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The Cowboys Need a Victory — NFL Preview Week 5

Dallas Cowboys v Arizona Cardinals
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Dallas can’t wait much longer to start winning games; they’ll have to beat Green Bay to keep from going below the .500 mark. Here’s a preview of Week 5’s most interesting NFL games:

Sunday, October 8

The Panthers & Lions Battle for NFC Supremacy?
Detroit Lions v Carolina Panthers
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Carolina at Detroit | Ford Field, Detroit; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox

After four weeks of the 2017 NFL season, Carolina (3–1) and Detroit (3–1) are arguably the best teams in the NFC. Did anyone other than Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton see this coming? Not really. Only Buffalo (3–1) and the L.A. Rams (3–1) are bigger surprises this season.

The two overachieving NFC squads will battle at Ford Field on Sunday, with the Lions hoping to halt Newton and his offense, while the Panthers try to stop Stafford’s aerial attack. Whichever defense is more up to the challenge will likely get the win. On paper, that’s Carolina’s fourth-ranked unit (but the game will be played on the field).

How Bad Will the Raiders Be Without Derek Carr?
Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos
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Baltimore at Oakland | Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Oakland (2–2) will be without Derek Carr for two to six weeks after the quarterback suffered a transverse process fracture in his back on a sack last Sunday. You’ll remember that the Raiders were terrible after Carr’s leg was broken late last season. The longer he’s out, the worse it is for the Silver & Black.

Backup E.J. Manuel will get the start against Baltimore (2–2) on Sunday. The Ravens have looked like a broken team since a 2–0 start, failing to score in double-figures against Jacksonville and Pittsburgh. Quarterback Joe Flacco needs to get going against the Oakland secondary, otherwise coach John Harbaugh is going to have to choose between changing his offense or watching his team fall out of playoff contention.

The Rams Are Winning the NFC West With Offense
Los Angeles Rams vs San Francisco 49ers
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Seattle at L.A. Rams | L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles; 4:05 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Who ARE these guys? Well, the Los Angeles Rams are the owners of the NFL’s fifth-best offense, led by running back — and MVP candidate — Todd Gurley. The NFC’s leading rusher will look to gash a Seahawks defense that yields 134 yards per game — 27th in the league. If they can’t stop the run, it won’t matter if they shut down L.A. QB Jared Goff.

Seattle (2–2) needs to protect Russell Wilson from a Rams defense that has sacked him 39 times in his career — eight more times than any other team. Wilson can create a lot of stress on a defense, but not if he’s under a pile of defenders. If the Rams win this one, they’ll officially be NFC West contenders under first-year head coach Sean McVay. Maybe Jeff Fisher was the problem all along?

The Cowboys Need to Start Winning
Los Angeles Rams v Dallas Cowboys
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Green Bay at Dallas | AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas; 4:25 p.m. (ET) on Fox

The Cowboys were supposed to be better than this. Four games into the season, Dallas (2–2) finds itself in nearly a must-win situation with nemesis Green Bay (3–1) coming into JerryLand. The Packers have beaten the Cowboys six of the last seven times the teams have played, including twice in the playoffs.

The Dallas defense has to limit the effectiveness of Aaron Rodgers and give its offense a chance to attack the sometimes shaky Green Bay run defense with Ezekiel Elliott. The Packers can be ball hawks, though, so Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott must be accurate. A loss could put Dallas two games back in the division already, with Elliott’s potential suspension still looming.

Deshaun Watson Gets a Primetime Spotlight
Houston Texans v Carolina Panthers
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Kansas City at Houston | NRG Stadium, Houston; 8:30 p.m. (ET) on NBC

Houston, you have a quarterback. Texans rookie Deshaun Watson has gotten off to a great start in 2017, helping his team beat the Bengals and Titans and nearly knocking off the Patriots. This Sunday night, Watson gets a national primetime spotlight as Houston (2–2) hosts Kansas City (4–0), the NFL’s last undefeated team.

Watson will need to use his elusiveness to avoid the Chiefs pass rush. If he can get run support, the Texans can wear down Kansas City and stay in the game. When the Chiefs have the ball, NFL rushing leader (and rookie) Kareem Hunt will face the NFL’s fifth-ranked defense. Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt are more than capable of slowing down KC’s roll both on the ground and through the air. This could be a classic.

Other Games

Thursday, October 5
New England at Tampa Bay | Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.; 8:25 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Sunday, October 8
Buffalo at Cincinnati | Paul Brown Stadium, Cincinnati; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
N.Y. Jets at Cleveland | FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
San Francisco at Indianapolis | Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Tennessee at Miami | Hard Rock Stadium, Miami; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
L.A. Chargers at N.Y. Giants | MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS
Arizona at Philadelphia | Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia; 1 p.m. (ET) on Fox
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh | Heinz Field, Pittsburgh; 1 p.m. (ET) on CBS

Monday, October 9
Minnesota at Chicago | Soldier Field, Chicago; 9:30 p.m. (ET) on ESPN

BYE WEEK:
Atlanta, Denver, New Orleans, Washington

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