FRISCO, Texas – You're always looking for tendencies and tells when you're studying an NFL matchup.
What does each team do well? Where does each team struggle? How are they going to try to attack each other? What type of game are they going to try to play?
It creates a stark contrast when you're dealing with one of the best teams in the NFL going against one of the worst. Just as easily you can see all the ways the Cowboys succeed, you can see in pretty clear detail how eight different games have gotten away from the Browns.
That's what I wanted to try and do in my final notebook this week. Let's take a look at the best way the Cowboys can hope to break down the Browns. Away we go:
- I don't believe the coaching staff would admit this in public, but having Cody Kessler start over Josh McCown is a great situation for the defense. With Corey Coleman back in the lineup, I worried about McCown taking advantage of him down the field against a banged up Cowboys secondary. I don't see Kessler taking those kinds of shots with Coleman or Terrelle Pryor. Kessler starting plays right into the Cowboys' hands with their approach of rallying to the ball and making tackles on the spot.
- Something to keep an eye on for the Browns defensively is outside linebacker Carl Nassib. Last week against the New York Jets, Nassib knocked three of Ryan Fitzpatrick's passes down at the line of scrimmage. For the season, Nassib has four tipped passes to go along with 1.5 sacks. With the way the Cowboys like to work the ball in the middle of the field and to the outside on swings and screens, Nassib's length and ability could affect how successful those attempts are executed.
- No team in the NFL has rushed the ball more on first down than the Dallas Cowboys. As a matter of fact, on 62 percent of those snaps they are handing the ball to Ezekiel Elliott or Alfred Morris. In 115 rushing plays on first down, they've averaged an impressive 5.4 yards per carry. Only the Dolphins, Bears and Browns have averaged more yards running the ball in those situations.
- Defensively, the Cowboys have only allowed one touchdown run or pass of 20-plus yards. On the flip side, the Browns have allowed 10 -- which is the worst in the league. To make matters worse, opponents have had 41 plays covering 20-plus yards against the Browns through eight games this season.
- Cleveland Browns receiver Corey Coleman was rated as the second-best wide receiver on the Cowboys' 2016 draft board. Only the Washington Redskins' Josh Doctson was rated higher. The Cowboys had both Doctson and Coleman in the second round.
- The Browns can play with any opponent offensively in the first half, but defensively that's not the case. They have been outscored 115-51 in the second half of their games. The third quarter has been especially poor -- where opponents have scored 61 points. Through eight games, the Browns have given up 19 touchdowns through the air and 29 total -- which is awful.
- Just in case you wanted to know, the Browns passed on Dak Prescott eight times in the draft before he was selected by the Cowboys. Credit to the great Gil Brandt for that tidbit.
- My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Tony Romo, CB Morris Claiborne, RB Darius Jackson, S Barry Church, LB Mark Nzeocha, DE Ryan Davis, OT Chaz Green.