NFL Fact or Fiction: Dallas Cowboys Face Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVI
In the preseason, this potential Super Bowl matchup looked quite plausible.
After seven weeks of NFL action, these teams are more mysteries than anything else.
At the same time, just a week ago, it seemed the Ravens were living up to the hype. They were dominating opponents and giving up the fewest points in the league.
Then they laid an egg on Monday Night Football against one of the worst teams in the NFL—the Jacksonville Jaguars.
What must be realized is that these are two of the most talented teams in all of football.
Consistency has been an issue for both units, but each franchise has the ability to make a run at the Super Bowl.
Here are the statements of fact and fiction regarding their potential clash at Super Bowl XLVI
Fact: The Dallas Defense Is Underrated
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What has been forgotten amidst all the talk of Tony Romo this season is the consistent play of the Cowboys defense.
Dallas is allowing an average of 69 yards rushing per game, fewer than any other team in the NFL.
The Cowboys have 17 sacks, 20 tackles for loss and eight forced fumbles.
DeMarcus Ware and co. are an unrelenting unit that is capable of carrying this team to a championship.
The offense has been the epitome of inconsistency, but if the defense continues to play at an elite level, then Dallas will have a chance to compete once the playoffs begin.
Fiction: The Baltimore Defense Is Underrated
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Nobody would dare make the mistake of underrating the unit led by Ray Lewis.
The Ravens announce their defensive presence to the rest of the NFL every week.
Baltimore has some of the best playmakers in the league in Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and the aforementioned Ray Lewis.
Whereas the Cowboys have the best rush defense in the league, the Ravens are a close third. They allow only 76 yards each week on the ground.
The Ravens defense has proven they can lead the team to the Super Bowl in the past as they did just that in 2000.
If Baltimore can win a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer at quarterback then getting there with Joe Flacco should be a welcome challenge for this defense.
Fact: Joe Flacco Is an Average NFL Quarterback
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That 2000 Ravens squad was the exception to a commonly accepted rule: Great teams have great quarterbacks.
There is nothing wrong with Joe Flacco. He is a a capable NFL quarterback and will not cost Baltimore many football games.
Yet, there is nothing that stands out about Flacco aside from his height.
He just does not excite anybody. His play is consistently average.
Coach John Harbaugh doesn't give Flacco the football and tell him to go win the game.
Flacco manages the game. He hands the ball off to star Ray Rice and throws the occasional pass to Anquan Boldin or Torrey Smith.
Flacco is an adequate starter for the Ravens, but if they reach the Super Bowl, it will likely be in spite of him.
Fiction: The Cowboys Can't Win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo
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If the Cowboys are going to win a Super Bowl, it will actually be because of Tony Romo.
Romo is often ridiculed and rightfully so. He tends to crumble when the game is on the line.
But when Romo is at his best, he can be an exceptional NFL quarterback.
This is where Romo differs from Joe Flacco. He has that "wow" factor.
Romo can escape the pocket and make the kind of plays that give the Cowboys chances to win games.
Dallas is fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game with 295.
Romo has the ability to play at a Super Bowl worthy level. Now, he has to figure out how to do it consistently (and to not fall apart in the fourth quarter.)
Fact: The Cowboys Can Win the NFC East
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The NFC East is one of the most wide open divisional races in all of football.
That leaves Dallas with a great chance to sneak in and win the division.
They have struggled against quality opponents, and that must change, but it will not take an amazing record to win the NFC East.
Dallas has yet to play a game against any of these teams, so they have ample opportunity to secure their place atop the division.
The Giants and Eagles in particular will give the Cowboys great challenges, but those are the kind of teams you must beat to consider yourself a Super Bowl contender.
Fiction: Beating the Steelers Week 1 Took the Monkey off the Ravens Back
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Their 35-7 Week 1 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers was a great victory for the Ravens. But it will mean nothing if they cannot beat them later in the regular season and if they meet again in the playoffs.
In the grand scheme of things, a Week 1 win essentially means nothing. A playoff win means everything.
The Steelers won their last playoff matchup. Accordingly, they still feel like the proverbial "top dog" in this rivalry.
Games between these two teams are usually close, and if Baltimore can win a tight fourth-quarter game against Pittsburgh then they can finally remove the monkey from their backs.
Until then, it can't help but feel like the Ravens are suffering from "little brother syndrome."
Fact: Dallas Has a Deep Backfield
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The Rams defense is porous, but DeMarco Murray's performance in Week 7 was still impressive.
Anytime you set a franchise rushing record, it is noteworthy, especially when you are not even the team's starting running back.
Tony Romo is inconsistent, and everyone knows that, but the Cowboys can win in spite of his play if they let their backfield produce.
Murray, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice are all worthy of receiving handoffs, and their varying rushing styles are a great way to confuse a defense and cause mistakes.
The Dallas defense is exceptional, Romo can be great and this backfield is one of the deepest in the NFL.
Fact: The Cowboys Road to the Super Bowl Goes through Green Bay
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Let's say the Cowboys win the NFC East and make the playoffs.
They will undoubtedly have one major hurdle between them and the Super Bowl—the Green Bay Packers.
The defending Super Bowl champions stand at an impressive 7-0 thus far this season.
Aaron Rodgers is a bona-fide MVP front-runner, and the Packers defense is one of the best in all of football.
The road to the Lombardi trophy is never an easy one, and if Dallas is serious about ending their season at Lucas Oil Stadium, then they will need to beat the defending champs first.
Fiction: The Ravens Aren't Already an Elite Team
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Yes, Joe Flacco is average, but this team is already elite.
They played terrible against the Jaguars, but their body of work shows that they are a serious Super Bowl contender.
This is a team that has beat the great New England Patriots in the playoffs.
They have things to work on, but the Ravens are not a team anyone looks forward to playing.
Beating Pittsburgh again is a must, and winning the division would be great.
But Baltimore has already proven to the rest of the NFL that they are one of the best teams in the league.
They have a legitimate chance to play in Super Bowl XLVI.