Dolphins vs Cowboys: 5 Stars in the Spotlight on Thanksgiving
Whenever a team plays on Sunday or Monday night throughout the year, those games really allow certain individual players to shine on a big regular season stage.
Even when there's the early season Thursday night game as well as the late-season Thursday nighters. All that being said however, nothing compares to Thanksgiving Day.
It's a day where family, friends and football come together more than any other day during the season, especially when there's playoff implications and fantasy games to be won.
As for the Cowboys and Dolphins, here are five key players to watch for come time for kickoff in Big D.
Laurent Robinson: WR, Dallas
Perhaps the best unknown player on the Dallas Cowboys is WR Laurent Robinson.
Prior to Miles Austin getting injured, Robinson was a solid insurance target for Tony Romo. However, once given the starting role Laurent exploded in an offense that's basically plug-n-play when it comes to WRs.
Twice Robinson has gone over 100 yards in a game, and he's also recorded five TDs (all of which have come in the last four games).
Against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day, Robinson needs to step up big. Because not only do the Cowboys need a win, but against the surging Dolphins having a balanced offense is vital. And, Miami does only rank No. 25 in pass defense, so attacking their weakness early is the key.
Therefore, expect Robinson to stretch the field to leave Dez Bryant open underneath. However his production will have to coincide well with the ground game as well, that way Miami doesn't stack the box against RB DeMarco Murray (more on him in a bit).
Matt Moore: QB, Miami
If there's a game where Miami QB Matt Moore can either win the starting job for 2012 or become more marketable for this offseason, this is that game.
The Cowboys have an extremely solid pass rush and rank No. 13 against the pass. Since taking over for Chad Henne and beginning their current win streak, the Dolphins haven't played a defense as consistent as Dallas across the board.
As for Moore, he's currently having the luxury of his best season in throwing six TDs to just one pick in the last three games. No surprise, the Dolphins are on a three-game win streak.
That said though, Moore must up his pass yard average because the Cowboys explosive offense will get Miami on their heels early. So far, Moore has yet to throw over 250 yards and with the Cowboys only allowing 101 rush yards per game, he needs to be efficient.
And although the Dolphins aren't going to make the postseason, playing the spoiler role should be enough motivation to play well.
So for Moore's sake, as long as he's careful and can hit WR Brandon Marshall and TE Anthony Fasano while buying time otherwise from the Cowboys pass rush, we may see a shootout.
DeMarcus Ware: LB, Dallas
Alone, he's a big reason why Dallas ranks No. 11 against the pass and No. 13 against the rush, because if you take Ware out of the equation, the Cowboys aren't nearly as good.
To that end the Dolphins have allowed 30 sacks this season, so it's for certain that along with Ware, the Doomsday Defense will get pressure.
As for Ware alone, he'll most likely see a double-team quite often even when he's lined up across from the NFL's best offensive tackle in Jake Long. Therefore, Ware must be aware of a few WR middle-screens and draws because the Dolphins will need to do some unorthodox play calls.
Dallas is aggressive and perhaps Ware more than anyone. So with some manipulative play-calling to be aware of, Ware may not get three sacks but he'll stack up on tackles this week.
DeMarco Murray: RB, Dallas
Since taking over the starting RB role in Dallas, rookie DeMarco Murray has stomped all over NFL defenses.
On the year he has compiled 747 rushing and 136 receiving, but has only scored two TDs.
In the last five games however, Murray has accounted for 674 rushing yards, so it's clear that he'll be used on Thanksgiving Day against Miami.
Now, the Dolphins do have the No. 7 ranked rush defense in allowing just 98.7 yards per game. But, in order to take pressure off Tony Romo because we know how flaky he can be, Murray must produce.
Whether it's between the tackles, screens or designed RB swing passes, Murray needs to keep Miami off balance. In turn, he'll receive even more recognition being that the game is in Dallas and on a stage almost as big as the playoffs.
Not to mention the Cowboys need a win anyway.
Karlos Dansby: LB, Miami
When in Arizona, LB Karlos Dansby was the Cardinals best defensive player. Now in Miami the past couple of years and nothing has changed.
This season Dansby leads the Dolphins with 59 solo tackles and has recorded two sacks to go with three pass deflects. He's one of the more underrated LBs in the game, is solid at getting off blocks and is a sure tackler.
On Thanksgiving Day against Dallas, the Dolphins' best odds at slowing down RB DeMarco Murray is for Dansby to spy him all game long. Anywhere Murray goes, Dansby must follow.
Even if Murray stays in to pass protect for Tony Romo, you never know if a screen pass is being set up, so deferring from blitzing will be the secret key. Because if Murray releases on a delay and Dansby blitzes, DeMarco will be wide open whether in the flats or across the middle.
However, the more Dansby can isolate Murray, the better odds Miami has to win. And with their No. 7 ranked rush defense, patrolling the middle of the field has to be his second priority to slow the Cowboys intermediate passing attack.
He is the key to Miami's defense and is the man who must be responsible to shut down DeMarco Murray.