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Final Thoughts: Making Things Difficult For Flacco, Dez's Matchup; More

FRISCO, Texas – I don't know about any of you, but I am ready to once again see some football.

It has been a long week full of storylines for a Cowboys team facing plenty of speculation about its quarterbacks. It's almost enough to make you forget that the AFC North leaders are on their way to AT&T Stadium for a game.

One can only hope that the Cowboys have been a bit more focused on the matchup than we fans and media have been during this past week. Given how tough their defense is, the Ravens are sure to be no easy out – even for an offense as talented as the Cowboys.

So I'm turning the page forward. Here are my final thoughts about the Cowboys and Ravens before we get to Sunday:

  • Expect Tony Romo to be ready to play if he is called on. Dak Prescott didn't lose any of his snaps to Romo during the week, but I was told the offensive coaches just added two snaps per group period in order to get him the extra work. With that being the case, Romo took all the scout team work plus an extra 12-to-15 snaps with the first offense in each practice.
  • On the final injury report for the Ravens, cornerback Jimmy Smith was listed as "doubtful" for the game with a back injury. This is significant because from what I observed in their previous game with the Browns, Smith travelled with Terrelle Pryor in coverage. With Smith hurting, that means the Ravens are going to have to make other adjustments in how they deal with Dez Bryant.  
  • Vince Mayle is listed as a receiver, which means the Cowboys will dress six for the game. I see Mayle's role -- because of his body type -- as that third tight end in their "13" personnel packages. I don't expect that his hand will be on the ground like Jason Witten and Gavin Escobar, but more of a move guy. We have seen Scott Linehan use wide receivers at the point of attack as blockers -- Lucky Whitehead and Terrance Williams come to mind. Mayle showed some in the preseason on special teams, especially on the kickoff coverage. I expect that he will play there as well as on the punt and punt return units.  
  • The Cowboys lead the league in scoring differential at +88. Their +53 is also the best in the first half of games, which is better than the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks at +52. Where the Cowboys have struggled is in the fourth quarter where they're -1. Of the four quarters, it has been the fourth that is most productive for the Ravens, who are +11. Just something to keep an eye on if this game becomes tight toward the end.
  • How important is it for the Cowboys to get Joe Flacco in long distances on third down? On the season, he is 11-of-23 (47 percent) with no touchdowns and two interceptions. In situations where he has faced 3rd and 3-to-7, his numbers improve to 29 of 44 (65 percent) with two touchdowns and no interceptions – clearly a different quarterback.
  • A solid seven of the 18 sacks for the Dallas defense have come on first down. In the division, Philadelphia leads the league with 12. Washington has 9 while the New York Giants are ranked last with only one sack.   
  • Of 192 catchable passes this season, the Cowboys have only had four drops. That's only behind the Washington Redskins who lead the league with three drops in 241 catchable passes.
  • My guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Mark Sanchez, CB Morris Claiborne, RB Darius Jackson, S Barry Church, LB Mark Nzeocha, OT Emmett Cleary, DE Benson Mayowa.      


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