It's been half a decade since the Dallas Cowboys have started 2-0. It's been almost as long since they last won the NFC East. Maybe everything's about to come around for the talented but oft-snake-bitten Cowboys.
We'll get a feel Sunday for whether they can start to put things together and keep the momentum going from that season-opening victory over the division-rival New York Giants. Or we'll see them collapse yet again versus a team they're supposed to beat.
It won't be easy. The Kansas City Chiefs might have been a two-win team last season, but they're already halfway to that total after crushing the Jacksonville Jaguars on the road last week. Plus, new Chiefs head coach Andy Reid knows a thing or two about how to beat the Cowboys.
A lot of intrigue Sunday at Arrowhead. Here's our final preview, along with a prediction...
What Dallas must do to win, offensive edition
Establish the run. The Chiefs surrendered 4.5 yards per carry last season and both of their pass-rushing linebackers are particularly vulnerable in run defense. The Cowboys have to stretch DeMarco Murray outside and gain some balance in order to take the pressure off a banged-up passing game. Kansas City has a fierce pass rush.
What Dallas must do to win, defensive edition
Let DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer (if active) get natural pressure and avoid blitzing. That's how the Chiefs will burn you. Alex Smith is stellar when facing blitzes and Jamaal Charles is too dangerous.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Brandon Carr: Morris Claiborne isn't completely healthy and struggled in the opener. That means Carr will have to deal with a lot of Dwayne Bowe, and he might not always have a ton of support.
Doug Free: The Chiefs had six sacks in Week 1, so the entire line is under a lot of pressure. Free, though, will likely have to face Justin Houston all day. The underrated Chiefs pass-rusher had three sacks and three hurries in the opener.
DeMarcus Ware: Like I said, the Cowboys probably shouldn't blitz much. With Anthony Spencer still a question mark, Ware has to get more pressure and maybe even some hits on Smith in Week 2.
Travis Frederick: This is a big early test for the rookie as he goes up against the massive Dontari Poe. Poe, who struggled as a rook himself in 2012, is really beginning to find a groove in the middle of that K.C. defensive line.
Miles Austin: The Chiefs have two great corners in Brandon Flowers and Sean Smith. With Dez Bryant less than 100 percent, Austin will have to find ways to make plays against the Kansas City secondary. Flowers and Smith don't typically spend a lot of time in the slot, though, so there could be something to exploit there.
Injury analysis, Cowboys edition
Four key Cowboys are dealing with injuries, but at least three will be good to go against Kansas City. Tony Romo (ribs), Dez Bryant (foot) and Morris Claiborne (shoulder) are practicing and ready to roll, while Anthony Spencer (knee) has finally returned to the practice field but is a question mark heading into this game.
If Spencer is able to play, it'll be huge. DeMarcus Ware needs all the help he can get against two top-notch Kansas City offensive tackles.
Injury analysis, Chiefs edition
Running back Jamaal Charles was iffy earlier in the week, but he's practicing now and is on track to play despite a bruised thigh. The healthy Dallas linebacking corps will have its hands full with a Pro Bowl-caliber back coming at them Sunday.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Chiefs 23, Cowboys 21
I believe in the Cowboys this year (I picked them to win the division), and I believe they can win this game. But I really think this is pretty much a toss-up considering how improved Kansas City is. It's the Chiefs' home opener, so I'm giving them a narrow edge.
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