The Ravens are fresh off a dud game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City and are set to return the the friendly confines of M&T Bank Stadium. The only problem with that plan is that the struggling Ravens defense is set to square off against what has the potential to be one of the best and most balanced offenses in the NFL. Do the Dallas Cowboys pose a major threat to the Ravens 4-1 record?
I want to start by saying that no NFL team can or should ever be overlooked. They are all good teams and are always a genuine threat to win any given week against any given team. That said, lets not kid ourselves into thinking that all teams are equally dangerous.
The Cowboys are one of the most talent laden rosters in the NFL, they have been for years. DeMarcus Ware is the best pure pass rusher in the league, Jay Ratliff i an excellent 3-4 lineman, Tony Romo is a very good QB, DeMarco Murray looks more and more like the real deal every week and Dez Bryant has perhaps the most talent of any WR in the league. Add that to a stud group of young payers like Morris Claiborne and Tyron Smith both of whom are barely getting their feet wet in the league and you have an excellent core of players. Despite all of their talent though, the Cowboys are perinially a middle of the pack team or worse. They have one playoff win since the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996. One.
Part of their issue has always been the coaching. Since the departure of Barry Switzer in the 90s, the Cowboys haven’t had a legitimately great coach (ok fine, they had Bill Parcells but Jerry Jones didn’t give Parcells the freedom to do what he needed to do so I’m not going to count it). They have had a head coach carousel with each coach having just enough time to ship off some talent from the old coaches reign, but not enough for them to rebuild the team in their own image. Because of that, the Cowboys have become more of a collection of talent than they are a team. That fail rests securely on the shoulders of Jerry Jones who is both the teams owner and their GM.
Another part of the problem is the teams talented QB Tony Romo. Romo is a very very good player, but he has some mental roadblocks and seems to blow ames any time he gets in high pressure situations. Romo has one playoff win in his career, but he has several more devastating losses. Despite his playoff failures, he has been one of the best and most consistent QBs in NFL history during the months of September and October. That is an issue for the Ravens because last time I checked the calendar the month was October. Romos best month.
This year, despite his usual early season success, he has struggled during the seasons first few weeks. Romo has thrown 5 TDs but 8 INTs in the Cowboys first 4 games, he has also been responsible for 2 lost fumbles (four fumbles overall). That is a total of 10 turnovers to just 5 TDs in four games. that is worse than terrible, almost as bad as Matt Cassel through four games, but Cassel has a significantly lower talent level around him on his offense. Thanks in large part to Romo, the Cowboys have an abysmal -7 in turnover ratio.
The Cowboys defense is the teams second biggest issue. they have played well in terms of yardage, allowing about 175 passing yards per game, but they aren’t forcing turnovers. Through four games they have just 1 INT and 2 fumble recoveries (one of which was an unforced fumble). They have, however, been getting good pressure on the QB as demonstrated by their 9 sacks in 4 games. On the flip side of that, the Ravens have given up 13 sacks in 5 games. That could pose a big issue for the Ravens who need to rely on Flacco to put up points to win this game as it could quickly become a shootout if Romo is on his game. Protecting Flacco will be key, which means stopping Demarcus Ware and his 1.25 sack per game production will be key.
The Cowboys have a good chance of coming into baltimore and playing lights out and soundly beating the Ravens, but they have just as good a chance of coming in and playing terribly and losing by 30 points. in his last game, Romo threw 5 INTs while only being sacked one time. several of those INTs were just flat out terrible throws or bad reads by Romo. The Ravens need to take advantage of his tendency to stare down WRs and pre plan where he is going with the ball. Overall the Cowboys do certainly pose a threat, but they seem to have problems when they play fundamentally sound teams, and the Baltimore Ravens are nothing if not fundamentally sound. I expect, like most NFL experts, that the Ravens should be able to handle the Cowboys in M&T Bank quite easily. However, if this game were in Dallas, I would probably be picking the Cowboys to win handily, But in the stadium with the NFLs best home field advantage according to ESPN (Big shoutout to the fans!!) The Ravens should romp.