When I worked in the pro department for the Cowboys I would always sit down when the office was quiet and pick out two or three games to study just to get a feel for the upcoming opponents. I had a good understanding of the NFC East but there were several AFC teams that I might have see two or three years back so I always used my summer's to try and get a jump on the season. Now that I am with DallasCowboys.com, I plan to go back and study like I did before. Here are some matchups I am looking forward to.
Earlier this week, I've highlighted matchups for the first 12 games, but here are the last four, which feature three games against 2011 playoff teams.
Week 14, after a home game against the Eagles, the Cowboys travel to Cincinnati for a match up with the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The match up to watch here will be wide receiver A.J. Green against Brandon Carr. There was no surprise in my eyes what type of rookie season Green was going to have in 2011. In college, he was a big time play maker and that didn't change in the pro's. Green averaged an amazing 16.5 yards a catch and was clearly Andy Dalton's go to guy. One of the things that slows down the ability of a receiver to get down the field to make plays is to jam him along the line and make his fight to get in the route. Carr has that ability to get up on Green and get his hands on him to make him adjust in route. Carr cannot afford to get in a foot race with Green but if he can get his hands on him, then he has a great shot to cover him.
Week 15, Steelers' linebackers James Harrison and Lamarr Woodley against Cowboys tight ends will be an interesting matchup for this late season contest. When you think of the Steelers, you think of their front seven but more importantly, you think of their outside linebackers. Where the Steelers hurt you the most is their ability not only with their ability to hold the edges in the running game but the pressure they create on the pass rush. This is one of those games where the Cowboys' tight ends are going to have to bring their big boy pads to the game to match the power of these Steelers outside linebackers. Jason Garrett will struggle to call plays in this game if the plan for Harrison and Woodley is not executed well.
Week 16, this match up against the Saints at home very well could be for a playoff spot and with Drew Brees coming to town, Rob Ryan is going to need his defense playing at it's very best. One of the best games I had seen the Cowboys defense play in the last several years was in 2009 against the Saints. At that time, Wade Phillips was able to put pressure on Brees from all angles and confuse him with some different looks which is difficult to do. His nickel and dime packages were outstanding but more importantly, he was able to get consistent pressure on Brees. Where Brees can hurt you the most is his ability to sit in the pocket and read routes developing. The Saints have had some turnover on the offensive line but maybe more importantly, Sean Payton will not be calling the plays and this is the one advantage that the Cowboys could clearly use.
Week 17, the Cowboys end the season in our nation's capital with a meeting with the Redskins. In the previous meeting I focused on Robert Griffin III but this time around I am going to look at outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and Tyron Smith. Like the match up of Jason Pierre-Paul with the Giants, this one has a similar tone for Smith. Both Pierre-Paul and Orakpo have explosive quickness but the biggest difference is that Orakpo is a very powerful rusher that cannot only beat you with a move to the edge but if you set too wide on him to take that outside move away, he can take you straight back into the quarterback. When Orakpo is on the move on an inside, he can be extremely difficult to stop because of his quickness and power. As many problems as Jason Pierre-Paul can cause Brian Orakpo can be just as much of a nightmare to handle in this contest.