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NFL week 4: Cowboys getting toughest test yet

  • FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, file photo, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) gets past Miami Dolphins defensive back Walt Aikens (35) and into the end zone for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas. With the Cowboys at 3-0, their fans are beginning to see America’s Team as a team of destiny. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins, File)

  • FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett (95) rushes the passer in the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Cleveland. Garrett has six sacks this season, (AP Photo/David Richard)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore (20) runs the ball in the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Detroit Lions in Detroit. Gore 88 yards on Sunday against the New England Patriots to push him over 15,000 career yards rushing. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

  • FILE- In this Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, file photo, New Orleans Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater passes as Saints' Terron Armstead (72) and Ryan Ramczyk (71) hold off Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, upper right, during the first half of an NFL football game in Seattle. Sundays game against the Dallas Cowboys could be an important game in the overall NFC playoff scheme, particularly if Bridgewater remains effective at quarterback until Brees is healthy. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

AP Pro Football Writer
Published: 9/28/2019 9:55:54 PM
Modified: 9/28/2019 9:55:52 PM

With the Dallas Cowboys at 3-0, their fans are beginning to see America’s Team as a team of destiny.

Hold on: The combined records of the three opponents they vanquished is 1-8.

Sunday night comes a true test for Dallas when it visits New Orleans. Yes, even without Drew Brees (thumb surgery), the Saints are formidable, as they proved in winning at Seattle last weekend.

So we should find out a whole bunch about the teams from Big D and the Big Easy in a juicy prime-time matchup.

“They’re playing awfully well right now,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of the Cowboys, stressing the offensive output. “We just went through the numbers. Third down, they’re No. 1 in the league. Defensively they’re second in the league.

“Each category — big play, yards per play — they’re running it well; the quarterback’s playing well. I think that their design, their talent, all of those things. You can’t help but notice the quarterback (Dak Prescott) and the success he’s having. That’s nothing new for him.

This could be an important game in the overall NFC playoff scheme, particularly if Teddy Bridgewater remains effective at quarterback until Brees is healthy.

Minnesota (2-1) at Chicago (2-1)

With the NFC North shaping up as the league’s strongest sector, every matchup in the division will be critical, whether in September or December.

Minnesota has not fared well in Chicago, going 3-15 there since 2000. But the Vikings have split the past four trips, and they come in with the NFL’s best run game, led by the healthy and revitalized Dalvin Cook. That’s all part of the plan: stout defense and time-consuming effective runs.

Kansas City (3-0) at Detroit (2-0-1)

Here’s comes the Mahomes Maserati to the Motor City as the Chiefs seek their third straight 4-0 start. They have scored 25-plus points in an NFL-record 25 consecutive games, and Patrick Mahomes has an NFL-record 13 300-yard passing games in his first 20 starts.

Detroit’s defense has come alive and could provide a real test for the 2018 NFL MVP.

Cleveland (1-2) at Baltimore (2-1)

A huge game for Cleveland, which has not lived up to the hype yet, but can claim a tie atop the AFC North with a key road win. Of course, the Browns are 3-19 vs. Baltimore since 2007. Plus, four of their next five are on the road.

The Ravens, 66-23 at home under coach John Harbaugh, including 18-2 in September, played pretty well despite losing at Kansas City. With the other two division foes, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, both winless, the Ravens could take a strong early lead in the division with a win.

Oakland (1-2) at Indianapolis (2-1)

The Raiders basically are road warriors for six weeks, not a comforting thought considering they are 1-8 under Jon Gruden as visitors. They’re not keeping things close, having lost back-to-back games in the same season by 18 or more points for the first time since 2012.

Adding to their woes: Indianapolis has won seven in a row at Lucas Oil Stadium.

L.A. Chargers (1-2) at Miami (0-3)

The Chargers have lost eight consecutive games in Miami, with the previous win being that 1981 AFC divisional playoff game in overtime. They are angry coming off two straight defeats despite a well-oiled offense.

Miami’s longest run is 9 yards. Fifteen NFL quarterbacks have a longer run this season, including Philip Rivers. Yes, Old Man Rivers.

Carolina (1-2) at Houston (2-1)

Maybe even more encouraging than the play of fill-in QB Kyle Allen was Carolina tying a franchise record with eight sacks last week. DE Mario Addison tied a career high with three sacks and outstanding LB Luke Kuechly had 10 tackles at Arizona. He leads the NFL with 36 tackles.

Yet, in this matchup, it’s Houston coming off the more impressive road success.

Tennessee (1-2) at Atlanta (1-2)

Two of the more disappointing teams so far. Atlanta can’t run the ball and the Titans can’t throw it with any efficiency. Tennessee has allowed 17 sacks, most in the NFL, including nine a week ago.

For Atlanta to win this one, it must have a better start. The Falcons have been outscored 47-13 in the first half in three games, including 41-3 in their losses.

Seattle (2-1) at Arizona (0-2-1)

Arizona has been a desert oasis for the Seahawks, who haven’t lost there since 2012. Seattle, often considered a home power but not so much in away games, is 29-19-1 in its past 49 road games.

Tampa Bay (1-2) at L.A. Rams (3-0)

The Rams have won five straight over Tampa Bay since 2012, and the Bucs are a deeply flawed squad. But LB Shaquil Barrett leads the NFL with eight sacks in four games. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, the NFL record through a team’s first four games is nine.

Jacksonville (1-2) at Denver (0-3)

The Jags showed some life with their dismantling of the Titans in their previous game, with rookie Gardner Minshew sparking them with his completion rate (73.9%) and passer rating (110.6).

Washington (0-3) at N.Y. Giants (1-2)

This has the makings of a shootout. The Giants have yielded an NFC-most 94 points, tied with — yep — the Redskins. Both teams got torched in the secondary last week, and although they each can get pressure on passers, there’s not a lot of stinginess to go around.

Cincinnati (0-3) at Pittsburgh (0-3)

Welcome to Monday night losing football.

ESPN likes having the Steelers in prime time because of their national following. Having the winless Steelers, well, that might not attract such a big audience.

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