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NFL predictions at midseason – Forecasting the second half of the 2021 season, including playoff teams, record breakers, more

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We are now through nine weeks of the 2021 NFL season, which means we’re officially at the midway point. And with roughly two months still to play in the regular season and at least eight games still on the schedule for all 32 teams, a lot can happen. Only a few teams are truly out of the playoff hunt at this point, and multiple players are on track to challenge league records with huge seasons. The stretch run promises to be exciting, and if last weekend’s big upsets were any indication, it will have plenty of surprises.

So we asked 15 of our NFL analysts for their best prediction for the rest of the season and how it will play out. Will we see shocking division winners and playoff teams? Which teams will earn the No. 1 seeds in each conference? Will stars enter the record books? Will one team set a draft record, and will another produce multiple award winners?

Let’s predict the final nine weeks, starting with a fantastic finish for one of the game’s top pass-catchers.

Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp will finish in the top two of all time for receiving yards in a season — and flirt with the record

At his current pace, Kupp would finish the year at 1,925 receiving yards, just short of Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 set in 2012. But he might just surpass it due to his incredibly high usage rate in the Rams’ offense (though Odell Beckham Jr. could steal some of his targets). Quarterback Matthew Stafford has targeted Kupp at least 10 times in eight of Los Angeles’ nine games. The duo quickly developed chemistry in the offseason, and it’s paying off in 2021, with Kupp leading the NFL in receptions (74), yards (1,019) and receiving touchdowns (10).

And even if he doesn’t eclipse Johnson’s 1,964 — remember, he has an extra game to work with — Kupp will beat out Julio Jones‘ 1,871 yards (2015), which currently ranks No. 2 all time. — Jeremy Fowler, NFL writer/reporter


Quarterback Russell Wilson might be playing his final months in Seattle (we’ll have to wait until the offseason to find out), but there are few players as determined as he is to cement their legacy as a winner. The Seahawks haven’t looked good so far, but the remaining schedule includes tasty matchups against the likes of Washington, Houston, Detroit and Chicago. If they can beat Green Bay this week and split games with Arizona, I like the Seahawks’ chances of running down some of the Atlanta/New Orleans types in the wild-card hunt and making the playoffs for the ninth time in Wilson’s 10 years there. — Dan Graziano, NFL writer/reporter

Yup, I totally agree. There are two teams in the NFL with a point differential between plus-10 and plus-20 and an elite quarterback at the helm: the 7-2 Packers and the 3-5 Seahawks. We tend think about those two teams very differently, but I’m not sure we should. Seattle’s third-down conversion rate is an absurdly low 31% (No. 31 in the NFL) despite an only slightly above-average 7.1-yard distance to go required. Those are high-leverage plays, and I have to believe the conversion rate will improve going forward, given their offensive talent.

And while the bottom of the NFC playoff battle is crowded, none of the Vikings, 49ers, Eagles, Falcons or Panthers are particularly scary. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) is currently giving the Seahawks a 31.0% chance of pulling it off. — Seth Walder, analytics writer


Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year will both come from the Indianapolis Colts

Running back Jonathan Taylor and linebacker Darius Leonard will each pick up some personal hardware for the Colts. Taylor has a clear path to leading the NFL in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, while Leonard’s on-ball production is nearly unmatched among linebackers. Taylor, the team’s second-year back, has 821 rushing yards and eight rushing scores, and he has scored at least once in every game since September. Leonard, meanwhile, has 67 tackles, four forced fumbles (and two recoveries), eight passes defended and a pair of interceptions.

This is predicated upon Indy hanging in the race for the AFC South and AFC wild-card picture, which I also believe will happen. — Field Yates, NFL analyst


Cleveland is 5-4 and tied for last in the AFC North, but this team is too good on paper to fall short of the tournament. The Browns sit 12th in ESPN’s FPI and sixth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, despite dealing with a laundry list of injuries, including starting corners Denzel Ward and Greg Newsome II, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. (who has since been waived), tackles Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr., linebackers Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and even QB Baker Mayfield.

Cleveland’s remaining schedule isn’t a walk in the park, but this team has the firepower for a run to the playoffs … and perhaps more. — Mike Clay, NFL analyst

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Dan Orlovsky details what he saw from Baker Mayfield without Odell Beckham Jr. on the field.


I agree with Mike, and I’ll take it a step further. The Browns are very defined in what they do, from both an offensive and defensive perspective. We can point to the run game here, behind the league’s best interior offensive front. Or the schemed throws for Mayfield off play-action. And we are also looking at a Browns defense that can play with zone discipline in the back seven while getting pressure from its front four.

To me, this is a football team with the necessary elements to make a push in the second half of the season. The FPI is currently giving the Browns a 50.5% chance of making the playoffs, and a 19.0% chance of winning the AFC North. — Matt Bowen, NFL analyst


Chase will have a legitimate chance to break several rookie wide receiver records. He is averaging 7.4 targets, 4.8 receptions, 98.2 receiving yards and 0.9 touchdowns per game this season, putting him on pace to challenge a number of rookie records. That includes receptions (Anquan Boldin had 101 in 2003), receiving yards (Bill Groman had 1,473 yards in 1960) and touchdown catches (Randy Moss had 17 in 1998).

Chase is currently pacing toward 1,577 yards, which would move him past Groman for the most all time among rookies. But he will need to pick it up a bit when it comes to receptions and TDs, where he is tracking toward 83 and 13, respectively.

Since quarterback Joe Burrow and Chase spent time together at LSU, their rapport and chemistry is undeniable. It would make sense if they utilized it to their advantage given Cincinnati’s middle-of-the-pack remaining schedule as it tries to secure a playoff berth. — Eric Moody, fantasy/sports betting writer


Dallas Cowboys will earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC

The Cowboys’ offense can and should be a dominant unit, and a key barometer for the unit is left tackle Tyron Smith. If he’s healthy, this offense has no holes and should dominate coming down the stretch.

The more interesting discussion is the upside of the defense. It currently sits No. 3 in interception rate and No. 7 in third-down defense. Cornerback Kelvin Joseph has played only two snaps so far, but he should help the Cowboys the rest of the way. Edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence has played in only one game, and his presence alone can make a world of difference. And one of the least heralded but most productive players is rookie defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. He has 18 tackles and two sacks — look for him to continue to improve and be impactful coming down the stretch.

Dallas (6-2) will cruise to the NFC East title and ultimately be the No. 1 seed in the conference. FPI currently says the Cowboys have an 8.1% chance of getting that first-round bye, the fifth-best odds behind the Cardinals, Buccaneers, Packers and Rams. — Mike Tannenbaum, NFL analyst

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Stephen A. Smith and Marcus Spears get heated discussing the Cowboys after their loss to the Broncos.


Tennessee Titans will win the AFC championship — and running back Derrick Henry will help get them to the Super Bowl

This team is good, and I think it wins the AFC even without Henry. But look for the talented running back to come back for a playoff run and get the Titans a trip to the Super Bowl. Coach Mike Vrabel has built a team that just beats up on everyone else. The 7-2 Titans currently have a 99.5% chance to win the division, a 57.0% chance of finishing atop the AFC and a 25.5% chance of making it to the Super Bowl, per FPI simulations. — Sam Acho, NFL analyst

I agree, Sam. The Titans opened the season with 14-1 odds to win the AFC crown, but their strong showing in the first half of the season now has them at 6-1, via Caesars Sportsbook. And I think they do it. During their recent five-game win streak, Tennessee had the fourth-most points scored per drive in the NFL (2.7) — but last week’s showing against the Rams highlighted a perhaps-overlooked defense. During the win streak, it had the NFL’s fifth-best red zone defensive efficiency (TDs scored on just 47.6% of opponent drives to inside the 20-yard line) and forced 11 turnovers.

The second-half schedule is favorable, especially over the final three weeks (49ers, Dolphins and Texans). And if all goes according to plan regarding tissue healing, Henry will be back on the field when the playoffs roll around, helping lead the Titans to the AFC title. — Stephania Bell, NFL fantasy analyst


Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff will make his final NFL start as a true starter

Goff has objectively been one of the NFL’s worst quarterbacks this season. His Total QBR of 28.9 is lower than that of every starter except rookies Zach Wilson (28.0) and Justin Fields (27.4), and Goff is in such a snooze that he has thrown the ball away on multiple fourth-down conversion attempts. Even with a hefty salary-cap hit looming, what argument could the Lions make for bringing him back?

Assuming the Lions become the second team in as many seasons to give up on him, Goff won’t start another NFL game unless it is as someone’s backup. — Kevin Seifert, NFL writer/reporter


Philadelphia Eagles will finish with three top-15 draft picks for the 2022 draft

Since the common draft era began in 1969, only three teams have made at least three first-round draft choices all inside the top 20 (1973 Patriots, 1975 Rams and 2000 Jets), but none has had three in the top 15. Already owning the Dolphins’ first-rounder in addition to their own, the Eagles are guaranteed to have at least two Day 1 picks — and with a combined five wins for the teams, both picks are trending toward early selections.

The third one is trickier. As part of the offseason trade of quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts, the Eagles will get Indy’s first-round pick if Wentz plays at least 75% of the Colts’ offensive snaps, or 70% if the Colts also make the playoffs. Assuming that plays out, the Eagles are in line to have the Nos. 6, 11 and 15 picks in April, according to FPI projections. — Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst


The Patriots are playing complementary football in all three phases right now. Quarterback Mac Jones is playing efficiently under center, New England has put together a strong running game and the defense has 16 takeaways (fourth in the NFL). At 5-4, the Patriots are only a half-game back in the division, and I think they will overtake the Bills for the AFC East title — even though FPI is giving them only a 14.9% chance. — Damien Woody, NFL analyst


New England Patriots will finish with a top-10 offense and defense — and make the playoffs

New England plays with a physical hat-on-hat run game. Jones plays incredibly fast and knows where to go with the ball. The defense is constantly unorthodox in its approach and slows down plenty of offenses. And coach Bill Belichick is learning how to use all of his weapons on offense in Year 2 without Tom Brady. There’s a lot to like here.

The Patriots are currently No. 23 in offensive efficiency but have the 10th-most points per game (25.6). And defensively, this team is fourth in efficiency and points against (18.9 per game). — Dan Orlovsky, NFL analyst

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Stephen A. Smith is optimistic about the Patriots chances of making the playoffs.


Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke and the NFL will settle with the city of St. Louis

Before the scheduled trial on Jan. 10, Kroenke and the league will settle the city of St. Louis’ lawsuit that has lasted almost five years. The settlement amount could be close to a billion dollars.

Also: The ongoing lawsuit, and the fact that every owner is wrapped up in it, will guarantee that there will be no appetite from the membership to allow the Bills to relocate, should the stadium talks deteriorate. — Seth Wickersham, NFL writer/reporter

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Why the NFL in 2021 feels more balanced — and unpredictable — than ever before

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Minnesota Vikings are like a lot of NFL teams in 2021 in that their game days have been stressful. They’ve just taken it to an extreme.

The Vikings beat the Seattle Seahawks 30-17 in Week 3, but their other 10 games have been settled by one score, with many of those coming down to one play determining the result.

“That’s the NFL, and that’s kind of how it is,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said with a shrug. “We had several games come down to one play.”

The NFL’s other 31 teams haven’t had it quite like the Vikings but can relate. Consider:

  • Twenty-five games this season have been decided on the final play, the most through 12 weeks since the 1970 merger.

  • Thirty-five games have had the winning score come in the final minute of regulation or overtime, the fourth most through 12 weeks since 1970.

So while the Vikings might be ground zero for close games determined by one play, they’re not alone.

The race for this year’s Super Bowl championship seems as open as ever. Through 12 weeks, nine teams had Super Bowl odds at 13-1 or shorter, matching the most teams with odds that short in the past six years.

“The league is always meant to have teams that [are] pretty equal,” Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said. The Cardinals beat the Vikings 34-33 in Week 2 when Minnesota missed a 37-yard field goal attempt on the final play.

“They don’t want teams running away with this thing. They want competition; they want teams to battle down to the end. … To see the league pretty much even, I’m not surprised by that. That’s the way they want it. That’s the way it should be. And it keeps everyone grinding, and that makes it fun.”

In the first two weeks of the season, the Kansas City Chiefs experienced the full spectrum of close-game emotions.

They rallied from nine points down in the fourth quarter to beat the Cleveland Browns 33-29 but only after intercepting a pass to kill a Browns drive late in the game.

The next week they led the Baltimore Ravens by 11 points in the fourth quarter and lost 36-35 but only after a late Chiefs fumble killed a potential game-winning drive in the final moments.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said no lead is ever safe, but he said he feels that way more than ever this year.

“The league has strived like crazy for the last how-many-ever years for parity,” Reid said. “I’m just looking at the way this season has gone for different teams, and it seems to me that there’s a tremendous amount of parity in the league. Every given weekend, every town, every city, in the NFL has an opportunity to win a game.

“That’s a great thing. We’re in it for the competition, and there’s great competition.”

Unexpected results everywhere

The NFL also has had more than its normal share of lopsided games this season. Thirty-five have been decided by 22 points or more, the second-highest total through 12 weeks since 1970.

But even the league’s better teams aren’t immune from getting blown out. The Cardinals have the league’s best record at 9-2, followed closely by the Green Bay Packers (9-3), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3) and Ravens (8-3). The Cardinals lost a game by 24 points. Green Bay lost by 35. Baltimore lost by 24. The Bucs have two double-digit losses on their résumé.

Strange and unexpected results are everywhere, turning the standings upside down weekly. The Browns recently went through a 63-point swing from one week to the next, beating the Cincinnati Bengals by 25 points then losing by 38 to the New England Patriots.

The Dallas Cowboys one week trailed the Denver Broncos at one point by 30 points then beat the Atlanta Falcons the next week by 40.

There might be no better example of this season’s unpredictability than the Bengals. Five of their games have been decided by exactly three points (2-3 in those games). Their remaining six games have been decided by 14 points or more (5-1), including all four of their divisional matchups (3-1).

More than ever, it seems, taking a result for granted is trouble for just about any of the 32 teams.

“It’s a week-to-week [league], and you’ve got to come to play each and every week,” Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs said.

Diggs and the Bills, then 5-2, lost to the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 9 in one of the season’s biggest upsets. Neither team scored a touchdown, and the Jaguars won 9-6 by kicking one more field goal than the Bills.

“You just can’t get comfortable,” Bills tackle Dion Dawkins said after the contest. “You have to stay hungry and everybody is going to give us their best ball. We’re in a position now that everybody is going to give us their best ball every week. Everybody’s coming for the Buffalo Bills.

“You have to go through the ups and downs of life in football and wins and losses to honestly feel that and understand that. It’s a kill or be killed world, and now that we know that everybody has their best effort against us, then we just know that we have to be at our best every time. We can never take our foot off of that gas pedal.”

No Goliaths

There’s more evidence the competition around the league is what the NFL is striving for. Betting underdogs have a 71-106-1 record straight up this season. That .402 winning percentage for teams that are supposed to lose would be the highest in a season since 2006.

There are no Goliath teams opponents wish to avoid in the playoffs for as long as possible. The defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have rebounded from losing two straight games, but those defeats weren’t to top-level competition. One came to the New Orleans Saints and backup quarterback Trevor Siemian and the other to lowly Washington.

The Chiefs, who won 26 games in the past two regular seasons and represented the AFC in each of the previous two Super Bowls, have come back to the pack. They’re 7-4, and one of their losses, 27-3 to the Tennessee Titans in Week 7, was by the biggest losing margin since Patrick Mahomes became their quarterback in 2018.

Twelve of the 16 teams in the AFC are .500 or better, including all of the teams from the West and North divisions. That’s the most teams .500 or better in a single conference through Week 12 in NFL history. Leaguewide, 21 teams are at least within a game of .500, so the scramble for a division championship or a wild-card playoff berth might be as, well, wild as ever.

The Vikings are one of those 21 teams. They’re 5-6 overall and 4-6 in those games decided by one score.

The Vikings are among the many teams wondering what their record might be if they had just been better on all of the game-deciding plays.

“We were right there,” Minnesota center Garrett Bradbury said after that missed field goal cost the Vikings a win against the Cardinals in Week 2. “We’re going to do the things we need to correctionwise so when we’re in that position again — because we will be — we’re going to finish the game and come out on top.”

ESPN Stats & Information as well as NFL Nation reporters Courtney Cronin, Alaina Getzenberg and Josh Weinfuss contributed.

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Jalen Reagor, after critical drop, faces pivotal moment in career with Eagles – Philadelphia Eagles Blog

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PHILADELPHIA — The moment to play hero arrived, and Philadelphia Eagles receiver Jalen Reagor just wasn’t able to secure it.

With Philadelphia trailing the New York Giants 13-7 Sunday, quarterback Jalen Hurts dropped back on fourth-and-10, scrambled around and then let one fly over the middle for Reagor, who attempted a leaping catch at the 1-yard line, only to have the ball carom off his hands and hit the turf.

He dropped a more difficult would-be catch in the end zone earlier in the drive as well — miscues that have made him a focal point of criticism in the fallout from the stinging loss.

That’s familiar territory for Reagor, who has had a slow start to his pro career (56 catches, 597 yards, 3 TDs) compared to the other first-round receivers in the 2020 draft class, a group that includes Justin Jefferson, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Aiyuk and Henry Ruggs III. Jefferson’s meteoric rise has been particularly problematic for Reagor from a perception standpoint. The Eagles passed on Jefferson to select Reagor 21st overall, believing Jefferson would be primarily a slot receiver in the NFL and that Reagor’s skill set was a better fit for the offense. Jefferson was taken one pick later by the Minnesota Vikings, and went on to set a new rookie record for receiving yards (1,400) to go with seven touchdowns en route to a Pro Bowl berth.

Limited by injuries, Reagor ended with 31 catches for 396 yards and a touchdown in 11 games his rookie season.

The combination of dealing with the Jefferson comparisons and the injuries took its toll.

“His mental health was in a bad place last year,” a source close to Reagor told ESPN. “Mentally, it beat him down. Big time.”

Reagor ditched social media, and instead of focusing on the outside noise, tuned into his inner circle. This offseason, he said he felt like a “totally different person” and that fans in turn would see a different player — one who was having more fun.

The celebrations, though, have been few and far between. Reagor (25 catches, 201 yards, 2 TDs) has not been featured much in the offense, playing a secondary role to rookie receiver DeVonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert in the passing game. With the Eagles leaning heavily on the run of late, Reagor was targeted just eight times total over a four-week span before getting seven targets against New York, resulting in two catches for 31 yards and a pair of crucial drops.

Still, Reagor’s mindset “is in a great place right now,” a source said. His decision to be the first player out of the locker room Sunday to address the media and take responsibility was submitted as evidence.

“You’ve got to take the heat. [Outside criticism] doesn’t hold as much weight to me, so it’s fine. This was for me to take ownership. Whatever is going to be said is going to be said regardless,” Reagor said.

“You just have to move forward because tomorrow is still going to be there. I still have to go practice, I still have to play next week. You can’t too much dwell on it. Just me taking ownership and then moving forward.”

Reagor caught 148 balls for 2,248 yards and 22 touchdowns over three seasons at TCU while posing a threat in the run and return game. He ran an unofficial 4.28 40-yard dash at his pro day after a disappointing 4.47 time at the scouting combine, while ranking in the 97th percentile among draft prospects with a 42-inch vertical jump. Those skills have surfaced on the playing field at times, including in joint practices against the New England Patriots this summer when he made an Odell Beckham Jr.-like one-handed catch and and his soaring 21-yard snag in the first half against the Giants Sunday.

But to this point, it’s only been flashes.

“He does work extremely hard in practice to get himself better,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “What you want out of every player, not just Jalen, is consistency, and I think what we saw yesterday is he wasn’t consistent throughout the game. He knows that. We’ve already talked to him about that. Consistency is when you’re making the next step in your development. He showed that he has playmaking ability. He shows that he can make some big-time plays. You just want to see that more consistently.”

Asked whether he has considered sitting Reagor for at least a game following Sunday’s late struggles, Sirianni said he hadn’t “because I don’t think that’s in the best interest of the team, because I think Jalen Reagor gives us the best chance to win.” Sirianni added postgame that the coaches “have to do some things to get him some touches because he is an explosive player.”

The Eagles have poured a lot of resources into the receiver position in recent seasons, including using first-round picks on Smith and Reagor in back-to-back drafts. Reagor, 22, still has two years remaining on his rookie contract after this season. Best-case scenario, he and Smith become a formidable tandem, allowing the Eagles to invest at other positions of need.

Time, though, is running out on this season. The Eagles’ offseason plans will be shaped in full before long, and it seems likely a veteran receiver will be part of them at this point. Growth happens at different rates in the NFL, particularly at receiver. Giving up on a talent like Reagor too early could come back to bite them. But if he wants to send a message to the organization heading into free agency and the draft, and if he intends on changing the narrative and the trajectory of his career, now is the time to get going.



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Why has the Dallas Cowboys’ run game come to a halt? – Dallas Cowboys Blog

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FRISCO, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t exactly breaking news when he talked about what makes the Dallas Cowboys‘ offense successful.

“Running the football has to be important to us,” the running back said. “I think it helps this offense. I think we’re a better football team when we can run it well.”

Elliott’s assessment came before the Thanksgiving Day game against the Las Vegas Raiders where the Cowboys gained 64 yards on 20 carries in the 36-33 overtime loss. That’s fewer yards than Elliott had by himself five times in the Cowboys’ six-game winning streak earlier this season.

The drop-off is stark from the winning streak to the Cowboys’ last four games.

Maybe some of it has to do with Elliott’s knee injury that could be more severe than he is letting on and has the Cowboys at least considering resting him a source told ESPN, although that suggestion has not reached the running back yet.

Elliott has totaled 149 rushing yards in the last four games, the lowest four-game total of his career, and it is the first time he has gone four straight games without topping 51 yards.

But it’s not like Tony Pollard‘s running has been that much different. Take away a 31-yard run against the Kansas City Chiefs out of a Wildcat formation, and he is averaging the same 3.5 yards per carry. A 30-yard run against the Raiders by Pollard was wiped out by penalty.

“Obviously something that we certainly would hope that would be better right now,” offensive coordinator Kellen Moore said. “Something we got to look at in many different ways, schematically first, personnel wise.”

The Cowboys are entering Week 13 with Thursday’s game at the New Orleans Saints (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) — without several coaches due to COVID-19, including head coach Mike McCarthy — so there is no reinvention at this point.

“We’re not going to run the triple option all of sudden or anything like that,” Moore joked, “but I think it’s something that you find what kind of little tweaks and adjustments we can make. They may be subtle but I think they can be very effective if we find the right pieces and make our adjustments necessary to progress this thing the right way.”

Opposing defenses have adjusted to the Cowboys’ scheme. In the loss to the Raiders, McCarthy said it “was more about some individual breakdowns. I think it was almost across the board. We need to take a hard look at that.”

“When you have the success — we’ve obviously been very successful running the football in the first part of the season — people are gearing up for it,” McCarthy said. “We need to stay on top of our self-scout because I think just like anything at this point in the year people are locked in to your formations and your run tendencies and when we run and how we run. That’s all part of the chess match.”

McCarthy believes offensive line continuity plays a huge part in a team’s success. Left tackle Tyron Smith missed three games with an ankle injury, which moved Terence Steele to left tackle. Connor McGovern replaced Connor Williams at left guard two games ago after the coaches had enough with Williams’ penalties (13). Upon Smith’s return, the Cowboys went with Steele over La’el Collins.

Against the Raiders, the Cowboys used Collins and Williams for one series for Steele and McGovern. The Cowboys went three and out.

This week, Collins will go back to right tackle with Steele on the COVID list. And the Cowboys won’t have either offensive line coach with Joe Philbin and Jeff Blasko in COVID protocols.

“I think you’ve got to look first and foremost at our room,” Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin said. “We take a lot of pride in that run game and over the last few weeks it hasn’t been what we want it to be, so we’ve just got to get back to basics.”

Elliott said defensive line movement and run blitzing have caused issues, but Martin said the line has seen it all in the past.

“That’s the first thing a defense will do if it’s in there getting blown off the ball,” Martin said. “They’re going to start moving the line and you just have to be on top of it to react and kind of change some of your combination blocks on the fly.”

The rub this week is the Saints’ run defense uses a lot of line movement and is stellar whenever it doesn’t face the Philadelphia Eagles. In their last 72 games, New Orleans has allowed two 100-yard rushers — both Eagles (quarterback Jalen Hurts and running back Miles Sanders last year). Two games ago, the Eagles ran 50 times for 242 yards with three scores from Hurts in a 40-29 win against the Saints.

This might not be the week to try to pound it out.

“We’ve got to make sure we stay within the plan of what we need to do to be successful against these guys,” McCarthy said. “But I think there are fundamental situations we can learn from and do a better job.”

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