Some of the guaranteed battles to watch this Sunday..
C Dan Connolly vs. NT Jay Ratliff:
The Patriot backup-center has been greatly aided by the fact that he has Logan Mankins to his left and Brian Waters to his right. However on Sunday he could be facing the toughest competition of his short career at center over Tom Brady.
There'll be other Pats receiving of course, but these are the big four weapons that Tom Brady will utilize the most in the passing game. Ochocinco will see time in 2-minute drills when the Pats want to conserve time left on the clock. The Dallas secondary has had time to heal up after being banged up all season.
New England's tackles vs. OLB DeMarcus Ware:
Will Ware go after Matt Light on the weakside or go after the right-tackle on the strong side? Will it be "Seabass" Vollmer at right tackle or rookie Nate Soldier?
This will be a key area in determining the success or failure of the Patriot run game.
Tom Brady and Bill(O'Brien) vs. Rob Ryan
That's right, it isn't Rob Ryan vs. Bill Belichick. It's the Dallas defensive coordinator vs. the Patriots offensive coordinators in Tom Brady and Bill O'Brien. The Pats had revenge against the Jets last week for beating them last year. This Sunday they'll want revenge against Rob Ryan for his role in their embarressing loss at Cleveland last year(the only other team able to beat them besides the Jets).
Patriots Defense vs. Cowboys Offense:
Cowboy interior offensive line vs. Patriot defensive-tackles: ("Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold." -Yeats)
Will the older New England defensive-tackles get the better of the younger guards and center of Dallas? If Albert Haynesworth gets significant time lined up next to Vince Wilfork, things could get really interesting..
TE Jason Witten vs various Patriots:
One of Belichick's favorite tactics is to take away the opposing QB's best friend. Look for either DE Andre Carter or DE Shaun Ellis to try jamming Witten at the line of scrimmage,and/or a linebacker.. and then probably either safety James Ihedigbo, Patrick Chung, or a nickelback.
If James Ihedigbo doesn't line up with Patrick Chung at safety there'll be lots of questions for Coach Belichick. Devin McCourty appears to be playing like his old self again. The Pats are likely to try throwing Witten off his routes before he makes it to this level. Their last game was the best game the NE secondary has had so far, and Sunday we'll find out if they can repeat that effort against a QB who knows how to rack up yardage.
Jason Garrett vs. Bill Belichick:
Oh, the many choices these men face heading into this game. Garrett should jhave the advantage of the bye, except for the fact that he has to bring his team to face the Pats in their house. Perhaps the biggest question facing Bill Belichick is whether to put Gary Guyton back out there as the middle-linebacker making the playcalls.
So what am I missing? Everyone misses something.