The Dallas Cowboys come off their bye week when they travel to Baltimore this Sunday to take on the 4-1 Baltimore Ravens. If the Cowboys are going to pull off the upset they need to be much better in a few areas of their game, you know, like all of them.
Here’s the thing though, the Cowboys are capable of playing well and beating the Ravens. They haven’t played like it much this season but Dallas has the talent to beat the Ravens. Wouldn’t it be like the Cowboys to put together a great effort and win this game only to play like crap the next few weeks?
First things first though, if the Cowboys want to win this game they will have to deal with a hostile crowd and the best home field advantage in the NFL. This is according to a poll conducted on over two dozen league players and NFL organizational types who voted for the Ravens. To make matters worse, in the last 14 seasons the Ravens have a home record of 84-31.
No good for a team that has had their share of false starts and communication issues. It’s even worse when you hear the Cowboys starting center in the past three games, Ryan Cook, has not practiced since the Cowboys lost to the Chicago Bears. The good news is former starter Phil Costa is back and practicing and will be available to start if Cook can’t go.
So it goes without saying if the Cowboys want to win this game the offensive line must protect Tony Romo. This is going to be a reoccurring theme with this team until they improve their play up front. If they can allow Romo to have some time to throw, he could take advantage of the Ravens defense on the intermediate passes in the middle of the field. If the Cowboys can throw the 12-18 yard passes with any kind of success, it should allow them to stay away from Ed Reed.
Jason Witten and Dez Bryant are the two main weapons for the Cowboys in those areas so if they can have big games it will give the Cowboys offense a chance. As will running the ball more with DeMarco Murray. The Ravens are only 20th in the NFL against the run and if the Cowboys want to win this game, having Murray carry the ball at least twenty times and having a balanced offensive gameplan is needed.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to stop running back Ray Rice. He controls the game not only with his running, but also with his receiving ability. Look for Sean Lee to have a busy day following Rice all over the field. If the Cowboys can slow down Rice early in the game, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron tends to forget to use his best offensive weapon and that plays into the Cowboys favor.
Dallas also needs to stop a Ravens passing game that has improved with the maturation of receiver Torrey Smith. Smith adds an explosive element to the passing game and shutting him down will take a big effort from rookie corner Morris Claiborne.
I expect Claiborne to cover Smith most of the game, which should allow us to see the physical match up of Anquan Boldin and Brandon Carr. It should be a fun battle for all of us to watch and whoever gets the better of that match up will give their team a good chance to win the game.
Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta has become an important weapon in the offense because he’s turned into Joe Flacco’s safety blanket. Dallas needs to make sure Flacco has to pull the ball down and look for Pitta instead of going down the field to his receivers.
It may sound odd but if Pitta has a big game, the Cowboys have a chance to win this game. If that happens it should mean the Cowboys defense is getting pressure on Joe Flacco. The Ravens have given up 13 sacks and if the Cowboys want to win this game, they need to sack Joe Flacco into some bad decisions.
The Ravens are the better team and it’s going to take a game where the Cowboys play smart, tough football in order to win. I think they play well but fall short. This week is more about improving and showing they can be the team we saw week 1.
It’s not what Cowboys fans want to hear and I’m sure they’d rather have the win, but we may have to settle for a team that is improving. The Ravens win this game.
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