The Cowboys come into Sunday's game fresh off a much-needed bye week. When we last saw Jason Garrett's squad, it was failing miserably in a 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears as the offense seemingly could not stop turning the ball over.
Nonetheless, Dallas is still 2-2 and in the hunt in the NFC East. A win against a tough opponent could do huge things for a team that has to be running low on confidence.
Looking to send the Cowboys' season into a spiral is a Ravens squad that won an ugly 9-6 game over the Kansas City Chiefs last week. After weeks of relying on top-notch offensive performances to come out victorious, the 4-1 Baltimore team reverted to the old school in Week 5.
With both teams looking for a win and to prove themselves, this one should be a great contest. For that reason, here's a look at everything you need to know about Sunday's game.
Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, MD
When: Sunday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: Ravens (-4), according to Bovada.
Over/Under: 44.5, according to Bovada.
What's at Stake?
We're at the point where we have enough of a representative sample size that we can make comfortable judgments about teams without feeling hasty.
Using that rationale, it has become readily apparent that the Ravens are easily the class of the AFC North and are just playing for playoff seeding at this point.
Dallas, on the other hand, has a myriad of offensive problems that could derail its season. Despite a bevy of talent, the Cowboys have been unable to move the ball consistently and Tony Romo is in the midst of his career-worst season.
In a strong division like the NFC East, those deficiencies will only become more glaring as the season progresses. After having a bye week to work out the kinks, it's necessary that the Cowboys come out strong on Sunday.
Both teams need the game for different reasons, but Dallas seems to need it more long-term.
LB Alex Albright, Neck, Missed Week 4
DL Kenyon Coleman, Knee, Missed Week 4
DB Matt Johnson, Hamstring, Missed Week 4
DL Jay Ratliff, Ankle, Missed Week 4
LB Anthony Spencer, Shoulder, Missed Week 4
No significant injuries to report at this time.
Fantasy Player to Watch: QB Tony Romo
After coming into the 2012 season widely regarded as one of the eight best quarterbacks in fantasy, Romo's poor performance has likely sent countless fantasy owners' seasons off the rails.
Through five weeks, the Cowboys signal-caller ranks 28th among fantasy quarterbacks in scoring. Granted, that ranking is a little skewed due to Dallas' bye week, but the fact that he has only scored 11.5 points for owners on average (using ESPN's standard scoring) is wholly indicative of his failure.
Romo will get the chance to right the ship on Sunday against a Ravens defense that has struggled this season against the pass. Coming into Week 6, Baltimore ranks 23rd in pass defense, with a shockingly high-rate of 261.4 yards allowed per game.
If the Cowboys quarterback cannot thrive when facing a secondary that allowed Brandon Weeden to throw for over 300 yards, it might be time to cut bait on Romo's 2012 season.
What They're Saying
Despite being one of just six teams to take a bye thus far, the Cowboys are tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the second-worst turnover ratio in the NFL at minus-seven.
While most of that onus undoubtedly falls on Romo's penchant for the interception, the defense has also struggled to create turnovers despite a strong start.
Speaking with the Dallas Morning News' Rainer Sabin, cornerback Brandon Carr seemed ready to step up for his defense.
It’s a personal challenge each one of us has to accept. You have to challenge yourself to put it upon yourself, within the scheme of the defense, to go out there and you be the one to make the play, you be the one to make the difference.
Where the Cowboys are trying to fix their turnover woes, the Ravens will simply be trying to solve their early-game woes.
Though the team has excelled this season offensively behind a high-powered attack, that has not been the case in the first quarter. Speaking specifically about last week's game against the Chiefs, center Matt Birk made it clear that the offense has to do better going forward.
Via the Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec:
We just weren't finishing drives. We were not staying on the field long enough. We were getting off too quickly. When you run the no-huddle, you don't want to do that to your defense. It puts them in a bind.
Cowboys Key Player: WR Dez Bryant
As the season progresses, it's less and less likely by the week that 2012 will finally prove to be Bryant's breakout year.
Though his struggles with dropping the ball two weeks ago are well-documented, it's Bryant's lack of downfield prowess that is truly troubling. The former Oklahoma State star has averaged just 12.8 yards per reception this season and has a long catch of just 38 yards.
While never expected to be a burner, Bryant has essentially become a very large underneath target for Romo thus far.
Regardless, he can change that trend against Baltimore this week. His size and athleticism present massive matchup problems for the Ravens' secondary, leaving Bryant with a career-best game possibility if Romo feeds him the ball.
For those who have fretted about Bryant's progress, this could be the week where he finally turns it all around.
Ravens Key Player: WR Torrey Smith
Part of Baltimore's problem last week offensively was a lack of downfield explosion, and that almost solely rests on Smith's shoulders.
After consecutive top-notch performances in Weeks 4 and 5, the second-year speedster grabbed just three passes for 38 yards as Kansas City's defensive game plan seemingly centered on stopping the deep threat.
Things won't get easier for Smith this week against a Cowboys defense that ranks first in the NFL against the pass.
Nevertheless, all it takes is one catch for the Smith to change the momentum of the contest. A simple look at his stat line may be the telling factor in whether the Ravens win or lose on Sunday.
With two full weeks to prepare and fix all of their woes, I'm taking the Cowboys here. The team simply has too many offensive weapons to struggle all season and should find some holes in the Baltimore defense.
It will be a close one, but the road team will come out victorious.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Ravens 20
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