New England Patriots (4-1) vs. Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Sunday, October 16th | 4:15 PM ET
TV: Fox | Radio: 98.5 FM The Sports Hub
Cowboys Coverage: Blogging the Boys
In their first non-conference match-up of the 2011 season, the New England Patriots will host the 2-2 Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium this afternoon.
This is a match-up that I've been really looking forward to seeing because I think it's another good test for the Patriots passing defense. Against the Jets last week, the pass defense really began to make strides... but it was against the struggling Jets offense. While the Cowboys have been inconsistent at times this season, they are a team that can really put up a lot of points in a hurry.
Follow the jump for final questions with Blogging the Boys' Dave Halprin as well as predictions from both me and Dave.Lets talk about Tony Romo for a minute. He's a player who seems to put up great numbers, put in a clutch, gutsy performance like his one against the 49ers, then come up short late in the games like he did two weeks ago against the Lions. Do you think there's a reason behind this "inconsistency"? And finally, how would you evaluate him at this point?
Ah, Tony Romo. There's no shortage of opinion about him. My short evaluation is he's got every skill you want in a QB except he can play loose with the football at critical times. The more in-depth evaluation: Romo can make every throw, he's got good pocket awareness, he's mobile and throws well on the run, and he has one of the quickest releases of any QB I've seen. He's also accurate. But, sometimes he tries to do too much, and can turn the ball over just at the time you can't afford it. His inconsistency can be attributed to an over-competitive nature that blocks out the mindset of knowing the context of the game, and understanding when it's time to throw the ball away or take the sack. His ability in all phases of the game is what keeps Dallas in games, and wins games, but the critical mistakes have led to high-profile failures.
Who's one defensive player who could be an x-factor for the Cowboys against the Patriots?
Cornerback Orlando Scandrick. He's our nickel/slot guy, and he's been injured for most of the year but returns this week. He'll likely see a lot of time trying to check Wes Welker, and that's no easy task. Scandrick was actually our best corner in 2010, when starters Mike Jenkins and Terence Newman were having bad or inconsistent years. Scandrick can play some ball, but he's got a huge challenge on Sunday.
Bonus x-factor: Cowboys budding star in the middle, second-year linebacker Sean Lee. After an injury filled first year, Lee has taken over in the middle meaning either Bradie James or Keith Brooking are the 'second' middle linebacker, teaming with Lee. Lee has been a tackling machine and he's been in on some key turnovers. If he can help shut down the Pats running game, and do a decent job when required to matchup with Gronkowski or Hernandez in pass defense, things will be looking up for Dallas.
The Cowboys' offensive line has had a lot of turnover over the past 18 months. How is that group shaping up?
A pleasant surprise. You're right, there's been huge turnover, and that turnover includes playing a lot of rookies or untested guys. But they've done a good job so far, they've certainly given the Cowboys the opportunity to win each game. Rookie right tackle Tyron Smith, the 9th pick in the draft, already looks like one of the better right tackles in the league, he is absolutely the real deal. Left tackle Doug Free was great in 2010, but has had some ups-and-downs in 2011. Rookie left guard Bill Nagy had a rough start, but has battled back to play well in the last couple of games. 2nd-year undrafted free agent Phil Costa has been a solid center, except for a slew of bad snaps in one game this year. The grizzled veteran of the bunch is right guard Kyle Kosier, who has been mostly solid.
They aren't perfect by any means, but with all the youth and inexperience, they have played well.
Dave's Prediction: Cowboys 34 Patriots 31
My head says the Pats are the better team right now and are at home, but my heart is optimistic that the Cowboys can pull off the upset. I think both offenses will score plenty of points in the game. So with those thoughts in mind, I'm being a homer and going with the 'Boys, 34-31.
Greg's Prediction: Patriots 31 Cowboys 27
Like Dave, I think this is going to be a pretty high scoring match-up. I think it's going to be a real close game and I think the Cowboys are a talented team that could "upset" the Patriots. Still, the Patriots are playing at home and the offense is still playing at a spectacular level. While I think this one will come down to the wire, I see the Patriots pulling out the victory at the end.