Not one, but two Cowboys games on the slate this week — and I’ve got my eye on something different in each. Plus, Adolis Garcia didn’t deliver on my inevitably doomed prediction of breaking the Rangers’ rookie home-run record on Sunday (big shocker), but there is one more thing I’ll be paying attention to in the final week of the season.
Here’s what I’m watching:
Monday, 9/27: Whatever’s left of the Cowboys’ defensive line versus the Philadelphia Eagles’ run game—7:15 p.m., ESPN
It’s one step forward, two steps back, as Randy Gregory is back after missing last week due to a positive COVID-19 test, but Dorance Armstrong and Carlos Watkins have been ruled out. That’s on top of longer-term injuries to three starters from last season in DeMarcus Lawrence, Trysten Hill, and Neville Gallimore. So we’re probably heading for another week of Micah Parsons playing out of position at defensive end—although, to be fair, it certainly worked out against Los Angeles—and perilously little depth at defensive tackle.
That, as the kids say, is not what you want against a Philadelphia team that does its best work on the ground between Jalen Hurts’ mobility at quarterback and a solid pair of young tailbacks in Miles Sanders and Kenny Gainwell. Make no mistake, Dallas should win this game. But if they don’t, it’s probably because they got gashed on the ground.
Tuesday, 9/28: Angels at Rangers—7:05 p.m., Bally Sports Southwest
The big-picture development to pay attention to this week is how many games Texas might lose as they race down the standings toward better draft position. Right now, Texas sits a game and a half ahead of Pittsburgh for the third overall pick—first and second are comfortably out of reach, and there’s no chance of dropping all the way down to fifth—and a few losses this week ought to cement a top-three pick for the second consecutive draft.
The more immediate, more fun thing to watch is any and all games in this final three-game set against the Angels because you get to see Shohei Ohtani. The two-way superstar and near-lock for the American League MVP award isn’t scheduled to take the mound, but he’ll be at the plate each night and is one stolen base away from baseball’s first 45 home run, 25 steal season since ex-Ranger Alfonso Soriano did it as a Washington National in 2006 (San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr., son of the former Rangers third baseman, could also do it with four more home runs). Add in Garcia’s chase for that 31st rookie home run, and both lineups have a milestone in play.
Sunday, 10/3: Trevon Diggs versus the Carolina Panthers’ D.J. Moore—12 p.m., FOX
Diggs was exciting as a rookie but is knocking on stardom’s door as a second-year player, and he’ll face another stiff test Sunday. The 24-year-old Moore, meanwhile, has been among the league’s more exciting young receivers for years and has taken a step up in 2021, ranking eighth league-wide in receiving yards among players who have played three games. With Christian McCaffrey out, Carolina’s best hope of winning is pushing the ball downfield, and Moore will be the focal point of that passing attack. If Diggs contains him, Dallas could run away with this.