At the end of the preseason, I had this game marked as a loss. The Lions would be playing an away game for the 2nd week in a row. Throw in a top-notch passing attack led by Tony Romo, and the game seemed almost out of reach for the maturing Lions. However, 3 weeks of football have changed this matchup. If the Lions are to win and keep their streak going, here are 3 things to watch for:
The biggest story of this game is that Dallas’s offensive depth chart is littered with injuries. Dallas has confirmed that WR Miles Austin (hamstring) will not play on Sunday. WR Dez Bryant (quadriceps) is also listed as questionable and did not practice on Thursday. If Bryant doesn’t play, TE Jason Witten will be the only serious receiving threat and much more manageable for the Lions’ 4th ranked pass defense. The ring leader, QB Tony Romo (Ribs) is also listed as questionable for the game. However, I expect him to play through the pain as he did in Week 3. He only had limited participation Thursday and Friday, and this could translate to issues on the field such as the ones he had with C Costa and the snap count.
The Lions, on the other hand, are at full strength with the exception of strongside LB Kevin Durant who will not play due to a concussion obtained in Week 3. His replacement, Bobby Carpenter will need to have a huge game. He will need to come off the bench and be a force in stopping the run. The biggest concern I have is that Carpenter will have to read his keys well and be able to recognize the play-action in order to drop and help out against Witten. If he can’t, it will be a long day for the Lions’ defense.
Cowboys’ OLB DeMarcus Ware and OLB Anthony Spencer vs Lions’ Offensive Line
The Lions gave up an unacceptable 5 sacks last week against the strong pass rush of the Vikings. Tackles Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus had a difficult time holding up DE Jared Allen and DE Brian Robison in Week 3. This week will be no different with Ware and Spencer coming off the edge. The Lions struggled in the 1st half against the Vikings, but seemed to utilize TE Pettigrew in the 2nd half to get the ball out of QB Stafford’s hands quickly. Look for the Lions to use their very well-executed screens to Jahvid Best and Pettigrew to counter the pass Cowboys’ pass rush.
The Run Game
The Cowboys have a phenomenal rush defense that is 2nd in the league giving up only 62 yards per game. The Lions have had struggles as Jahvid Best has yet to put up consistent numbers. Everyone talks about Stafford and the passing attack that the Lions are so good at. However, I believe that the run game will be the key to taking control of the game. Dallas is coming off a short week of rest since they played Monday night against the Redskins. I am expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to try and use the run game to wear down the Cowboys’ front 7. Whether it works is a whole other issue.
I expect this game to be an up-tempo, back and forth game. Both teams are great offensive teams with great pass rushers on the defensive side. Both teams have huge issues that they need to deal with. The Lions need to figure out how to slow down Ware and Spencer and the Cowboys need to get their injured stars on the field and performing at their best. I believe this game will be close, but I think that the Cowboys just have too many injuries to overcome. 31-24 Lions.
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