfortable with my reads and everything that we, the communication that we’ve put in throughout the week and what I’m going to see what I’m getting at, the purpose in coach calling plays. There’s a lot that goes into that, but with as credit as much as anybody, I think probably those guys outside deserve some for understanding the purpose in the plays. And it’s not always about beating the defenders as much as it is about beating the pass rush and getting to their spots. and I’m only continuing to hope to do that.”
The Jets’ pass-rush is power by a deep, rotating cast of rusher like the Cowboys, and like Dallas, they have superstar up front that makes the whole thing go in 2022 First-Team All-Pro defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
“I mean, they have a great defense, especially the D-line you know, a guy like Quinnen Williams up front,” Cowboys running back Tony Pollard said Wednesday. “They got a great linebacker core with C.J. Mosley. They got nice corners out there, so it’ll be a nice challenge for us. But, we’re looking forward to it.”
In order for Prescott to air it out and really dive into McCarthy’s playbook in AT&T Stadium’s domed environment with deep balls to Lamb, he’ll need to got through one of the best cornerback duos in the NFL between Gardner and D.J. Reed.
“Absolutely,” Lamb said Thursday when asked about his potential excitement to face the Jets top two corners. “Always a testament to my position [as Dallas’ WR1] and, obviously, [Gardner] had a lot of success last year and he’s a great DB. D.J. Reed, I played him in college [at Kansas State] so very familiar with him. I look forward to games like that, match ups like that if you will to test my abilities, see where I am and make a statement.”
Gardner, the 2022 Defensive Rookie of the Year, earned 2022 First-Team All-Pro honors thanks to only allowing one touchdown in coverage as a rookie last season in 613 coverage snaps. His 44.9 passer rating allowed in coverage last season was the second-lowest in the NFL, 44.9, trailing only Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (44.5) among players with at least 75 passes thrown their way. Most cornerbacks’ heights hover around 5-foot-9 to 6-foot tall, but Gardner is no average-sized cornerback. He stands at a towering 6-foot-3, 200 pounds. A stature Lamb describes as his immediate advantage.
“For starters, his height,” Lamb said when asked what makes Gardner special. “His height off the rip a disadvantage for a lot of receivers under 6 foot. Granted for the ones above 6 foot as well. He does a great job and he performs well. His technique, he knows his leverage. Very smart, tall. He’s not your average DB.”
However, Lamb is well-equipped for the back-and-forth with Gardner practicing every day against Diggs, whose stature stands at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds.
“Yeah, facts,” Lamb said when asked if practicing regularly against Diggs equips him well to face taller, rangier cornerbacks. “Seeing Tre[von Diggs] every week, it doesn’t make a difference to me because he has the best ball skills out of all DBs. So when the ball is in the air [against him], he makes me track it differently. Seeing eye-to-eye when I line up, at my height technically, it makes you want to get in your bag a little more. You got a couple more releases so you don’t get jammed up at the line of scrimmage. You have to work it differently. There are a lot of different tools you can use. It’s great work in practice.”
If the Bills front seven was able to get home against the Jets offensive line to Rodgers with ease on Monday, what is going to happen with Wilson under center for an entire game against Parsons and Co., the best pass-rush unit in the NFL? New York scores in garbage time, but make no mistake, the Cowboys defense is once again going to get its pound of flesh in Week 2, handing another New York team a beatdown.
Score: Cowboys 27, Jets 10
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