IRVING, Texas – As if the Dallas offense wasn't having enough problems this year, it'll face one of its steepest challenges yet from the New York Jets – and for a variety of reasons.
Take your pick. The Jets are bringing the No. 5 overall defense in the NFL to AT&T Stadium on Saturday night. Their head coach, Todd Bowles, stifled the Cowboys as the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals last fall.
Then, of course, there's the name that'll ring out for any football fan – the guy Dez Bryant will undoubtedly have to deal with: Darrelle Revis.
Revis has returned to the Jets' lineup after missing two games with a concussion, and he recorded two tackles in Sunday's 30-8 win against Tennessee. Bryant undoubtedly marks one of the toughest matchups of Revis' season, not that he needs a big-name opponent to get up for a game.
"I just came back from missing two games from having a concussion," Revis said. "So my thing is always just being excited for every week and that's how I go about it."
The matchup provides an interesting opportunity for two stars who haven't met their lofty expectations in 2015. Revis has been solid for New York, with 32 tackles, three fumble recoveries and three picks in 11 games, but he hasn't quite measured up to the moniker "Revis Island," which he earned for his shutdown play during his first stint with the Jets.
Regardless, Revis remains a key piece for a team that has surprised plenty of people with an 8-5 record and a shot at a playoff appearance.
"I never go off of how many interceptions I have," he said. "I've been in seasons where I've had zero interceptions and still played solid. So my thing is winning games."
With 27 receptions for 351 yards and just three games to play, Bryant looks like a near-certainty to finish with the lowest output of his NFL career. It's worth noting that he's played just two games with his starting quarterback – not to mention his five-week absence with a broken foot.
None of that was lost on Bowles, who said the game tape shows the same player even if the stat book doesn't.
"I think he's the same old Dez," he said. "Sometimes he gets doubled, sometimes the ball just doesn't come his way and they miss him a time or two, but he's as explosive as ever as far as I'm concerned. You can't keep a good player down like that."
The situation feels at least a little familiar to the last time Bowles had to face Bryant. He came to AT&T Stadium as the Cardinals' defensive coordinator in 2014. The Cowboys started a backup, Brandon Weeden, in place of an injured Tony Romo, and Bowles had an elite corner to cover Bryant in the form of Patrick Peterson.
The Cardinals frustrated Dallas into 266 total yards that day, and Bryant finished with just 15 yards on two catches – and a touchdown in the dying seconds of a lopsided result.
Despite the Cowboys' struggles, Bowles wasn't willing to write off their talent when asked about playing a backup quarterback once again.
"They still have a great offensive line, they've got a slew of running backs. Receivers are good. Witten is timeless," he said. "They've got a great defensive front. They've got good corners and they've got smart linebackers. So we expect to get the Cowboys that won a division, the Cowboys that play hard and do everything they've been doing, so we expect a tough game."
As for Revis, he was effusive he in his praise for Bryant. The two have squared off only one time, in the season opener of the 2011 season. Bryant went for 71 yards and a touchdown on three catches, but Revis had the last laugh when he intercepted Romo late in the game to set up a game-winning field goal for New York.
"Dez Bryant is by far one of the best receivers in the league, so you've got to take chances," he said. "You've got pick and choose when you want to gamble and when you don't want to gamble against a great receiver like that."