In week 4, the 3-0 Lions head to Dallas to take on the 2-1 Cowboys, in a much anticipated match in the NFC.
The Lions are coming off an overtime win against a luckless Vikings team, in which they scored 0 points in the first half, but rallied to tie it at 23 by the end of regulation, before kicking the winning field goal in overtime. Winning it 26-23. To be honest, the Lions looked down-right horrid in the 1st half last Sunday. The offense couldn’t get anything going and the defense had a tough time stopping a lot of the Vikings drives. Eventually, though, the Lions got their feet under them and came roaring back in the 2nd half to take the lead, before giving up a game-tying Field Goal to take it to OT. Before eventually slotting a field goal of their own through to get the win.
As for the Cowboys? They were able to scrap past the Washington Redskins 18-16. If you happen to love field goals, then this was your dream game. As the Cowboys put up nothing but field goals throughout the game. That’s right, ZERO Touchdowns by “America’s Team”. The odd thing, though, is that Dallas never really looked that bad. They could just never convert on their opportunities, always having to settle for a field goal. Washington started well and looked to be the likely winners throughout, but the Cowboys just kept hanging in before Dan Bailey’s foot got them over the line.
So that brings us to week 4. You could very easily argue that this is the game of the week. And it is without a doubt, in the NFC.
This game will definitely pose more of a test for the Lions than the other 3 games this season. Dallas definitely hasn’t looked their best for the first 3 weeks. But you just can’t discount their offense, with Romo, Jones, Witten & Bryant. And their defense isn’t bad either, with NFL sack leader DeMarcus Ware coming off the edge every play. Fortunately for the Lions, though, one of the Cowboy’s weaknesses is their Defensive backfield. The Lions should be looking to try and exploit that all game. And with Matthew Stafford’s arm strength and accuracy, and Calvin Johnson’s freakish athleticism and amazing catching ability, it could turn into a disaster zone somewhat quickly.
The biggest weakness for the Cowboys is their young, somewhat inexperienced, Offensive line. Another gigantic plus for the Lions, who pose a definitive top 3 Defensive line, who still haven’t lived up to their potential. The (current) Cowboys Center, Phil Costas, was a one man disaster for the Cowboys on Monday night, snapping the ball to an unsuspecting Romo 3 times. Although the Cowboys are saying that the Redskin’s players were imitating the Cowboys snap count, leading to the early snaps, Costas isn’t making excuses, saying that he needs to “block everyone out but Tony”. Nothing shown on Monday night bodes well for the Cowboys this Sunday, though. And the main one is having a shaky Center looking right at Ndamukong Suh only a foot or two away from you, ready to knock your butt down and get after the QB. I have no doubts that the Cowboys’ Offensive line will do a better job this Sunday with regards to their cadence and snapping the ball. But I doubt they’ll do a better job protecting Tony Romo than they did on Monday night, which wasn’t spectacular in itself.
For the Lions, well, they had issues in a few parts of their game on Sunday, too. The main one being their Offensive line, which up until last Sunday had given up zero sacks. But that all changed during Sunday’s game, with the Vikings able to get 5 sacks, all from their Defensive Ends. All-Pro, Jared Allen, had 3 sacks, while their new starter, Brian Robison, had 2 of his own. This bodes quite badly for Jeff Backus and the Lions Offensive line this week, with the great pass-rushing LB DeMarcus Ware lined up to try and disrupt Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ passing game as much as possible. The Lions biggest problem all season has been their lack of a running game with Jahvid Best. He’s getting several opportunities to rush the ball this season, but still hasn’t capitalised on any. He did, however, have a nice 60+ yard screen pass play against the Vikings. Best’s biggest problem seems to be that he just doesn’t have the wherewithal to move to avoid the tacklers and run towards the open space to be able to take it up field. Of course, an Offensive line which is much better used in the pass game doesn’t help his cause.
The Cowboys should be looking to test the Lions secondary pretty early on this Sunday, as they haven’t faced a QB with Romo’s skill level up until this point. And also haven’t faced a combination like Bryant & Witten, either. Chris Houston & Eric Wright have done quite a good job in the passing game so far, that opponents have had to use more of a short passing game to make yards. Couple them with Louis Delmas and the up and coming Amari Spievey, and the Lions look like they could have a very solid back 4 throughout the season, pending injury, of course.
Another area where the Cowboys will most likely be targeting is the Lions run defense, which really hasn’t shown up much in the first 4 weeks. And the Cowboys have the RB’s who could cause nightmares for Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy & Justin Durant in the middle. One main problem with Detroit’s run defense, is that the Defensive line is pass rush oriented. Which has been quite evident so far this season. On Adrian Peterson’s run last week, it was clear that Ndamukong Suh was wanting to get to Donovan McNabb, and got completely faked out by Peterson. Suh then slipped and Peterson was off for his long of 43 yards. This has to be fixed, and soon. This Defensive line has to realise not to rush the passer on 1st down unless it’s completely obvious it will happen, otherwise they’re going to continually get burned by it. Not to mention their issues with reverses, which just boggles my mind. I know they say ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’, but far out, Kyle Vanden Bosch better learn it soon, cause he’s been getting fooled every time it’s occurred. Which has become quite constant, as opponents know the Lions fall for it rather easily.
In the end, though, I think the game will be very enjoyable and a close contest. I have to give the upper hand to Dallas with the home field advantage, but the Lions have proven they can win on the road and I believe they can and will do so again this week.
Prediction: Lions 27, Cowboys 26.