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Week 4 preview: Cowboys need defense to step up against Browns

The Dallas Cowboys will need a better showing from their defense during their Week 4 matchup against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence runs onto the field before the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DALLAS — The upcoming game for the Dallas Cowboys might be the turning point of their season. They kick off a stretch of three consecutive games at home beginning with a showdown against the Cleveland Browns. Perhaps surprisingly, the Browns come to D-FW with a better record than the Cowboys at 2-1. 

On paper, and when the schedule came out, this Week 4 contest seemed like a chance to mark down an easy win, but if the first few weeks of the season have taught us anything, it’s that nothing comes easily for the Cowboys. Despite the preconceived notions for these two franchises, this one has the makings of another tight game with the potential for a high scoring affair.

There is positive news for the Cowboys on the injury front as they prepare for the Browns. Dallas will most likely be getting stud tackle Tyron Smith back and other key players should be ready to go as well.

Smith’s return should help an offensive line that has been shuffled around the last few weeks. The Browns have a strong front four led by elite defensive end Myles Garrett, so Smith couldn’t be coming back at a more opportune time. 

The Browns win if: The Cleveland weapons have a field day against the Dallas defense

These aren’t the same old Browns and they have the skill players on offense to make life difficult for the Cowboys. The running back tandem of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are hammering defenses early in the season, combining for 496 yards rushing and seven total touchdowns through three weeks. 

Both Cleveland backs are also averaging over five yards per carry, making them the top backfield currently in the league. The Cowboys haven’t faced this type of rushing attack yet this season and it’ll take a special effort to slow it down.

Wideouts Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are another duo that will be tough to stop, especially for a banged up Dallas secondary. The defense hasn’t fared well against great receiver tandems through the first three weeks and if Beckham and Landry have their way, Dallas will be in trouble.

The Cowboys win if: The defense disrupts QB Baker Mayfield and create turnovers

It’s no secret that Dallas has had issues forcing turnovers in the last few years. Currently, the team is tied for 28th in the league with a -4 turnover margin.

However, Mayfield can be rattled and will make some bad decisions if he’s pressured. The third year quarterback has thrown two interceptions this season after getting picked off 21 times last year. The Cowboys need to force Mayfield into some bad throws and then the defense just needs to make sure they catch them.

If the Dallas defense is able to produce a few takeaways, they can work with some short fields. The Cowboys’ offense has been one of the best in the league so far this season and they’ve done it without much help from the defense. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s group has had to drive the length of the field on too many occasions to put points on the board, making it more difficult to sustain drives consistently.

Creating turnovers should give the Cowboys opportunities to score quickly, get a lead, and then come after Mayfield. Dallas hasn’t played with a lead very often this season so keep an eye on the early decisions as the Cowboys search for more success in the first quarter where they have been outscored 36 to 9 through the first three weeks.

This game was expected to be somewhat of a blowout a few weeks ago but now it looks as if it holds much more significance. At 1-2, the Cowboys need to win this one and feel good doing it.

Do you think the Dallas defense will be able to contain Baker Mayfield and the Browns on Sunday? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.