Dallas Cowboys vs. Baltimore Ravens: Preview & Prediction

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 01:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on October 1, 2012 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys begin a 11-game-in-11-week stretch Sunday in Baltimore, which is one of the toughest places in the NFL to play. The 2-2 Cowboys are only half a game out of first place in the NFC East, but they've got their work cut out for them. 

They might be able to lose this game and still survive down the stretch, but a win in a spot like this could be a season-changer. Here's a final summary of what to look for, along with my prediction.


What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition

Take advantage of a short-handed Baltimore pass rush and a so-so secondary by utilizing all four of their top pass-catchers often.


What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition

Keep the status quo in run defense to shut down Ray Rice and don't get beat deep by Torrey Smith. 


How Dallas can lose

But making the same mental mistakes that have cost them dearly in each of their losses this year. 


Five most important non-quarterbacks

Phil Costa, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Brandon Carr, DeMarcus Ware

Costa returns to start at center, which could put even more pressure on a struggling offensive line. Bryant and Witten will need to come up big if the running game can't get going and Lardarius Webb controls Miles Austin in the slot.

Carr will likely have to deal with Smith. Ware, who's always on this list, will be counted on to provide pressure with Dallas unlikely to send extra defenders on blitzes very often.


Injury analysis, Cowboys edition

Out: Brian Moorman (groin)

They've been working out punters just in case Chris Jones isn't able to go either. You know you've had a rough go when more than one punter gets hurt in the first five weeks of the season.

Questionable: Ryan Cook (hamstring), Chris Jones (left knee), Anthony Spencer (shoulder)

If Spencer, an underrated linebacker, can return after missing the Chicago game and they also get Jay Ratliff back, Ware will have a lot of help rushing the passer. They need to get to Flacco without bringing extra men. 

Probable: Alex Albright (neck), Miles Austin (hamstring), Morris Claiborne (illness), Kenyon Coleman (knee), Phil Costa (back), Matt Johnson (hamstring), Jay Ratliff (ankle), Marcus Spears (knee)

The bye did make them healthier, but Costa replacing Cook could work against them. Adding Coleman and Ratliff back to the defensive front could be very helpful against both Rice and Joe Flacco. 


Injury analysis, Ravens edition

Probable: Haloti Ngata (shoulder), Jah Reid (calf)

Must be nice. Although it should be noted they're still without their best defensive player, Terrell Suggs. 


B/R NFC East Blog prediction

The Ravens have lost only five times in their last 36 home games. Wrong place, wrong time for the Cowboys, who still have far too many issues to iron out. 

Ravens 23, Cowboys 20