National Football League

Starring Role

October 17

Andy Dalton has quickly gone from being a member of 'America's Team' to being 'America's Quarterback.'

After spending nine seasons as the starter in Cincinnati, the Red Rifle signed a one-year deal worth $3 million with the Dallas Cowboys this offseason.

And a little over a week after Dak Prescott suffered a compound fracture and dislocated ankle against the New York Giants in Week 5, Dalton will line up behind center and make his first career start for Dallas on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals.

Against the Giants, after Prescott went down with the devastating injury, Dalton completed 81.8 percent of his passes for 111 yards, leading the Cowboys to a 37-34 victory over New York, their first win since Week 2. 

Dalton executed two scoring drives in the final quarter and a half, including a drive that led to the game-winning field goal.

Dalton boasts 25 game-winning drives in his career, good for fourth-most in the league since 2011, and in his first five years as a starter with the Bengals, Dalton finished every season with a winning record.

He holds a career record of 70-61-2 as a starter.

Given his near-decade of solid quarterback play, many in the media and around the Cowboys organization are confident that he can fill in quite nicely for Dallas, including team owner Jerry Jones.

"Andy Dalton is a player that can get the job done in the NFL. He's a starting quarterback ... And I think he's a starting quarterback on any various successful winning teams."

Dalton is a proven winner when his arm gets "hot" so to speak, considering Cincinnati posted a 22-2 record when Dalton tossed three or more touchdowns.

That statistic bodes well for the Cowboys, as Dalton now inherits a plethora of talent on offense.

Wide receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup are on track to each finish the season with at least 1,000 yards. in addition, running back Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his fourth 1,000-yard rushing season.

Big D boasts the league's No. 1 total offense, with the Cowboys averaging a league-high 488.0 yards per game and 33.0 points per game, third most in the NFL.

Still, despite their dominant offense, the Cowboys sit at 2-3, largely due to their struggling defense, one that is giving up 404.4 yards per game (27th best in the NFL) and a league-worst 36.0 points per game.

But Hall of Famer and former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson believes Dalton can improve Dallas' chances at winning by supporting the defense on offense.

"How you protect the defense is you increase your time of possession by running the football with Ezekiel Elliot. And I think Dalton will be a perfect fit. In fact, he will help that defense."

One good omen for Dalton is the fact that in three career games against the Cardinals, he has completed 62 percent of his passes for 731 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

Not to mention, Dalton has the second-most wins and the second-most postseason appearances among any backup in the league, trailing only the New York Jets' Joe Flacco. 

With the statistics in Dalton's favor, Skip Bayless is more than confident that the Cowboys can make a run at an NFC East title and a playoff berth.

Dallas currently sits atop the NFC East standings, with their odds to win the division at -118.

The Cowboys will have to be all-in on the 32-year old Dalton for the foreseeable future, considering Dak will be out for at least 4-6 months.

The Cowboys chances to hoist the Lombardy trophy at the end of the season are +4500 with Dalton, a dramatic shift from their +1500 odds with Prescott, meaning the oddsmakers aren't sold on Dalton quite yet.

But for the Red Rifle, all that matters is he's sold on himself.

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