The Dallas Cowboys don't win three games in a row very often. At least not this era's Cowboys. They've done so just twice since 2010, but they have a chance to accomplish that feat while potentially gaining some space between them and everybody else in the NFC East with a road victory over the Detroit Lions Sunday.
This Cowboys team is supposed to be different from those that have been tanking recently. But if that's the case, they're supposed to win games like these. The Lions are a good football team, but they won just four games last year and still possess some glaring holes on both sides of the ball.
It would be lazy to conclude that these are the same old Cowboys based merely on a loss to Detroit, but they can certainly begin to prove that this year will be different by winning a tossup game like this one.
Here's a final preview from the Cowboys' perspective, along with a prediction...
What Dallas Must Do to Win, Offensive Edition
Air it out. I rarely suggest this as a strategy for the Cowboys, especially on the road, but Detroit's pass rush has been stagnant, and that secondary is still very beatable. Tony Romo has to make some big plays, utilizing that deep and talented group of receivers. This is especially the case with DeMarco Murray being hurt.
What Dallas Must Do to Win, Defensive Edition
Limit the damage done by Calvin Johnson, obviously. That's the key on defense whenever you're facing the Lions, but don't forget about Reggie Bush, who has 229 yards from scrimmage the last two weeks. If you can prevent those guys from scoring frequently and quickly, you'll be in good shape.
Five Most Important Non-Quarterbacks
Murray: There'll be receivers who will make plays, but they still need some balance. If Murray plays, he'll be extremely important. If he doesn't, sub Joseph Randle in here.
Jason Hatcher: They need the red-hot veteran defensive tackle to keep playing at a high level with Anthony Spencer out, Jay Ratliff gone and DeMarcus Ware doubtful.
|Least sacks allowed, 2013|
|Team||Sacks allowed||Sack percentage (rank)|
|Detroit Lions||9||3.0 (1st)|
|Atlanta Falcons||9||3.5 (3rd)|
|Denver Broncos||9||3.0 (1st)|
|Pro Football Reference|
Brandon Carr: He'll lead the coverage against "Megatron." He'll get help, but Carr's been on fire lately so another big performance could be a game-changer.
Sean Lee: He has to lead the way against Bush. Plus, he's been playing very well.
Dez Bryant: He's still the best offensive player on this team, and the guy they'll look to first for big plays.
Injury Analysis, Cowboys Edition
Murray is listed as questionable, according to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, but it looks like there's a decent chance he'll play. On defense, safety J.J. Wilcox has been ruled out with a sprained knee, meaning rookie Jeff Heath will play a big role alongside Barry Church. And Ware is doubtful, so they'll need that no-name defensive line to keep hanging in. That could be tough against an offense that has surrendered only nine sacks all season.
Injury Analysis, Lions Edition
But the Detroit offensive line is far from healthy, so the trenches could be a disaster whenever the Lions are on offense. We'll see how much depth both teams have in those situations, because Lions right tackle Corey Hilliard has been ruled out, per a report by Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com, while Riley Reiff and Jason Fox are questionable. Matthew Stafford could be in trouble, even if Ware doesn't suit up.
B/R NFC East Blog Prediction: Cowboys 34, Lions 31
This one is giving me headaches, mainly because neither team is known for being consistent. Dallas is the better team, but Detroit's been good at home. Still, I have a feeling Carr and that Dallas defense step it up, and the Cowboys come through.