Jets at Dallas: A Look at the Cowboys

The New York football Jets take a three game winning streak in to Dallas this weekend, as they try to keep the momentum going in Jerry’s world. Although Dallas has not lived up to expectations so far this season, they are still a very talented team that the Jets cannot afford to take lightly.  Let us take a closer look at the Cowboys and see what the Jets will need to focus on in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Strengths

Offensive Line

Coming off a very solid 2014 performance, this unit was expected to be the strength of the Cowboys, and they have not disappointed. Zach Martin, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick are all in the conversation for best player at their respective position, and newcomer La’el Collins has shown flashes with some incredible highlight reel blocks. If you have not seen La’el’s latest work of art, you will see it Saturday during the game, guaranteed. To summarize, the Cowboys ran a toss play where Collins shoves Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix ten yards in the air, and then keeps pace with Darren McFadden for thirty yards, it was very impressive for a guy who weighs north of 300 pounds. The player the Jets will look to exploit is RT Doug Free, who has struggled in pass protection for most of the season, and is not great as a run blocker either. Overall they have only allowed 27 sacks on the season (20th in the league), but you have to wonder how many of those can be attributed to playing backup QB’s for most of the season.

Running Game

Because of that elite offensive line, the Cowboys have had some success running the football as well. They are ranked eleventh in the league with 1,536 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns and a 4.4 YPC (yards per carry).  The rushing attack is Darren McFadden carrying the bulk of the load (798 yards and 3 td’s) while newcomer Robert Turbin (and his incredible biceps) is coming off a 55 yard outing on seven carries against Green Bay where he scored his first career touchdown. The Jets will need to make sure they are getting off their blocks and getting to these running backs early and often come Saturday night.

Dez Bryant and Jason Witten

As Jets fans, we know outside of the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick (maybe not anymore!) our biggest fear is which secondary is going to show up. We have seen multiple teams this year with elite WR’s get behind our corners and take the top off the defense for long gains. Dez Bryant has the ability to be one of those threats. If the Cowboys can get Dez the ball (a big if) he can be an absolute game changer at WR and really embarrass our secondary. On the other hand, if we put an extra pair of eyes on Dez, Jason Witten has the ability to get open against safeties and linebackers in the middle of the field. He is a cagey veteran who has seen every coverage scheme in the book, and knows how to use his big frame to box out defenders and create a large target area for the QB. The play of the Jets secondary will definitely be one of the key factors in the deciding outcome on Saturday.

Weaknesses

Matt Cassel

Like most struggling teams in the NFL, the problems usually begin and end with who you have under center. All-pro QB Tony Romo was out for an extended amount of time to a broken collarbone before returning and re-breaking his collarbone against the Panthers on Thanksgiving. Jets fans and some players are very familiar with Matt Cassel due to his time in Buffalo and New England. He has not been the worst QB in the league by any means, but he is not helping them win games either. He’s completing less than 60 percent of his passes (59.2%) with 5 touchdowns (3 in one game) and 6 interceptions since coming over midseason from Buffalo. 1-6 in seven starts for the Cowboys in a very difficult situation; coming over in the middle of a season and getting thrown right in to the fire. Dallas clearly understands his limitations and tries to rely on their rushing attack and short, quick throws to minimize his tendency for throwing interceptions. Unfortunately, it seems like at least once a game Cassel throws a poorly telegraphed pass that is intercepted and crushes all hope for Big D. Last week it was in the end zone on a high throw that was tipped by Dez Bryant and intercepted by Sam Shields. I hope that the Jets have learned their lesson about taking back-up QBs lightly in the state of Texas and come out prepared for Cassel this weekend.

Summary: The Cowboys have nothing to lose this weekend playing against a Jets team that has to win to keep their playoff hopes alive. Look for them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at New York in attempt to play spoiler and ruin their hopes of snagging a wild card. Luckily, for the Jets the talent at defensive line should be able to match up with the Cowboys elite play in the trenches.  They should be able to stop the run and pressuring Cassel into one of those back breakers mentioned above. It will not be easy, but the Jets should be able to get a victory this Saturday night against the Cowboys in Dallas.

Prediction: Jets 26- Cowboys 14

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