FRISCO, Texas –Here are the two big keys I think will determine the winner on Sunday when Dallas and Kansas City square off.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
The Cowboys defensively are going to have their hands full with this Chiefs offense. Their ability to run the ball successfully, use the play action game off it and take shots down the field make them difficult to defend. As a unit they don't turn the ball over and in the last eight games, they're first in the league when it comes to scoring with 236 points.
Where the Chiefs have had their struggles has been on the defensive side of the ball. Opponents have averaged nearly six yards a play, which ranks them 30th in the league overall. What is even more alarming for them is that opponents have 139 plays of 10-plus yards for the season, which ranks them dead last. This game for the Cowboys will come down to their ability to move the ball successfully but also finish drives. Last week in the rain, penalties kept them from finishing drives with touchdowns. They were forced to kick field goals, which was suitable against a banged up Redskins offensive line -- but against the Chiefs, they're going to need those four-point plays.
The Cowboys are second in the league when it comes to scoring inside the 30. On 58 percent of those trips, they have managed to score touchdowns. The Chiefs have been allowing touchdowns 50 percent of the time. To win this game the Cowboys will need to sustain drives, protect the defense and finish those four-point plays once they work into the Chiefs' end of the field.
Kansas City Chiefs Win If:
The Chiefs just don't beat themselves offensively. They run the ball well, they don't drop passes and they make a ton of 10-plus-yard plays, both in the running and passing game. As a unit they put a ton of pressure on opponents with their skill players. Guys like Alex Smith, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce and rookie Kareem Hunt are schemed well by Andy Reid and the coaching staff.
It's a mix of a traditional pro style with a wrinkle of modern college with the ball handling. The Chiefs force you to defend the entire field -- not just part of it. Their offensive line is mobile from an athletic standpoint and they incorporate that in the play design. Reid will make this Cowboys defense scramble to have to defend him. With Smith, the ball will go all over the place.
It is the same attack that we saw from Reid during his days with the Eagles. You'll see a power running game with a back that makes decisive cuts. You'll see the ball going down the field to a tight end and a big-time, speedy receiver on the outside to hit the home run. Doesn't that sound like Brian Westbrook, Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson?
The Cowboys have played the run better the previous two games, but they haven't faced a rushing attack like this. If the Kansas City Chiefs win this game, it will be doing what they've done all year. Play with balance, don't turn the ball over and put pressure on the Cowboys to have to score right along with them.
The Steelers were able to hold them in check and the Raiders beat them in a shootout on the final play of the game -- but other than that, their plan has been rock solid for victories.