GAME SET *WHAT: Seattle Seahawks (2-5) at Dallas Cowboys (3-4)
WHEN: Sunday, noon (CT) WHERE: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TELEVISION: FOX (Chris Myers, Tim Ryan and Jaime Maggio)*
Josh: What about Seattle tight end Zach Miller going against the Cowboys' linebackers with Sean Lee out. The coverage problems had by Bradie James and Keith Brooking are well documented, and I don't hold out a lot of hope for things ever getting better on that front, no matter how Rob Ryan wants to scheme things on passing downs. Maybe we'll see Bruce Carter a little bit.
Nick: With Mat McBriarbanged up at punter, and a chance he may not even play, it'll be interesting to see how good the punts will be come Sunday. They can't give Seattle's Leon Washington too many chances to make plays. He had three returns for scores last year and has gotten close to breaking a few in recent weeks.
Rob: The Cowboys will seriously hinder Tarvaris Jackson's ability to run the Seahawks' offense (assuming he starts) if DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer win their one-on-one battles with young tackles Russell Okung and James Carpenter. This is a matchup that favors the Cowboys in experience, and Ware has been almost unblockable lately. Rob Ryan will find spots to get him pressuring the pocket.
- Don't Forget...
Rob: This would be an ideal week for both a healthy David Buehler on kickoffs and Mat McBriar on punts. Leon Washington is one of the best dual returners in the game and he's particularly dangerous on punts, where the Cowboys hope McBriar can be effective despite a painful case of a foot drop. Buehler got only two kickoffs in his return from a groin injury last week, but he could be kicking in perfect conditions if the chance of thunderstorms makes this an indoor contest at Cowboys Stadium.
Josh: Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell used to be in Minnesota, and has had some success putting together game plans against a lot of the same defensive personnel as the Cowboys will trot out on Sunday. The scheme is different, with Rob Ryan replacing Wade Phillips, but with Lee out, the Cowboys are more like their old selves than they've been all season.
Nick: The right side of the Seahawks' offensive line is a pair of rookies. RT James Carpenter and RG John Moffitt are both learning the ropes in the NFL. Even though DeMarcus Ware usually lines up on the offense's left side, that could change this week if the Cowboys are looking for favorable matchups. Or perhaps it's a week Anthony Spencer comes through with a big game.
- Cowboys Win If:
Nick: If they can continue to apply pressure to the quarterback the way they've done this year, and the way Seattle is yielding sacks, it should be a long day for the Seahawks on offense. Expect the Dallas defense to get that swagger back and that's all the Cowboys' offense should need in return.
Rob: They can get tough yards on the ground against a pretty good Seahawks run defense. Seattle's David Hawthorne is one of the NFL's best young linebackers, developing quickly under former Cowboy Ken Norton Jr. If DeMarco Murray can dictate the pace for the offense, then there's more options for Tony Romo, and less potential pressure he'll face in the pocket.
Josh: They need to play more sound on defense. Tarvaris Jackson is not Michael Vick, but if guys are blowing their assignments and getting out of position, he can do a pretty decent impression. So long as he isn't allowed to play out of his mind and the offense doesn't gift-wrap scoring opportunities for Seattle with turnovers, I think the Cowboys have an excellent chance.
- Seahawks Win If:
Josh: Since Tony Romo hurt his ribs, I think he's been playing timid in the pocket. Were I game-planning against the Cowboys, I would throw the kitchen sink at him, hoping to force him into some erratic decisions. The Seahawks don't rush the passer particularly well, but they do stop the run, which might set up some tough down and distance situations, making it easier to blitz.
Nick: If the Seahawks can take some parts of what Philly did with LeSean McCoy and let Marshawn Lynch do the same, it could keep the ball in their hands and sustain some drives. While it's unlikely to think Seattle will have more than 40 minutes time of possession like the Eagles, long drives like that will move the chains, eat up some clock and keep the Seahawks close enough to win in the end.
Rob: Tavraris Jackson can air it out like he did for two-and-a-half quarters last week against Cincinnati (323 yards) and put the Cowboys' defense back on their heels. And we've seen teams that combine pressure on Tony Romo with conservative coverage on Miles Austin and Dez Bryant have a chance.
- Gut Feeling
Rob: I think the Seahawks will need help to win this one, like some takeaways or some big returns from Leon Washington. They're only averaging 15.6 points per game and have scored fewer than that in four of seven contests. The prospect of falling to 3-5 makes this as must-win as it gets for a Cowboys team with playoff expectations.
Josh: It's getting a little old seeing this Cowboys team go one step forward, one step back, but if form holds they'll win this one, setting up another huge game next week against Buffalo. Seattle has proven they are capable of rising up, having beaten the Giants in New York, but that should also serve to eliminate the possibility of the Cowboys overlooking them. I think it'll be a relatively close game into the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys will survive.
Nick: I don't think this one will be like the Rams game of two weeks ago. I do think Seattle will give the Cowboys more of a fight. But I'm thinking the Cowboys will find a way to pull away in the second half. And for some strange reason, I'm predicting a defensive or special teams touchdown in this one, maybe even two.