Skip to main content

Game Preview

Presented By

2023 NFL season: Four things to watch for in Cowboys-Chargers on Monday night

Dallas Cowboys
2023 · 3-2-0
Los Angeles Chargers
2023 · 2-2-0
  • WHERE: SoFi Stadium (Inglewood, Calif.)
  • WHEN: 8:15 p.m. ET | ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, NFL+

Monday night delivers a mouthwatering matchup between two teams desperately in need of a win to catch up to their division leaders. The Dallas Cowboys-Los Angeles Chargers showdown should deliver plenty of explosive moments both on offense and defense. 

The Dallas defense began the season in style by shutting out the Giants, while the offense went and dropped 40 points to raise the curtain on what appeared to be a promising start to 2023. But in recent weeks, the Cowboys have struggled to wrangle opposing offenses. To the shock of many, they lost by to the Arizona Cardinals, then in Week 5 (in prime time again) they hit their nadir as they got blown away by the San Francisco 49ers. So will Dallas stop the slide, or will lightning strike twice in prime time?

The Bolts are coming off two straight wins and a bye week as they hope to light up SoFi Stadium with a big win over one of the top teams in the NFC. Justin Herbert is off to an impressive start and should be buoyed by the return of Austin Ekeler from an ankle injury. This is also somewhat of a revenge game, with offensive coordinator Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore facing off against his old team. 

Here are four things to watch for when the Cowboys visit the Chargers on Monday night:

  1. Will the Cowboys bounce back from a prime-time blowout? Dak Prescott was clear after Sunday night’s loss to the 49ers that it was the most humbling game he’s ever been a part of. With that painful experience still fresh in Prescott’s mind, it’s up to the 30-year-old to right the ship and put some pep back in Dallas’ step. So far this season, Prescott has thrown for 1,061 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions (three of those INTs were in Week 5). The Chargers defense boasts one of the most feared pass rushers in the league in the hulking form of Khalil Mack, who, in Week 4 against the Raiders, racked up six sacks -- just one shy of the NFL single-game record. The Cowboys' O-line will need to bring its A-game to have any chance of combatting the Mack attack. Prescott is 21-11 in prime-time matchups, but his record plummets to 9-7 when he hits the road. This week will be a big test for the two-time Pro Bowler as he jets off to the City of Angels, hoping to return home with a memorable win under the lights at SoFi.
  2. Austin Ekeler set to return after missing three games. Monday will mark Ekeler’s long-awaited return to the field. After playing in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, Ekeler has spent the last four weeks in the treatment room working his way back from an ankle injury. However, after he was a full participant in practice throughout the week, the superstar running back has no injury designation for Monday's game. Against the Dolphins, Ekeler had 16 carries for 117 rushing yards and scored one rushing touchdown. Ekeler has a total of 164 scrimmage yards, which is only 48 yards less than his replacement, Joshua Kelley, who has played in three more games. That’s a slightly worrisome sign for the depth of this running back room, but if Ekeler can stay healthy, the Bolts' running attack should be healthier, as well.
  3. Can Herbert find success vs. Cowboys defense? Justin Herbert, despite dealing with a finger injury, might be rested and ready for his matchup at home, but this Cowboys defense is hungry after being starved of sacks and last week against the 49ers. The Chargers are currently fifth in yards per game (388.8) and have the potential to torch a Dallas defense that's been bitten by the injury bug as of late, with the season-ending loss of Trevon Diggs and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch suffering a neck injury. However, linebacker Micah Parsons currently leads the league in QB pressures, meaning Herbert's O-line will need to work overtime to buy him some time. This is also a big game for Kellen Moore, facing his old employers for the first time since he moved out west. The Cowboys are feeling Moore’s absence acutely, averaging 5.2 fewer points per game (21.2) and 27.5 fewer total yards per game (327.4) since he left, per NFL Research. Moore’s talented group will look to deepen Dallas’ woes in prime time.
  4. Tony Pollard, CeeDee Lamb need to get more production. After getting pummeled by the 49ers' defense, the Cowboys offense needs an immediate response, but it’ll be hard-pressed to be competitive if Lamb or Pollard’s numbers keep trending downward. In Week 5, Lamb had just five targets for four receptions and 46 receiving yards. Lamb has had fewer than five receptions in four of five games in 2023. Last week, Pollard had a season-low eight carries for 29 yards and has now had back-to-back games with fewer than 12 carries He also has a career-low of 4.2 rushing yards. The Cowboys' play-caller, head coach Mike McCarthy, needs to get these two back on track.

Related Content