The Dallas Cowboys have the NFL‘s fourth-best defense, statistically, and only the 16th-best offense. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens‘ defense is the sixth-worse in the league, but their offense is a top 10 unit. Does anyone find something odd about these stats? Each team’s rankings resemble that of the other in recent years. Don’t let the numbers from 2012 fool you, though. This matchup has Ravens romp written all over it.
Fake Cowboys fans probably take offense to that last statement, but the true blue members of the Dallas faithful are sighing and nodding. The Ravens’ defense may be near the bottom of the barrel statistically, but that doesn’t mean they’re not capable of creating a second consecutive career-worst game for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
Now, that’s certainly not guaranteed; the Cowboys have been known to play up and down to their competition during the Jason Garrett era and that shouldn’t change on Sunday, even after that drubbing the Chicago Bears put on Dallas in Week 4. However, the Cowboys must play a perfect game if they are to have any hopes of upsetting the heavily-favored Ravens.
For starters, Garrett is going to have to use play-calling effectively. Sure, the Ravens have the 10th-worst passing defense in the league statistically, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be quick to make this a nightmare game for Romo like the Bears did. That hinges entirely on whether Garrett stays disciplined on the sidelines or lets his trigger finger get the best of him. If he allows the Ravens to pin their ears back and get after Romo, it will be another sad day at Cowboys Stadium.
Garrett needs to employ a balanced offensive attack like he did in the Cowboys’ Week 1 win over the New York Giants. He’s been pass-happy ever since and Dallas’ performance has suffered tremendously. The Ravens’ run defense certainly isn’t a push-over, but they must be kept honest with the run and DeMarco Murray is not a bad running back. Garrett seems to forget that, though.
The Cowboys are 6-0 in games in which Murray carried the ball at least 20 times, including that win over the Giants. In Dallas’ second, third and fourth games this year, Murray did not carry the ball 20 times. Case closed.
Defensively, the Cowboys may be very high on the totem pole statistically, but it will take more than a paper victory to beat the Ravens. Baltimore is a well-oiled machine with a dynamite head coach in John Harbaugh, who uses his Pro Bowl-caliber running back wisely, unlike Garrett. Since he took over midway through 2010, Dallas hasn’t defended well against running backs catching the ball out of the backfield. That’s bad news for this week because Ravens running back Ray Rice does that more than any other back in the league.
When all is considered, the cards are stacked heavily in the Ravens’ favor heading into this contest and rightfully so; they were a missed field goal away from the Super Bowl last year while the Cowboys forgot to show up for their division title game. Especially after the Monday night debacle against the Bears, the Cowboys will have to play a perfect game to beat the Ravens. There simply can be no mistakes.