GAME SET*WHAT:: Detroit Lions (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-1)
WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 2, Noon (CDT) (CT)
WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TELEVISION: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman & Pam Oliver) *
Josh: Just keep an eye on Ndamukong Suh lined up across from Kyle Kosier. Last year, Suh went against right guard Leonard Davis the entire game, which seemed like a good thing for the Cowboys because he was more powerful than Kosier. Now, Kosier is the more powerful of the Cowboys' guards, but Suh has a definite athletic advantage and could be highly disruptive.
Nick: Maybe this should be called 2-on-1 because I'm not sure the Cowboys can just let any cornerback match up with Calvin Johnson too many times on Sunday. While there will be times when both Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins will be singled up on Johnson, the Cowboys have to be extra careful in the red zone. Johnson is a beast around the goal line with his leaping ability. Look for safety Gerald Sensabaugh, a pretty good leaper in his own right, to get matched up with Johnson at times.
Rob: Suh is one to watch for sure, but keep in mind that this entire Lions' defensive line is pretty good. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch is a three-time Pro Bowler with three sacks already. Left tackle Doug Free is determined to play better than he's shown so far, and Vanden Bosch presents yet another challenge on the edge.
- Don't Forget...
Rob:We've talked a lot about the youth and inexperience on the Cowboys' offensive line, but Detroit's O-Line is reeling right now. Quarterback Matt Stafford was sacked five times by the Vikings last week, and the Lions are averaging 2.8 yards on 84 carries. Granted, the Cowboys' offense knows how tough it gets inside the Metrodome, but Lions head coach Jim Schwartz admitted he needs more from his guys up front, especially considering the Cowboys have more sacks (13) than any team in the league and Stafford hasn't stayed healthy for a full season yet.
Josh: Last year, the Lions limited Jon Kitna to his worst passing game of the year, only 147 yards, though he did throw three touchdowns. With their wide receiver position banged up, the Cowboys could be seriously challenged to move the ball through the air again, increasing the pressure on an up-and-down running game.
Nick:The Lions, quarterbacked by Shaun Hill, were beating the Cowboys 12-7 last year before that fluky play by Bryan McCann â a 97-yard punt return â turned the game around. The Lions are better this year. And the Cowboys seem better as well. Just don't forget these aren't the Lions we've seen in the past.
- Cowboys Win If:
Nick: It will be early October when Sunday's game kicks off, but it's not yet the holiday season. That means, the Cowboys shouldn't be giving any gifts away. If the Lions get short fields based off turnovers and special teams play, they'll score enough points. Detroit has a good kicker and a good red-zone offense, which is all an aggressive defense like the Lions need.
Rob: The defense plays at a similar level from last Monday night. That type of effort will win a lot of games this year. Given the Lions' line issues, I think it's possible. That being said, the Cowboys can't go another game without a touchdown and expect to win Sunday. Romo must be in better sync with his receivers, because that cost them at least one score against Washington.
Josh: It seems that the Cowboys should be able to stop the Lions' running game, so the biggest thing for the defense is to not let Calvin Johnson beat them. They can do that with double-teams, and with extra pressure on Matt Stafford. This will be the best defense Stafford has faced so far this season.
- Lions Win If:
Josh: The biggest matchup concerns for the Cowboys come against Detroit's defensive line, which is solid across the board. If Kyle Vanden Bosch dominates Doug Free, Bill Nagy can't hold his own against Corey Williams and Suh whips Kosier, the Cowboys offense could grind to a halt, maybe even worse than the no-touchdown performance against Washington.
Nick:If they get any kind of help from role players, the Lions will be hard to beat. We know what Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh, Matthew Stafford and Jahvid Best can do. But if they start getting big plays from guys like Brandon Pettigrew or Stefan Logan, that's when Detroit could get really dangerous.
Rob: I spotlighted the tackle-end matchup earlier, but Suh and fellow defensive tackle Corey Williams will decide a lot on Sunday. If they can collapse the middle, Romo won't be able to step up in the pocket and buy himself time. And of course, folks, no turnovers. The Cowboys feel they can win every game with a plus-turnover ratio, but the Lions lead the league at plus-six.
- Gut Feeling
Rob: The Lions are due. They've won seven straight dating back to last season, and I think the Cowboys' defense can cause Stafford just as many problems as the Lions' defense presents to opposing quarterbacks. This one probably won't be pretty, either, but I felt all along the Cowboys could get to the bye at 3-1, and even with the injuries, there's no reason they can't take care of business at home
Josh:As much as I think they're an up-and-coming team that you have to watch out for in the NFC over the next few years, I still don't believe Detroit can go 4-0. They had to overcome a 20-point hole against Minnesota last week, and it was impressive that they did, but still, you can't depend on that. I see the Cowboys jumping out to a lead, and Rob Ryan's defense teeing off against Stafford. The Lions will make it a nail-biter at the end, though.
Nick: : For some reason, we didn't talk about this nine-game streak of three-point games last week. I don't remember it being a seven-game streak or an eight-game streak. This is the week it's come out as a big deal. That being said, there's no way this game will be three points or less. And I just think the Cowboys will be good enough at home, especially on defense. I see the Cowboys winning this one by double-digits.