Ahhhhh; there is not much better than beating up on the Jets. After a weeks worth of blather from Rex about how the Jets would get back to their "ground-and-pound" approach, the Pats took that script and shoved it right down Rex's fat throat - out-rushing the Jets 152 to 97. Now the question becomes: how will the Pats respond coming off an emotional win (with their bye week on the horizon); facing a more formidable than you think Cowboys team coming off their bye week.
The two faced 'Boys stand at 2-2, but could very easily be 4-0. Or 0-4 (their game against Washington was one of the ugliest games I've ever watched). As the Romocoaster goes, so go the Cowboys (I've seen this clip probably 10 times now on SpotsCenter and have literally no idea what they say - it's too much fun to watch Marcellus Wallace's face). As much fun as it was beating up on Rex last week, the Pats face his equally talented, less obnoxious brother Rob this week. The last time the Pats didn't score 30+ points in a game was in their miserable performance against Cleveland last year. Cleveland's Defensive Coordinator last season? Rob Ryan. The Browns were also coming off a bye last year when they beat the Patriots, and I think it's safe to say that the Ryan brothers shared some ideas of how to stop the unstoppable Patriots offense.
New England Offense vs. Dallas Defense
The Pats have spent the past two weeks focusing on a balanced offensive attack (65 rushing attempts to 63 passing over the past two games) and the results have paid dividends. The effectiveness of the rushing game took some pressure of the passing offense and opened up play action passes. This strategy was all well and good for the past two weeks, but is likely to be less of the focus this week. Dallas leads the league in run defense, giving up a mere 61.8 ypg, thanks to the strong play of NT Jay Ratliff and ILB's Sean Lee and Brady James. Lee, the 2nd year player has had a solid start to the year and drew rave reviews from Tedy Bruschi for his play making ability. I look for the Pats to focus on screens (to both RB's and WR's) and draws rather than traditional runs to balance the offense against a blitz heavy Cowboys team.
Advantage - Cowboys
The success of the Patriots passing game today depends on one man - DeMarcus Ware. Talk all you want about Revis, Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers, but DeMarcus Ware is the best defensive player in the NFL (aside from a healthy Ed Reed). With 5 sacks already this year (through 4 games), Ware is an elite pass rusher, and a player the Pats will have to account for on every single play. Neither Matt Light or Solder (or Vollmer if he plays) is good enough to handle Ware one on one, so look for lots of chips on him from RB's, TE's and even WR's to try and slow him down. The Pats gave up a season high 4 sacks against the Jets last week and had quite a few miscues in protection - so, as always, keeping Tom clean will be essential. But once again, we have Tom.
Advantage - Patriots
Dallas Offense vs. New England Defense
Cutting Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode may have helped the Cowboys stay under the salary cap; but it sure as shit hasn't helped their running game. The Pats D has been sound in stopping the run (Brandon Spikes is becoming a beast in the middle), so the only thing to worry about in my opinion is the big play threat of Felix Jones. Jones has the same ability of his former teammate Darren McFadden to take any play and break it for a TD. As was the case when the Pats traveled to Oakland two weeks ago, tackling Jones will be key to limiting his big plays and making Dallas one dimensional.Advantage - Patriots
Here's where things get interesting. The Pats passing D has been the subject of enough discussion this year that we don't need to get into it here. After showing signs of progress against JV Sanchez, maybe their turning a corner and will rise to mediocrity. But a closer look at the stats from last week make things seem not quite as promising as they initially looked. First and foremost, it was against Sanchez. Sanchez is making a strong case for the Worst QB in the NFL (much to my delight). But the real area in which the Pats pass D has struggled this year is against 3+ WR sets. When the Jets used 3 or more WR's last week, Sanchez complete 73.3% of his passes, with 7.7 YPA, for 2 TD's and a 134.7 QB rating. Notsogood.
Say what you want about Tony Romo; he make his fair share of gawdawful mistakes and is easy to hate; but he can throw the ball. With the return to health of Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys could put Nate Newton on the field and have a respectable 3 receiver set. And that's doesn't even mention their best offensive threat - Jason Witten. Witten is Romo's safety net, and go to receiver. He is the player the Patriots will look to take out first with their game play, similar to Antonio Gates when they played the Chargers in Week 2. Add in the receiving ability of Felix Jones, and the Cowboys have too many weapons and make for a very tough match up for the Pats D, especially sans Mayo.Advantage - Cowboys
Special Teams:I didn't do much research in this department (I haven't had a computer all week) so I'll just say Dallas has a rookie kicker and use that as my reasoning.
Advantage - Patriots
This game has me scared. Rob Ryan coming off a bye week. DeMarcus Ware doing DeMarcus Ware things. Witten, Miles and Dez. The emotional victory over the Jets last week and a bye week around the corner. Lots of injuries on the D-Line and in the defensive backfield. There is only one thing making me hesitate from picking the Cowboys. Romo.
Will he be the Romo who played against SF and led a last minute game winning drive, or will he be the Romo who played Detroit and decided that Halloween came early and it would be fun to start throwing the ball directly to the Lions, giving out Pick-6's like candy? He will be the deciding factor today. Regardless, it should be a good ol' Texas style shootout in Foxboro today, with both defenses struggling to stop the other team. I've gone back and forth on this pick a hundred times, but I think it's time I do something that's never been done before in the history of SBS; pick against the Patriots. This of course comes with the cop-out that if they win I can simply blame it on Romo being terrible. I certainly hope I'm wrong, and if there is any coach that will have his team prepared for a game like this it's Belichick; but I'm going with my gut. Go Pats.Cowboys 31 - Patriots 27