If this were a regular season game between the Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos, it might be an offensive extravaganza with Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson doing battle, but we likely won’t see them in the preseason opener. That means a heavy dose of Cooper Rush vs. Josh Johnson, which isn’t quite as appealing.
The Broncos are a -3.5 favorite on Saturday night, mostly because they are at home but also because you’d think Nathaniel Hackett wants to get off on the winning track in his head coaching debut. Dallas was 0-4 last preseason under Mike McCarthy.
Not Many Weapons for Dallas QBs
Prescott’s health is the main concern for the Cowboys this season, so he likely will not play, even for the one-series cameo appearance. Prescott started 16 games in 2021, leading Dallas to an 11-5 record over that span before a 23-17 loss to the 49ers in the wild-card round.
Rush will get a bulk of the first half action on Saturday and possibly even into the second. He played in five games last season with one start but will be heavily handcuffed in this game with CeeDee Lamb nor Ezekiel Elliott likely to play and with Michael Gallup on the PUP list. Third-round pick Jalen Tolbert out of South Alabama will be Rush’s go-to guy in this one.
We will also see Will Grier and Ben DiNucci take some snaps in the preseason opener. DiNucci played in three games in 2020 but did not see the field in 2021. Grier is a former third-round pick of the Panthers who hasn’t played since 2019.
Broncos Fans Will Have to Wait
It’s possible we see the obligatory one series from Wilson, if anything, just to get the hometown fans excited about their offseason acquisition. Wilson has said he’s “open to anything” regarding playing in the preseason opener, and Hackett hasn’t announced his official plan.
Either way, Wilson playing one series is not going to impact this game overall, but Hackett, in his NFL head coaching debut, may. Hackett was the offensive coordinator of Green Bay in 2020 when they were the highest scoring team in the league and has helped Aaron Rodgers be the league MVP in ‘20 and ‘21.
With no Wilson (or limited at least), it’s Johnson and Brett Rypien under center to run Hackett’s offense on Saturday. Johnson has played in 37 games in his career, while Rypien enters his third season in Denver.
Cowboys at Broncos Pick and Prediction
The fact that the Cowboys were 0-4 last preseason under McCarthy is nothing to ignore, especially when they went on to a 12-5 season and a division win. It goes to show that the veteran McCarthy doesn’t necessarily care about exhibition wins and more about evaluating talent and depth.
That’s not the same usually with rookie head coaches like Hackett, who want to establish a winning culture in their first preseason – and especially in their first game. That’s what gives Denver the edge on Saturday night, along with being at home.
Pick: Denver -3.5