IRVING, Texas –The Cowboys are a game over .500 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East as they travel to Detroit to play another 4-3 team. Both teams have been able to create a lot of turnovers this year and score with the best of them, each sitting in the top 10 in the league in scoring average.
A Dallas win would give the Cowboys an early stranglehold on the division and get them out of their .500 funk, while a win for the Lions could vault them from second to first in the NFC North.
Here are the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Like I'm sure the other guys have, I've been back and forth with this one. You see Calvin Johnson highlights and remember plays Reggie Bush has made in the past, and know how tough Ndamukong Suh can be in the middle and it's hard to think the Cowboys can win on the road. And it will be hard. But ultimately, I just think (or want to think) this Dallas team will turn the corner and move away from averageville. Something tells me it's going to happen this week. I think the Cowboys will have to score a lot of points, but against this defense it's possible. Jason Witten had a big day the last time they played here and I see it happening again. This game will have a lot of fireworks and big plays, but I think the Cowboys will make a few more, including a defensive touchdown, probably from one of the former Lions - Ernie Sims or Justin Durant. Give me Dallas in a fourth-quarter win.
As well as J.J. Wilcox has been playing the last couple of weeks and at times during his rookie year, I feel that Jeff Heath will play well as his replacement this week against the Lions. I am not worried about Heath being prepared or the stage being too big for him. He will be aware of his assignments and he will be physical when he is asked to make a play. Where this game will be tough for him is that he plays on the majority of special teams and will be asked to play an entire game. The coaches have confidence in his ability and so should you.
The shootout most people predicted the last two weeks never came to fruition. That finally changes this weekend in Detroit. I expect the teams to total more than 60 combined points this week, with Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson giving everyone the offensive back-and-forth they hoped they'd see. That means both of those players go for at least 100 yards and both get in the end zone. The Cowboys should be more prepared for a back like Reggie Bush after seeing LeSean McCoy, but I think Bush still does more damage in the passing game. I also think Terrance Williams' three-game scoring streak ends there, but he does come up with a couple momentum-shifting plays. The Cowboys have been great recently in the red zone, but they haven't proven they can get out of the .500 funk or put together a streak on the road. They end up settling for too many field goals, which makes the difference in a game decided by three points or fewer.
This game feels like a carbon copy of last week's. The Cowboys are going on the road to face an average team with a good quarterback, an elite wide receiver, a dynamic, game-changing running back and a lousy defense. Last week against the Eagles, I predicted the Eagles' offensive weapons would make up for their bad defense, and they'd get the win. So have I learned my lesson? Not yet. This is a game the Cowboys should win if they're serious about making the playoffs, but they haven't done enough to dispel my misgivings. The Lions are good but not great, as they've shown in several games this year, but they have home field advantage and the ability to score points. I see Dallas dropping this one largely because of mistakes – maybe a fumble by one of the running backs? If they prove me wrong and grab the win, I'll be ready to believe they could grab a playoff spot.