FRISCO, Texas –Another weekend is upon us already, which means it's time to finalize the game plan.
I've talked plenty this week about how best to match up against this Denver defense, and how I think the Cowboys can give themselves the best chance to win this weekend. Now, it's time to fine tune the game plan and go over the last few details.
A lot of the pre-game aspects of this matchup are going to come down to injuries, as both teams are dealing with several. By the time kickoff rolls around on Sunday afternoon, this is what I'm expecting:
- Orlando Scandrick will miss this game in Denver. To compensate for his loss, I expect we'll see Anthony Brown take his spot opposite Nolan Carroll and fill in on the slot when they go to their sub packages. When Brown goes to the slot, look for Chidobe Awuzie to come in for him like he did last week against the Giants. The different twist this week is that Jourdan Lewis will make his NFL debut and will have a role in the sub packages. Lewis' health has been good and he has been able to back that up with a couple of nice weeks of practice to give the coaches confidence to play him in this game.
- Byron Jones showed up on the injury report in the latter part of the week with a groin injury. I expect to see Jones in his normal role as the starting safety. If Jones happens to struggle or is compromised in the game, Kavon Frazier would be my guess as the first man off the bench to replace him. Frazier worked in against the Giants last week and wasn't a liability. I don't think it's close right now between him and Xavier Woods, but with the injury to Jones he's closer to lining up at the position than he was last week.
- I expect Terrance Williams to be a go against the Broncos. Williams is dealing with an ankle injury from the Giants contest and has been working all week with the training staff to get it right. Williams has yet to miss a game during his career. With his toughness and medical clearance it's hard to imagine him not being on the field for this game.
- The Broncos will be compromised if Ronald Leary doesn't make the start at right guard. Connor McGovern was his backup last week, but they could choose to have Max Garcia or Allen Barbre make the start, as well. Both Garcia and Barbre split time during the Chargers game as Denver looks for a permanent solution on the left side. With no Leary, Maliek Collins and Stephen Paea would give Garcia, Barbie or McGovern a great deal of problems having to deal with these tackles' strength inside.
- Keep an eye on how this game is called by referee Brad Allen and his crew. My gut tells me that they're going to let these two teams play and let it be decided on the field. For the Cowboys, that's a bad situation. Allen's crew had the Washington-Philadelphia game last weekend and there was only one defensive holding call made. The Broncos have physical corners that are not afraid to grab and clutch receivers mid-route. Aqib Talib is the guiltiest of these tactics and there is no question in my mind that he is going to apply this when facing Dez Bryant. The Cowboys need a big game from Bryant, but if he's having to fight Talib and the officials, this could be a long night for him.
- The Cowboys have the second-best road record in the NFL since 2014 (17-7). Only the New England Patriots have a better road record (18-6). Two points come to mind when talking about their success. They're 8-4 in games that have been decided by one score and plus-three in turnover differential. During that same time period, they're 13-12 at home, 5-5 in one score games and minus-13 in turnovers. Just a side note, the Broncos are an NFL-best 193-72 at home since 1984 and 54-12 in the month of September.
- There is no question that the Cowboys' pressure on Eli Manning had a significant effect on the outcome of the Giants game. Since December 2016, the defense has generated 19 sacks in six games which is tied for the fourth-most in the league during that time period. In his 15 career starts, Trevor Siemian has been sacked 35 times. If you looks at those numbers from his first his season and into this one, that would make him the sixth-most sacked quarterback in the league. Siemian is sacked 6.4 percent of the time that he drops back to pass.
- My weekly guess at the Cowboys inactives: QB Cooper Rush, RB Darren McFadden, CB Bene Benwikere, CB Orlando Scandrick, LB Anthony Hitchens, OG Jonathan Cooper, WR Noah Brown.