With 10 days of rest after the NFL season opening-night victory against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, the Cowboys will fly to the farthest reaches of the United States to play the Seattle Seahawks in one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
Centurylink Field (formerly Qwest Field) gives one of the most noticeable crowd-noise advantages to the Seattle Seahawks. When asked about the challenges that playing in Seattle, Garrett acknowledged the difficulties, "It's loud, almost a college-like atmosphere." (via dallascowboys.com)
Lets break down this weeks matchups.
On offense, the Seattle Seahawks spent good money bringing in former Green Bay Packers QB Matt Flynn but head coach Pete Carroll decided to roll with his third-round draft choice, Russell Wilson. Wilson has the ability to extend plays with his legs—but he is also a rookie. Against Arizona, he held onto the ball way too long several times.
To think that he will learn how to throw the ball away or tuck and run after one week is a stretch.
Wilson had an issue with throwing lateral passes for bubble screens and flares. There were several occasions when the officials missed the call on a lateral pass that missed it's target and went out of bounds. Another lateral was correctly called a turnover.
Marshawn Lynch is the heart of this offense. As he goes, the offense goes, as Pete Carrol likes to setup the play-action pass to give his rookie QB more time to throw. He is a bruising running back with the same style of former Cowboys' running back Marion Barber. The Cowboys defense swarms to the ball, which will be needed as Lynch is rarely taken down by a single tackler.
The wide receivers are big and physical (Braylon Edwards and Sidney Rice) but they do not have the break away speed that the Cowboys faced last week with Victor Cruz. Brandon Carr will likely shadow Rice, as he is by far the best receiving option.
The offensive line play, pass protection-wise, is pretty poor. Both tackles have issues with speed-rushers, and Arizona was sending extra men on the blitz every passing down, forcing Wilson to make a play, which he rarely did.
Rob Ryan can play more conservative and commit to stopping Marshawn Lynch. By making this team one-dimensional, Wilson doesn't have the experience or receivers to match up against the much improved Dallas secondary. DeMarcus Ware, Jason Garrett's hard hat award winner, will have a good time pinning his ears back and getting after Russell Wilson.
Defensively, the Seahawks will not be able to wreak as much havoc up front as the Giants did.
The secondary will be in much better shape, and the top cornerback, Richard Sherman, is a very good corner. In the third quarter of the Seahawks first game, opposing QB, Jon Skelton, was pressured into throwing the ball away. Sherman picked the ball out of the air, while laying out along the sideline, keeping his toes on the ground inbounds.
Prowling the Seattle secondary with Sherman is the excellent free safety, Earl Thomas. He can be very disruptive as a blitzer from both the outside and inside.
With the weapons that the Cowboys have on offense, it will not be difficult for them to operate against the Seahawks. Although the Seahawks defense is much improved from years past, they are still a work in progress, and Romo should have another significant fantasy day.
Coverage on special teams will be crucial this week for the Cowboys.
Leon Washington had a kickoff return of 80-plus yards and a punt return of 50-plus yards last week against the Arizona Cardinals. Football is a three-phase game, and if the Cowboys overlook the special teams portion, then this contest against Seattle will be closer than it should be.
This week, Dallas special teams captain, Danny McCray, will be back, and it couldn't come at a better time, as his coverage skills will be needed against the dynamic Washington. To put how well Washington has excelled at kickoff returns (seven career kickoff returns for TD's), the only player to return more kickoffs for touchdowns in his career is Josh Cribbs (eight).
This is a game that the Cowboys should not have difficulty winning, and taking care of coverage on special teams is the best way to make sure that this game isn't close enough for the crowd to become a factor.