Cowboys OG Brian Waters/Ronald Leary vs. Lions DT Ndamukong Suh/Nick Fairley:
What we have learned over the years when watching this Cowboys offense play, is that Tony Romo can usually deal with the pressure off the edge, but when it comes from the inside, that is where the problems tend to cause him the most issues. As much as we want to believe this game could hinge with the skilled guys for both teams, how well these Cowboys guards handle, these Lions tackles, will really tell the whole story.
If Waters and Leary allow Suh and Fairley to control this game from the middle, this Cowboys offense will not go anywhere. Where the Cowboys are prepared for this game, is how Waters and Leary do have enough power in their body to match the strength and power of these tackles.
When you play Suh and Fairley, it's not so much about pass rush moves but more on explosive quickness and power. Both Waters and Leary can sit down on these rushers and keep the front of this pocket clean for Romo and allow him to slide forward if he needs to.
In the running game, I believe that you will see schemes that take advantage of these tackles and how aggressive they are by allowing them up the field, then working the ball inside of them. Look for some draws and creative screen in the plan to also help as well.
Cowboys S Barry Church/Jeff Heath vs. Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew/Joseph Fauria
There have times this season where these Cowboys safeties have not been at their best, whether it was in coverage or tackling in the running game. But there has been an improvement in play the last two weeks against the Redskins and Eagles, where they have done a much better job in both areas. [embedded_ad]
Now this defense has likely lost J.J. Wilcox to a knee sprain in Thursday's practice, so Jeff Heath should make his first NFL start. I am a fan of Heath's because of his toughness, smarts and his ability to play in the scheme but against these Lions, Matthew Stafford and Scott Linehan are going to test him and Church with Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria.
No matter what the down-and-distance is, the Lions like working the ball to these talented group of tight ends. Both Pettigrew and Fauria catch the ball very well and will use their size to their advantage to create problems down the field. Where Church and Heath are going to have their hands full is in the red zone trying to battle this size. If these Lions tight ends do have a weakness, it is with their blocking.
There are times at the point of attack where they are just awful which is surprising because again, how big they are. The Lions like to pull their tight ends in the running game as well, but there are more misses than hits here.