The Dallas Cowboys are a 17-point favorite against the visiting Houston Texans (1-10-1). And for good reasons.

Not only do the Cowboys feature the league’s top pass rush defense, but their run defense has also gotten progressively better the last three games, and the offense is on the warpath since the return of QB Dak Prescott. 

In addition, the Texans best offensive player Brandin Cooks is OUT for this matchup. Even with QB Davis Mills reinserted into the starting position, the offense likely won’t see much action through the air. On the ground, however, is a different circumstance.

The key factors in this game will be an offensive and defensive rookie. No, not first round picks DB Derek Stingley and OL Kenyon Green. RB Dameon Pierce and DB Jalen Pitre.

One of the rookie revelations this season is RB Dameon Pierce. The eighth leading rusher in the league through 12 games. Despite playing back-to-back games in weeks 11 and 12 for a combined 16 yards.

What we have learned this season is the despite how good or bad a team is, a solid running back can give the Dallas Cowboys defense fits.

Allowing over 200 yards on the ground in back-to-back games against the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers. Dameon Pierce may be the best running back the Cowboys have left to play before the postseason.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Texans secret weapon comes by way of another rookie. Defensive back Jalen Pitre, who’s having a great start to his rookie year.

The rookie defensive back has been used as a rotating box and deep safety, as well as lining up in the slot in coverage.

92 tackles, Three interceptions (leads team), four pass breakups, five tackles for loss and a sack on his young rookie season. A virtual star in the making.

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott has come in and been much more forceful down the field with some of his throws. Averaging over eight yards per attempt in four games since his return.

It’s not often that an offensive and defensive rookie will be X-factors in a game. Even if the Cowboys are expected to win big, players like Pitre and Pierce can alter how a game is supposed to go.

Dallas is on a tear this season and can’t afford to take a team lightly. Even a team like the Texans.

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports