The Cowboys go on the road to Denver to face the 3-0 Broncos in a Sunday afternoon battle.
The Broncos have spent the last three weeks beating up on some of the worst teams in the NFL. Now, their first true test comes in the Cowboys. The Broncos have been stellar this season, averaging in the top 10 in both rushing and passing defense.
The leader of their 3-4 defense is DJ Williams, who leads the team with 22 tackles. Also excelling is Elvis Dumervil, who already has six sacks this season. The Broncos also sport veterans Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins in the secondary; Dawkins knows the Cowboys well after playing in the NFC East for over 10 seasons.
On offense, the Broncos use a balanced attack starting with quarterback Kyle Orton who has thrown for 663 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions this season and has been sacked just three times. That won't stop Dallas from putting the pressure on Orton in hopes that he makes some bad throws and the Dallas secondary cashes in.
Receiver Brandon Marshall will have to have a big game, as the Dallas secondary eluded the mistakes it made against the Giants and got their first two interceptions on Monday against the Panthers. Also Brandon Stokley, who leads the team in receiving yards, has been limited in practice this week and his status is still unknown.
Correll Buckhalter is the starting running back and has 230 yards on 31 carries this season, but he faces a Dallas front seven that has shut down the running game of the Giants and Panthers in the last two weeks. So Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno will have to be patient and try to wear out the Dallas defense over the course of the game.
The Cowboys will go into Denver with their top ranked running game, and although Felix Jones will miss this game with a knee sprain, Marion Barber practiced today and will be active for the game, but Tashard Choice will get the bulk of the carries.
Tony Romo was very efficient last week, but he will have to do a little more for the Cowboys to come away with a victory this week. Romo and Roy Williams need to connect on a few passes in this game, and Miles Austin needs to show up after being quiet in the first three games. Austin is supposed to be the deep threat but only has one TD on the season.
The Cowboys' defense will have its hands full trying to stop Buckhalter and Moreno, but the run defense has been fantastic after a slow start and they should be able to keep the Broncos' run game in check.
Expect DeMarcus Ware to get his first sack this weekend. Orton is not a very mobile QB and he's been sacked three times this season. Also, look out for Victor Butler who had two sacks last week, he'll get more playing time this week. The Cowboys are no stranger to blitzing, and they'll continue to do so on Sunday.
Terence Newman will draw the assignment of covering receiver Brandon Marshall as he did a great job last week covering Steve Smith. This week will be harder for Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick, however, as the Broncos have a deep receiving group that includes Stokley and Eddie Royal. Jenkins and Scandrick will have to play their best to keep the Cowboys in the game.
The Broncos are a good team and should keep this game close. But after playing three really bad teams, they'll underestimate the Cowboys, and it will cost them dearly. The Cowboys will use the run game in the second half to close it out.