On the back of a defensive turnaround and a backup quarterback, the Dallas Cowboys have won six straight games and enter Week 9 with a three-and-a-half game lead in the NFC East. Now, the Cowboys (6-1) return home with another chance to take down a team they haven't beaten in decades, the Denver Broncos (4-4). Here are five storylines for each team heading into Sunday's matchup at AT&T Stadium.
- After a 3-0 start, Denver halted a four-game skid to get back to .500 with a defensive-minded 17-10 win over Washington in Week 8. It took two defensive stops down the stretch to stave off Washington as they had multiple opportunities in the final quarter to either tie or take the lead. Denver charted just 273 total yards but led on three different occasions, including for good when Melvin Gordon scored from seven yards out with 4:31 left in the game.
- Denver made news on Monday afternoon as a part of the biggest blockbuster trade of the November 2nd deadline. Broncos' legend and All-Pro linebacker Von Miller was sent to the Los Angeles Rams for a second and third round pick, ending his Denver tenure. Miller had 4.5 sacks in his first four games and played in the first seven games of the Broncos season before being inactive this past Sunday against Washington. General Manager George Paton also agreed to pay $9 million of Miller's remaining $10.5 million salary to maximize the return.
- Teddy Bridgewater is in his first season in Denver was thrusted into a quarterback competition with the incumbent starter Drew Lock and won the job in August. Bridgewater played exceptionally well through the first three weeks of the season with over 235 yards and a 100.0 passer rating in each game. It took until week five against Pittsburgh for him to throw his first interception of the year, but now he's thrown five over the last four games. In his one game against Dallas, Bridgewater went 23 of 30 for 193 yards and an interception in 2019.
- The pressure is on for Vic Fangio and the Broncos over the next few weeks as the AFC West is very much within reach after the Chargers have lost back-to-back games. Las Vegas (5-2) currently holds the lead in the division, but Denver is just a game-and-a-half back and tied with Kansas City (4-4) after their win last night. Following their meeting with Dallas on Sunday, they return home to face the Eagles in Week 10 before their bye week.
- The Broncos have dominated the Cowboys over the last two and a half decades, winning the last six meetings dating back to 1995. Just for reference, the last time the Cowboys defeated the Broncos both John Elway and Troy Aikman threw a pair of touchdown passes and Emmitt Smith scored on the ground. Four of the six Denver wins since then have been decided by a single possession, including the most recent matchup in Arlington where Peyton Manning out-dueled Tony Romo in a classic 51-48 Broncos win.
- Dallas completed a comeback win over the Minnesota Vikings, 20-16, on the road at U.S. Bank Stadium on Sunday night football. It now marks six straight wins for the Cowboys, with the most recent also being the most uncertain. Backup quarterback Cooper Rush was thrown into starting duties as news broke Sunday evening that Dak Prescott was out of the lineup due to a lingering calf injury from before the bye week. In his first career NFL start, Rush tallied 325 yards and two touchdowns including a game winning toss to Amari Cooper with 51 seconds remaining.
- As for Prescott's status moving forward, the front office and coaching staff have both said they feel optimistic that his rehab work has been good and the possibility of him getting team reps in practice is high, which bodes well for him playing in Week 9. Prescott was not a participant in practices last week and was said to be a game time decision before facing the Vikings. While he did travel with the team and work out on the field during pregame warmups, he was ruled inactive for the first time this season.
- In the win against Minnesota, a pair of starters did leave the game at different moments, both with ankle injuries. Left tackle Tyron Smith left the field in the first half after reaggravating an injury he suffered in the New England game. Smith was originally listed as questionable before kickoff but played well leading up to him leaving the game. Trevon Diggs found his way to the sideline in the closing moments of the fourth quarter as K.J. Osbourne bounded into his ankle while making a grab. While he did not reenter, it is expected that he will not miss any added time and should be able to play against Denver.
- Offensive tackle La'el Collins made his return to the active roster after serving a five-game suspension, but he did not return to the starting lineup. Terence Steele, the second-year tackle who filled in for Collins on the right side, retained his spot on the offensive line and performed well against Minnesota's front. Collins did find his way on the field with snaps in heavy packages and the so-called 'Hulk' formation with both him and guard Connor McGovern playing as fullbacks in the wishbone. With the uncertainty around Smith's health, there is a chance this week for Collins to rotate in at left tackle, but that has yet to be decided by the coaching staff.
- Dallas makes their way back to AT&T Stadium for the first time since October 3, when the Cowboys concluded a three-game homestand. A three-game stretch where Dallas outscored their opponents 121-69 and extended their home winning streak to five games. Their last loss in Arlington came on Thanksgiving last season against Washington. Under Mike McCarthy, Dallas currently holds a 7-4 record at home and the Cowboys own a 19-8 record at AT&T Stadium since 2018.