The I-45 rivalry is back.
Cowboys-Texans, Sunday night in Houston. Will Dallas (2-2) get above .500 for the first time this season? Will the Texans (1-3) put together a two-game winning streak?
The DallasCowboys.com staff gives their gut feelings for Sunday's primetime matchup:
Lindsay Draper: Through a month now, this Dallas team has shown us what they're capable of – but they've been extremely volatile with execution. But I saw something last week that I've never seen before. Jason Witten used to be the pregame hype man. Then, it was Sean Lee. With Lee out, I was shocked to see Ezekiel Elliott losing his mind in the pregame hype huddle. It truly didn't stop there: Zeke went on to have his best game ever, and I am wholly confident in saying that, 240 yards later, he willed the Cowboys to a win. Once this man gets rolling, no one can stop him. I think Zeke owns the ground game and grabs the wheel if things get off track for the O – lots of points on the board, but Cowboys beat their in-state 'rival' Houston.
Nick Eatman: I really think this one could go either way. Every time I visualize one team winning, I start doubting that and thinking the other way. Honestly, this one came down to the time of the game. If this one was a Noon kickoff or even 3:30, then I might think differently. But there's something about playing on the road at night, in what I know will be a hostile environment. With that, I'm going to lean towards the Texans. I do think Houston's pass rushers will be a problem for the Cowboys, although I'm expecting another big game from Zeke. But the Texans also have DeAndre Hopkins, and he seems to always make plays regardless of who is throwing him the ball. Watson and Dak are pretty even in my opinion, although Watson has made more plays this year. Give me Anthony Brown for the team's first interception this year. But in the end, it'll come down to some crazy plays and I'm going to say the Texans will take this one, 28-26.
David Helman: I genuinely want to pick the Cowboys to win this game. This is a middling Texans team with a leaky secondary and an offense that has shown a tendency to give the ball away. On top of that, I don't think Houston can defend the run as well as the stats might suggest. Unfortunately, I just can't bring myself to give the Cowboys the benefit of the doubt – not after the two road games we've seen so far. This is a young team that needs to learn how to win on the road. That means conquering a rowdy NRG Stadium crowd and not allowing J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney to wreck their offensive game plan. I think Zeke Elliott is going to have another good night, but I don't trust this Dallas offense to click properly in a hostile environment. With the home crowd behind them, I think the Texans' defense can get some stops, and I think Deshaun Watson can take advantage of the Cowboys' secondary. I'll happily eat crow if I'm wrong, but I think Houston wins a wild one – something like 31-27.
Rob Phillips: There's a large part of me that needs to see the Cowboys play a clean game on the road first. This Houston front seven is capable of causing problems up front much like Carolina did in the opener. If the Cowboys struggle to stay ahead of the chains, well, that works perfectly for Watt and Clowney. But I'm encouraged by the chunk plays the offense got against Detroit last week, and even though Houston has mostly been effective against the run, the Cowboys have gotten back to setting the tone with Elliott. If they can keep a clean pocket for Prescott, and if the defense doesn't allow an excess of big pass plays – a takeaway or two would help – I like their chances on the road this time. Cowboys get to 3-2.
Mickey Spagnola: Providing the Cowboys' offensive line can stand up to that Houston front, and providing the Cowboys can produce an effective running game, my gut tells me that rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup just might produce a breakout game. We've seen glimpses of what Gallup can do, and seems to me it's a matter of time before we get like a six-catch, 100-yard game from him. He has the tools. Just needs to become consistent in his route-running. And if he breaks out at NRG Stadium, the Cowboys break out over .500 for the first time this season.
Bryan Broaddus: The weakness of this Texans defense is their secondary, but their strength is the pass rush. My biggest concern is the pressure they can generate but also the way they create turnovers in the pocket. Clowney and Watt are always ripping at the ball when they get near the quarterback. Prescott has seen the tape and he knows this is a way that the Texans like to operate. If the Cowboys can protect, they can win this game, but these rushers won't be held off the stat sheet. Clowney or Watt create a turnover in the pocket which will be the difference in this game. Texans 28-24.