IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys couldn’t be in a better place for a team that lost one of its first two home games and dropped two of its last three matchups before the bye week.
Despite all the turnovers, the injuries, a largely inefficient offense and an inconsistent offensive line, Dallas is sitting even at .500 in a position where a win against the Ravens could put them atop the NFC East, if the Eagles lose to the Lions and the Giants fall to the 49ers.
“Sometimes it’s good to get away,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “We’ve been a team that’s been banged up, like most teams in the league, and the bye week gives you a chance to get healed up, get refreshed.”
In a stretch of games that should indicate what kind of team the Cowboys really are, the battle in Baltimore is the most important. It’s the first game out of the bye, the Ravens have never looked more vulnerable all year and after three straight games scoring fewer than 20 points, Dallas must break out of its offensive funk soon if it wants to stay competitive.
If not for a fumbled snap at the 1-yard line by Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and a pass interference call on a pick play by Dexter McCluster that would have been a touchdown to Dwayne Bowe, the Ravens would be leaving Kansas City at 3-2, instead of 4-1.
Four of Baltimore’s first five games have been decided by a touchdown or less. The vaunted Ravens defense sits at 20th in the league in stopping the run and 23rd in stopping the pass. But that doesn’t mean an anemic Cowboys offense can enter Baltimore and pick up a win.
Dallas needs to show something has changed during the bye week against a Ravens team that’s allowed a combined 22 points the last two weeks.
If the same Cowboys offense with a knack for turnovers, penalties and no running game waltzes into M&T Bank Stadium, that team will be walking out 2-3 toward the bottom of the division.
But if the Cowboys can establish the pass to open the struggling running game and hold onto the ball the way it couldn’t the last time they were on the road in Seattle, and if their defense can eliminate Ray Rice from Joe Flacco’s passing game the way the Chiefs did, the Cowboys could set themselves up to once again regain the top position in their division.
The NFC East did Dallas a favor during their bye week. The only team that won was the team the Cowboys already beat in the opener.
Now it’s up to the Cowboys to take advantage.