After victories over Washington and Philadelphia in consecutive games, the Dallas Cowboys head to Detroit alone in first place in the NFC East. A victory over the Lions on Sunday will give Dallas its first winning record at the midpoint of the season since 2009, which also happens to be the last time the Cowboys made a run to the playoffs. This game will be appointment viewing because of the receiver battle that will take place between Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Dallas’ Dez Bryant. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
It’s been a long time since the Cowboys have had a reliable rushing offense. Lineup changes and a wavering commitment to the run have prevented Dallas from consistently producing yards on the ground. The knee injury suffered by DeMarco Murray and the promotion of rookie Joseph Randle to a starting role hasn’t helped. But Murray, who is listed as questionable, could be back. And if he is he will face a Detroit defense allowing 5.13 yards per carry, the highest average in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
Since throwing for 506 yards against Denver, Tony Romo’s combined output in victories over Philadelphia and Washington has fallen short of that single-game total. But if he can stay upright against Detroit’s strong front, he should be able to pick apart the Lions’ pass defense that is surrendering 282 yards per game, the fifth-highest average in the NFL.
When the Lions run
Reggie Bush was one of the key acquisitions the Lions made this off-season. But the running back has rushed for more than 100 yards in game just once in 2013. Injuries along the offensive line and the Lions’ pass-heavy philosophy have hindered Detroit’s ground game. The Lions will have their work cut out for them if the Dallas Cowboys’ defense can duplicate their performance against Philadelphia, when it held the Eagles’ potent rushing attack to 84 yards on the ground.
When the Lions pass
Through Week 7, no player had attempted more passes this season than Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Highland Park (Dallas) alum has thrown for 2,129 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has also been sacked only nine times. The Lions will move the ball through the air. After all, they have the league’s premier receiver, Calvin Johnson. The Dallas Cowboys’ defense, which has looked shaky against accomplished passers, will be challenged to stop Stafford and his favorite target.
Dwayne Harris has established himself as one of the premier returners in the NFL this season. He is second in the league in both punt and kick return average. Harris is a weapon and he gives the Dallas Cowboys an advantage against the Lions, who haven’t given up much yardage when they’ve had to punt. In a game in which kickers Dan Bailey and David Akers are evenly matched, Harris may make the difference on special teams.
The Dallas Cowboys are riding high after defeating two divisional opponents in consecutive weeks. Another victory this weekend will ensure Dallas a winning record in the first half of the season. The Cowboys can make a statement if they go on the road and beat Detroit, a quality team with a potent passing attack. Dallas will be motivated to get the job done.
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When: Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at high noon (Dallas time)
Where: Ford Field | Detroit, MI
Watch on TV: Local FOX affiliate | DirecTV
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