Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had a great rookie season in the NFL. It was one of the best rookie seasons an NFL quarterback has ever produced. What makes it even more amazing, Prescott wasn’t a top five overall draft choice, but rather a round four pick, the 135th player taken overall. Nor did Dak work himself into the lineup. He started from the first snap of the season, and he stayed healthy all year too.
It’s no insult to say that all of Dak’s passing stats are down at this point in his second year – as he had set the bar so high as a rookie. His completion percentage has gone from 67.8 to 60.3; his average yards per throw from 8.0 to 6.6; his touchdown/interception ratio from 23/4 to 8/3; his passer rating from 104.9 to 90.1.
On the positive side, as a runner, Dak’s average gain has risen from 4.9 to 7.4 yards. Also, in 2016 he fumbled nine times, four of which resulted in turnovers; he’s fumble-free, however, through four games this year.
As great as Prescott’s numbers were in 2016, the Cowboys were conservative in their use of the former Mississippi State star – who, by the way, was named first-team All-SEC in both of his final years with the Bulldogs.
Though he played all year for the Cowboys, Dak attempted only 459 passes in 2016, which ranked him 23rd in the league. While part of the reason was surely to keep him healthy and take some of the stress off him, it also had a lot to do with his fellow rookie teammate, bruising running back Ezekiel Elliott. At 1,611 rushing yards, Elliott led the league by over 300 yards; he also had the most carries by a comfortable margin.
At the moment, Elliott has the ninth most rushing yardage in the league; his average run, however, is a middling 3.6 yards.
Prescott’s passing accounted for 229 yards per game last year; this time around that number has increased to 235. What this means is that Dallas is not as reliant on its QB as Green Bay is on Aaron Rodgers, who last year averaged 277 yard per game. So far this year he’s up to 287.
Prescott does not hesitate to run when it’s called for. His 7.4 average this year suggests he is wisely choosing when to use his feet, rather than his arm, to move downfield and to get first downs.
The difference in last year’s playoff game in Dallas on January 15, a 34-31 Packers’ win, was Aaron Rodgers, who passed for 355 yards, 53 more than Prescott. The Packers will likely again rely on Rodgers to produce big yardage. Prescott had a fine playoff game too, and actually out-rated Aaron, 103.2 to 96.6. However, this was at a time when the Packers’ defensive secondary was falling apart.
Green Bay shapes up as the Cowboys’ toughest opponent to date this year. Dallas has wins over the Giants and the Cardinals, but has lost to the Broncos and the Rams. In their most recent loss, at home, Rams second-year QB Jared Goff narrowly outplayed Prescott, as the Rams outscored the home team 19-6 in the second half. Rams’ runner Todd Gurley also had better stats than Elliott did.
The Packers look to be about two-point underdogs, in part due to their uncertain injury situation – especially at running back. However, the Packers have won six of their last seven games against Dallas, and they’ve covered the spread in five of those games.
You might want to hold off on placing bets on this one. Should Elliott, who is awaiting a ruling any day on the status of his pending six-game suspension, miss this game, the odds would change dramatically.