The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are currently one of the worst scoring offenses in the NFL at a paltry 16.2 points per game (only the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars are worse at 13).
If you’re wondering how such pedestrian numbers equate to a 2-2 record, look no further than Dallas’ defense which is 4th in the league in yardage given up per game. The organization spent the entire off-season shoring up the defense, but so far this season, the offense has been under-performing.
As a starter, QB Tony Romo’s lowest quarterback rating for a season is 91.4; he is currently limping along at 78.5 (23rd in the league). RB Demarco Murray only has 1 TD, just 237 yards rushing, and he is averaging a mediocre 3.9 yards per carry. The running game looked so bad last week that fans were ecstatic over an 11 yard run by Felix Jones. The enthusiasm quickly subsided when they watched him run a kick-off return up the back of his own blockers; same ‘ol Felix. One milestone that wasn’t highlighted too much last week was the fact that WR Dez Bryant had the highest receiving total of his career with 105 yards. On the surface that sounds like a reason for optimism , but it should have been closer to 150 yards if not for some untimely drops and a missed route adjustment that became a pick-six for the Chicago Bears. TE Jason Witten had his best game of the season, but the combination of the aforementioned lackluster performances combined with the continued terrible play of the OL resulted in a sloppy loss in prime time.
As we look forward to the upcoming week, the road doesn’t get any easier with a road game to face the Baltimore Ravens. As usual, the game will be determined by certain match-ups. Let’s look at the key match-ups and come up with this week’s Final Verdict.
1. The Cowboys offensive line vs. the Ravens front seven.
In years past, this would be a landslide for a Ravens defense with DT Haloti Ngata, ILB Ray Lewis, and reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year OLB Terrell “T Sizzle” Suggs. With this version of the Cowboys line anchored by C Phil Costa, it’s not a landslide, but it’s pretty close. The Cowboys OL hasn’t played well consistently this year and that probably won’t change on Sunday. Dallas’ one saving grace is that Suggs is still on the shelf with the Achilles problem AND the football world just watched the Kansas City Chiefs put up 214 yards rushing against Lewis and crew. As bad as the Cowboys line has played, Coach Jason Garrett has to be stubborn enough to continue to run the ball, regardless of early results. If Dallas can reach the magic number of 20-25 carries this week, it will give the guys up front a better opportunity to handle the relentless Ravens defense. The offensive balance has been missing and needs to be corrected. There is a blueprint for attacking Ray Lewis at this advanced stage of his career: run right at him and allow your guards to block him head up.
Will the Cowboys have play-calling patience? If so, they will become the 4th team to run for over 125 yards against the Ravens.
Verdict: Advantage Ravens.