Week 13 in the National Football League will feature the Dallas Cowboys in a contest with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football.
The Cowboys enter the game with an 8-3 record and are coming off a victory against division rivals the New York Giants, who they defeated before the largest audience to watch a non-weekend football game in history. The Colts are struggling at 4-7-1 and lost on Monday Night Football to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Cowboys’ offense has rounded out into form over the last several weeks following the return of Dak Prescott in Week 7. The Cowboys have won four out of five games since Prescott retook the field.
Under second-year offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, the Cowboys have effectively run the ball with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard taking the majority of snaps out of the backfield. This has opened up opportunities for yards through the air and increased the workload for receivers CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup.
The offensive line play has been one of the key reasons for the Cowboys’ success this season, particularly when Cooper Rush was needed after Prescott’s Week 1 injury. Rush was sacked just seven times in his four starts, and Prescott was also taken down seven times.
A vital piece of the puzzle has been rookie tackle Tyler Smith, who was drafted in 2022 to play guard but was moved outside when Tyron Smith went down with an avulsion fracture in his knee. The rookie has exceeded expectations and has allowed just four sacks on 728 offensive snaps this season, according to PFF.
Disrupting the Cowboys’ offense will be essential for the Indianapolis Colts to have a shot at a win, but the defense has not shown much capacity this season. The Colts enter the game with the NFL’s 29th-ranked pass rush, which could lead to opportunities for Prescott and the receiving corps, particularly the tight end group that has flourished with the return of Dalton Schultz and the emergence of Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot.
The Colts’ run defense has been better than the pass defense this season but faces an enormous challenge against Pollard and Elliott. Elliott has returned to form over the last few weeks since dealing with a knee and leg injury and demonstrated power running between the tackles against the Giants that led to two touchdown scores. Pollard has broken off big plays in numerous games this season, both rushing on the outside and receiving.
The Colts are in one of the most unique situations in NFL history; the firing of head coach Frank Reich resulted in the announcement that former Colts center Jeff Saturday, who has practically no coaching experience, will serve as the interim HC until the end of the season.
Among the changes made by Saturday was the re-elevation of Matt Ryan to the QB position after his benching under the previous coaching staff. Ryan was one of the most significant offseason acquisitions, but the former Falcons QB has yet to find a groove in Indy.
Ryan has struggled because of the porous offensive line that has given up 34 sacks so far, juicy numbers that the Dallas defense will be hungry to add to on Sunday. Linebacker Micah Parsons is second in the NFL with 12 QB takedowns, while Dorance Armstrong, Demarcus Lawrence, and Dante Fowler all land in the top 50 in sacks in the NFL.
The Cowboys are likely to establish the run early as they did against the Giants on Thanksgiving and force the Colts’ offense to keep up. The Colts will most likely attempt the same strategy, leaning on Jonathan Taylor at running back to extend drives against a Dallas defense that can take over a game with a single play.
The Dallas Cowboys and the Indianapolis Colts will kick off at 7:20 p.m. CST from AT&T Stadium in Dallas. ESPN Analytics gives the Cowboys a 90 percent chance at victory, the highest percentage of any Cowboys game this season.