Cowboys will need Big D to get a big W


Every year, before the season starts, fans of their favorite teams peruse the schedule and mark games as wins or losses.  This is all done without any knowledge of who will even be on their team, let alone how the season will take shape.

When the schedules were released this year, it’s very likely that one of the few losses Cowboys fans assessed to their team was a Week 5 matchup against the defending World Champion New England Patriots.

Now, as that day is here, that choice seems to be extremely accurate.

There was no way to ever think that Dallas would be coming into this game so shorthanded but logic still dictated this would be a very difficult game for the Cowboys to win.  Not only do the Cowboys not play so well at home, they tend to struggle against the elite teams in the league.

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In the Jason Garrett era, the Cowboys are just 3-7 against teams that finished the season with eleven wins or better.  Two of those wins (2011 versus the 49ers and last year versus the Seahawks) came on the road.  The lone home win also came last season against an Indianapolis Colts team that already had their division title wrapped up and played their starting quarterback for a quarter.

This is all to say that prior to the season, if you believed that Dallas was going to lose this game, if they actually do so today, it should not be of any disappointment.

Furthermore, knowing that quarterback Tony Romo, wide receiver Dez Bryant, cornerback Orlando Scandrick and rookie defensive end Randy Gregory will all be absent should soften also the blow.

Beating the Patriots is a tall task to ask of any squad.  Remove the two best offensive players and arguably the best defensive player from a team and it becomes next to impossible.

If all that wasn’t already daunting enough, add to the mix that this team is coming off two straight losses.  Both games, completely winnable, by the way and then realize that the Cowboys quarterback has lost ten straight games in which he’s been the starter.

To say the odds are not forever in the favor of the Cowboys faithful is quite the understatement.

Thankfully, all of this does not actually help the Patriots when the two teams take the field later on this afternoon.  Once the game starts, the 46 guys that New England has activated for this game will have to be better at doing their jobs than the 46 guys Dallas chooses to play.

Speaking of the game day forty-six, there are some key additions finally available for Garrett’s deployment.  Defensive end Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain will make their 2015 debuts.  Linebacker Sean Lee will also be available after suffering a concussion last week.

It’s safe to say that this will be the most accomplished unit the Cowboys have had so far.  Gregory’s absence is still problematic, but the cupboard is starting to look more full.

That, in fact, is exactly how the Cowboys will have to win this game, if they have any chance at all to do so.  The defense must play the most inspired, perfect game they possibly can.

If New England has any weaknesses at all in their offensive game, it would be the lack of a deep threat on the outside and their somewhat inexperienced offensive line.

Most of the Patriots passing attack is predicated on short, precise routes by their star receiver Julian Edelman as well as Danny Amendola.  Any stretching of the field is done so down the middle with all-World tight end Rob Gronkowski.  I would imagine a large portion of the coverage today will be revolved around sitting on short routes and double teaming Gronkowski.

Up front, the Patriots start two rookies at center and right guard, so pressure could be possible up the middle.  Expect to see Hardy, along with Tyrone Crawford and newcomer David Irving rotate heavily inside on passing downs.

In order for Dallas to have any chance, they must do something that they are not very good at doing.  They must do something that New England is also very good at preventing.  Dallas must cause some turnovers.

This defense has only caused three turnovers in four games.  All of those came in one game against the Philadelphia Eagles.  The Cowboys cannot allow for New England to walk up and down the field and score at will.  Stops, especially turnovers, must be the focal point if the Cowboys are to shock the world today.

If there is any good news for the Cowboys, there is this.  Since 2011, New England has lost at least one game every year to a NFC opponent.  I guarantee that defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have his guys fired up and ready.  Like always, it’s on the players to execute.

Will they?

The prediction: Patriots 31, Cowboys 20

Next: Cowboys Fans: Insider reveals the Patriots biggest weakness