The Dallas Cowboys will look to continue their winning ways when they face the Detroit Lions this Sunday in the Motor City. Dallas, fresh off a stellar defensive effort against the Philadelphia Eagles, will face a new set of challenges with even greater anticipated matchups.
The Lions, like the Cowboys, have posted a 4-3 record thus far in the season, and with both Green Bay and Chicago facing injury issues at key positions, they will be focused on making a statement in the NFC North. The Lions feature a slew of talented players on both sides of the ball, and the Cowboys must be ready.
Let's dissect the matchups that will not only impact this game, but unlock the keys to success and victory for the Cowboys.
Ndamukong Suh vs. Cowboys' Interior Offensive Line
This isn't just going to be a matchup of Ndamukong Suh versus rookie Travis Frederick, it's going to take a collective effort on the part of the Cowboys to stop a player who has recorded three sacks while consistently knocking down opposing quarterbacks.
To put this all on Frederick would be totally unfair, and that's why veteran Brian Waters' presence will be essential this weekend. Suh is powerful, he imposes his will as a pass-rusher and he simply commands attention by more than one player.
Frederick will need to be crisp in his combination blocks, his reads and the ability to get to Suh on the Lions side of the line of scrimmage. One aspect of Suh's game will be to create opportunities for ends Ziggy Ansah and Willie Young, and that's why he's so dangerous.
Tony Romo vs. Matthew Stafford
These two quarterbacks have virtually the same stat line with each player throwing for 15 touchdowns and just over 2,000 yards. They also have weapons in Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, among others, and they are both playing at a high level.
The difference in this ballgame could simply come down to which of these quarterbacks makes just one more play than the other. But the difference could also come down to their decisions as well. Tony Romo has been sacked 16 times to Matthew Stafford's nine, and with a fierce pass rush of the Lions, Romo needs to think fast.
Good quarterback play is essential in the NFL, and these two teams will look to them for answers, the propensity for playmaking and ultimately a victory.
Cole Beasley/Terrance Williams vs. Lions' Secondary
These two matchups will impact this game in a huge way, especially with the Cowboys not consistently producing in the running game. With DeMarco Murray still a question to play, and Joseph Randle still adjusting to a bigger load, the effectiveness of these receivers to sustain drives is paramount.
In last week's victory against the Eagles, Cole Beasley had several key receptions and Terrance Williams was not only very effective, but his nine-yard slant for a touchdown sealed the win. Bryant will command attention with a safety over the top, as well as a healthy dose of physicality, so that will create opportunities.
Lions corner Rashean Mathis left last weeks's loss to Cincinnati with a sore groin, so that could be an area to attack. Both of these receivers also can expect to see matchups with Darius Slay, who is a tough and physical corner. Winning the game off the line will be essential, so keep an eye on these matchups.
Calvin Johnson vs. Brandon Carr
Brandon Carr has been playing some outstanding football recently, and that could not come at a better time. Johnson, still dealing with a sore knee, represents more than a significant percentage of the offense for Detroit. This translates into a game of mitigation simply because it's impossible to shut Johnson down.
His combination of size, speed and skill are simply impressive. His trust with Stafford often results in many jump-ball situations with Johnson on the positive side of many of those scenarios. He's a scary athlete and a scary matchup just in time for Halloween.
The key for Carr will be to press, be physical, try to re-route Johnson and just contain his ability to make plays of greater than 20 yards. With no true complement on the other side, Stafford will definitely target Johnson throughout this game, and Carr will be in the line of fire.
DeMarcus Ware vs. Riley Reiff
Riley Reiff is a young tackle, and DeMarcus Ware is looking to get back on the field this Sunday. If Ware is able to play, it's time for Ware to start (yes, I can't believe I'm saying this) stepping up his game. The Cowboys defensive line was outstanding last week, but Ware is a leader on this team and he needs to start doing his part.
What a perfect time to come back, make a difference and expose a young tackle. Stafford likes to throw the ball a lot, he likes to target Reggie Bush in the flat but he also likes a clean pocket to throw from. The Cowboys need a payback from their last meeting, a 34-30 loss, in which Stafford torched this team.
Making things uncomfortable for Stafford not only reduces his effectiveness, but it also helps the Johnson matchup. If Ware is on the field, he needs to win this battle. The rest of the defensive line will come to play, now it's time for Ware to stop breaking down and start wreaking havoc.