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Chargers vs Cowboys: NFL Week 2 preview

The Dallas Cowboys welcome the Los Angeles Chargers in NFL Week 2, the 2021 opener for AT&T Stadium, in a thrilling quarterback matchup of Dak Prescott vs Justin Herbert.

Our Chargers vs Cowboys preview examines the key matchups that will decide this game and delivers picks, lines and off for football fans to enjoy.

Find out where the Chargers and Cowboys land in our updated NFL power rankings

Chargers vs Cowboys: What you need to know

Let’s dive into the top Chargers vs Cowboys matchups.

Justin Herbert vs Dak Prescott

Chargers vs Cowboys, Justin Herbert
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Making his first start since a devastating leg injury, Prescott looked even better than expected. While he didn’t throw with as much velocity as we saw in the past, the comparisons to Peyton Manning’s 2013 and ’14 seasons have merit. With 10 days off and more velocity on his throws, Prescott could be even more lethal from the pocket.

Click here for Sportsnaut’s Dallas Cowboys season forecast

The Chargers recognized a special talent in Herbert entering the 2020 NFL Draft and he delivered for this franchise. Entering his second season, the franchise quarterback boasts all the physical tools to be an elite passer and he now has better pass protection. He’ll find holes in the Cowboys’ secondary.

  • Elite: If there is anyone left questioning Prescott’s ability, his Week 1 showcase should have silenced the doubt. Prescott threw for 188 yards with three touchdowns when blitzed, per Next Gen Stats, and displayed absurd touch on throws. Facing a much weaker Chargers’ defense, he should thrive.
  • Air It Out: We highlighted in our Week 1 preview how Herbert excels against pressure. He also carries a rocket on his shoulder, resulting in the ninth-best passer rating on deep throws in 2020. If he gets more accurate (13th in completion rate), he’ll be an MVP candidate.
  • Big Loss: With Randy Gregory (COVID-19) sidelined and DeMarcus Lawrence out for two months, the Cowboys don’t have a pass rush. That spells big trouble against Herbert, who is going to throw at Anthony Brown relentlessly.

Advantage: Dak Prescott

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Chargers’ defensive line vs Cowboys’ offensive line

Chargers vs Cowboys, Joey Bosa
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers’ defense is one of the most fascinating units entering the regular season. They let Melvin Ingram walk, hoping new head coach Brandon Staley can get the most out of the talent on the roster. We know what Joey Bosa is capable of, but the likes of Uchenna Nwosu and Justin Jones are question marks. Staley is one of the brightest minds in the game and he’ll need to get creative to pressure Dak and Co.

Click here for our Los Angeles Chargers season preview

Everyone was excited about the Cowboys’ offensive line entering the season. Injuries rocked this group in 2020, but everyone would finally be healthy in Week 1. But COVID-19 sidelined Zack Martin, forcing Dallas to make adjustments. Even without the All-Pro guard, the Cowboys surrendered just one sack on 62 dropbacks.

  • Texas-sized Gap: We know Dallas won’t have La’el Collins on Sunday, a big blow at right tackle. He should be considered likely to play, given vaccinated players just need negative test results 24 hours apart to return, but there are no guarantees for a symptomatic player. There’s already a hole on the right side and it could get worse.
  • Big Brother: Nick Bosa might get a bit more national recognition as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, but Joey Bosa is as good as they come. The Chargers’ 6-foot-5 edge rusher generated 61 total pressures and received a 90.5 pass-rush grade from Pro Football Focus in 12 games.

Advantage: Dallas Cowboys

Trevon Diggs vs Keenan Allen

Chargers vs Cowboys, Trevon Diggs
Jeremy Reper-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys’ secondary was a problem in 2020 and the results from Week 1 didn’t inspire a ton of confidence. Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown combined 226 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, scorching this secondary. The Chargers’ receiving corps isn’t nearly as deep and there is a potential star in Dallas, but this could be a deciding factor in the Chargers vs Cowboys matchup.

Find out where the Chargers land in our Week 2 defense rankings

Los Angeles likes Mike Williams, but Keenan Allen is the star of the show. While he fell just short of 1,000 yards last year, missing two games, he is the go-to option for Herbert. This will be a high-scoring game and that means plenty of footballs coming Allen’s direction.

  • Slot Maestro: The Chargers know the slot can be the best place to line up a top receiver. Shadow corners are more rare, meaning a top receiver draws a favorable matchup in the slot. That’s where Allen lined up 51% of the time this past season and he should spend a lot of time there in Week 2.
  • Emerging Star: Trevon Diggs went through serious growing pains as a rookie season, but Dallas was confident he could be a No. 1 cornerback. In a Week 1 meeting with Mike Evans, Diggs shadowed the perennial Pro Bowl receiver and held him to one reception on 10 targets (Next Gen Stats).

Advantage: Los Angeles Chargers

The bottom line: Chargers vs Cowboys is one of our favorite games on the Week 2 schedule. There’s some exciting talent on defense, but not enough to contain two high-powered offenses. This should turn into a shootout, with both teams capable of dropping 30-plus points and the victor being decided on the final drive.