IRVING, Texas – A look at my two biggest keys to Saturday's matchup against the New York Jets:
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
This matchup has a similar feeling to the game against the Carolina Panthers. The opponent was talented on offense, though not spectacular, while the defense has players in position that could handle any offense they faced.
Against the Jets you can take your pick – do you want to control Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory, or do you want to run and throw the ball into the teeth of this defense? From what we've seen this season, this Dallas defense has a better chance of holding up since Tony Romo has been out of the lineup. This defense hasn't been the problem, but when you don't score points, their effort is often wasted.
This is the first time I have called for a victory this way for the Cowboys, but Matt Cassel is going to have to find a way to play his best game of the season. He is going to have to attack this Jets defense and make plays along the way, because that is the only way the Cowboys can win. He can't miss open receivers, make poor reads or turn the ball over. I do not see the Jets making many mistakes defensively which means that Cassel is going to have to play perfect.
Look for the Jets to choke off this Cowboys running game much like Carolina did and make Cassel have to beat them. If he is able to withstand their pressure and make some throws into tight windows then there is the best chance for a victory.
New York Jets Win If:
As dynamic and productive as these Jets receivers are, the key for their victory will be offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and how he calls this game. Ryan Fitzpatrick has done a nice job leading their offensive attack, but I think Gailey has to be concerned by the number of hits he has been taking in the pocket the last several weeks.
When Gailey sees a team like the New York Giants -- who don't have a great pass rush -- banging his quarterback around – he knows there is something that he has to do. In studying the film from the Packers game last week, Gailey knows that he has similar style of running backs, and with the way the Packers were able to smash the ball at this defense – this might be a good opportunity to protect his quarterback.
As inviting as it might be for Gailey to take shots down the field against a Cowboys defense lacks healthy bodies in the secondary – how well they run the ball will be their key to victory. Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell and Stevan Ridley are all physical backs and will be a huge test for this Dallas defense to have to deal with.
I expect that we will see Gailey lean on them all while not exposing his quarterback and offensive line to a Cowboys defensive line that has done a much better job of generating pressure these previous weeks.