Another road game versus an AFC West opponent and another loss. The perfectly mediocre Cowboys rinsed and repeated their way back to the pack, evening their 2013 record at 2-2 with a mind-numbing 30-21 loss at San Diego. Much like the game against Kansas City, Dallas had every opportunity to win the game and squandered it in so many different ways. Dropped passes, blown coverages, complete lack of a pass rush and an over reliance on the passing game all led to the Cowboys dropping another winnable game and finding themselves back to square one.
This week, the most potent passing attack in all of football comes to AT&T Stadium as Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are in town. If you thought Philip Rivers looked good last week, next up just happens to be the league leader in completions, yards and touchdown passes. Oh yeah, Manning has also been the complete opposite of his brother, throwing a grand total of zero interceptions on the year. To say the task of winning will be daunting may be an understatement. With that being said, no one is backing down or running for cover. The game is almost near so here is this week’s edition of the Four Quarters which will outline the major keys to the game that the Cowboys must focus on in order to have a shot at winning.
Quote The Raven…
In last year’s playoff game versus the Ravens, the Broncos offense was severely limited by the type of defense that Baltimore used. The Ravens played almost the entire game in a zone defense and did not allow Denver’s receivers to get big chunks of yards on deep balls or runs after the catch. The Ravens were physical with the Broncos pass catchers at the line of scrimmage and did not allow any receiver to gain over 100 yards. Manning was able to complete only one pass over 15 yards was made in the entire game. Baltimore was also able to get to Manning, sacking him three times and intercepting two passes returning one for a score. For Dallas to have any chance at a victory, they will need to keep Manning around the six yards per attempt that Baltimore was able to do instead of the almost ten they are getting in 2013. The non-existent pass rush from last week needs to figure out a way to frustrate Manning and make him throw passes sooner than he wants to.
Put up or shut up…
In the usual very vanilla world of the NFL, it was a bit of a surprise earlier in the week when some Cowboys’ players were very vocal when it came to the topic of Peyton Manning. Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware and Ernie Sims all had varying degrees of disgust when discussing the Broncos QB. Personally, not only do I not have any problem with it at all, I like it. This defense needs to have a nasty side to it. All good defenses have that. It only counts though if you do something about it. Giving up 450+ yards to Peyton’s little brother or letting Philip Rivers complete over 80% of his passes for 400+ yards is not getting the job done. The entire team is going to need to step up and execute in order to come away with a victory but it’s specifically on the defense to back up their disgust or else it will result in all bark and no bite.
Down but not out…
Third down will be the biggest key to this game. Denver is the best team in the league at converting on third down, getting a first down over 55% of the time. Dallas is one of the league’s worst teams in this regard, only converting 35% of the time, however they are one of the best in respect to time of possession, ranking 7th overall. One of the best ways to beat any Peyton Manning led team is to keep number 18 on the bench as long as you can. Sustaining drives, running the football often and successfully as well as getting Denver off the field on third downs are all helpful ways to completing that task. If the Broncos continue to convert over half of their third down attempts, the Cowboys will be in for a long afternoon. As for Dallas, they must take advantage of the Broncos defense which is ranked 25th overall and convert on third down. Speaking of…
The Cowboys cannot expect to derail the Denver train completely. This is a team that is currently averaging 44 points per game. Denver is going to get their points, especially if the defense that showed up in San Diego makes another appearance on Sunday. This offense is going need to do a better job of scoring. The pieces are there, regardless of Miles Austin’s availability, but it has not clicked yet. While it would be nice to get another defensive touchdown (or two), it’s time for the offense to hold up their end of the bargain and score more than they have been. For Dallas to win this game, they will probably need to score over 30 points. That would require a minimum of a four touchdowns which they only did in one other game this year, two weeks ago at home versus the Rams. The talent is capable but the execution needs to be present or else Dallas will be under .500 for the first time this season.
The prediction: Broncos 35, Cowboys 31
Another week of going 9-7 against the spread has helped catapult my season record to its best yet. It was a pretty even week last week as favorites were 8-7, with the home favorites going 5-3. That makes two straight weeks that home favorites had a majority of the wins after starting the season 11-12. This week, there are some very intriguing underdogs to back. As always the home team is in caps.
LAST WEEK: 9-7 (.563)
SEASON RECORD: 35-29 (.547)
WEEK FIVE: 1-0 (1.000)
-3 Kansas City over TENNESSEE
-2.5 MIAMI over Baltimore
+11.5 Jacksonville over ST. LOUIS
-1 New England over CINCINNATI
-3 Seattle over INDIANAPOLIS
+7 Detroit over GREEN BAY
+1 CHICAGO over New Orleans
-2 N.Y. GIANTS over Philadelphia
+2.5 ARIZONA over Carolina
-5 San Diego over OAKLAND
+7.5 DALLAS over Denver
-6 SAN FRANCISCO over Houston
+10 N.Y. Jets over ATLANTA