Matchup: Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks
Site: CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Washington)
Who would have thought that going into week 6 the Dallas Cowboys would be 4-1? All of a sudden this week’s game has way more meaning than I originally thought it would. On Sunday afternoon the Dallas Cowboys come to Seattle to face the Seattle Seahawks. At 4-1 the Cowboys are tied for first place in the NFC East while the Seahawks sit at 3-1 and are tied for first place in the NFC West. Dallas leads the all-time series with the Seahawks 9-6 but in their last meeting in September 2012 Seattle handled the Cowboys easily, winning 27-7 with Russell Wilson earning his first NFL victory. Two seasons, 30 victories, and one Vince Lombardi trophy later, Wilson will attempt to tame Dallas once again. Here is what I am looking for in this week’s game.
The Dallas Cowboys sport the NFL’s leading rusher, running back DeMarco Murray. Murray’s 134 yards per game average is the best in the league and the first priority of the Seahawks defense will be to stop him. Look for Kevin Williams and Jordan Hill to have an expanded role along the Seahawks defensive line this week along with starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. It will be on these three guys to plug holes to limit Murray’s production. It will be crucial to stop Murray on first and second downs to force quarterback Tony Romo to throw. Romo has had a history of making bad throws and turning the ball over in Seattle so it will be crucial for the Seahawks pass rushers to put extra pressure on to force Romo into mistakes. If the defense can do both of these things the Seahawks will be in excellent shape.
Going into this season many believed that the 2014 Dallas Cowboys defense could statistically be one of the worst defenses in NFL history. Although they have not played terribly (yet), the Cowboys still rank in the bottom half in both pass defense and run defense. Dallas has given up an average of 122 rushing yards per game and if the Seahawks are successful running the ball much like they were last week this could be an easy win. On offense this week I believe the Seahawks will be victorious if Marshawn Lynch tops the 100 yard rushing plateau. Also keep an eye on Seattle’s use of the read option this week. Russell Wilson ran 14 read option plays against Washington last week and I think we will see more of it against a Cowboys team that has not faced a duel-threat quarterback since week 1 (Colin Kaepernick). I could see the Seahawks running between 5-10 read option plays. On these plays if Russell Wilson can run for 40-50 yards I believe we will be unbeatable. Expect to see Percy Harvin used just like he was last week, with expanded playing time lined up in the backfield.
When it comes to the Dallas Cowboys on the offensive side of the ball everyone looks at DeMarco Murray and wide receiver Dez Bryant as the motor that makes the offense work. With the Seahawks primarily focusing on stopping Murray and with Richard Sherman likely covering Bryant, it would not surprise me to see Tony Romo throw to his other targets. Enter my “boom or bust” X-Factor player to watch, wide receiver Terrance Williams. I say Williams is “boom or bust” because he has been rather inconsistent on the stat line this season. On good days Williams can be dynamic, much like he has been the past two weeks when he caught a combined 8 passes for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. In the first three weeks of the season however, Williams struggled, catching only 8 passes for a combined 102 yards, a 34 yards per game average. With Williams likely matched up against Byron Maxwell for the majority of this game, it would not be surprising to see Romo throw in Williams’s direction to try to pick on Maxwell.
There is one pattern that I must address with the Dallas Cowboys coming to town this week. The Cowboys have played two meaningful games in Seattle since I became a season ticket holder in 2006. In both of these games the Cowboys have made at least one blunder on special teams. Everyone remembers the Tony Romo botched snap in the 2006 playoffs but many fans may not remember what happened the last time Dallas came to town. In our 2012 matchup Dallas kick returner Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff right into the arms of Earl Thomas. The Seahawks cashed in 7 plays later with a Steven Hauschka field goal. On the next Dallas possession, Bruce Irvin blocked a Chris Jones punt and Jeron Johnson returned it for a Seahawks touchdown. The Cowboys special teams have a rich history of struggling at CenturyLink Field so it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks can score any points on special teams this week.
Random Thoughts: The Seahawks will wear navy blue this week with the Cowboys wearing their traditional white jerseys and metallic silver/blue pants… Thom Brennaman and Troy Aikman have the call for FOX this week. Brennaman will be paired with Aikman for the next three weeks while Joe Buck calls the National League Championship Series and World Series for FOX. Even though Brennaman will do the play-by-play, this will still be FOX’s “America’s Game of the Week” broadcasted to the majority of the country… Bill Leavy is this week’s referee. Now that the Seahawks have won a Super Bowl it wouldn’t surprise me if Leavy’s Seattle limitations have been lifted. For those of you who don’t know this will be only the third time Leavy has officiated a Seahawks game in Seattle since Super Bowl XL… This week we will have an extra 20 minutes before kickoff as the game starts at 1:25pm. Everyone be in their seats ready to go by kickoff!… October is breast cancer awareness month in the NFL and this week the giveaway is pink ribbon pins. I am also excited to show off my pink Strideline socks for the second time this season… I think I’m only going to bring the leftover streamers I didn’t use at the Broncos game. Don’t feel like going to buy more. I’ll have to stock back up fully for the Raiders game… If the Seahawks win this week we will be 4-1, the same record we had through our first 5 games last season.
Prediction: A lot of people think the Cowboys can come into Seattle and make this a close game but I think otherwise. I think the Seahawks are primed for a decisive win. Marshawn Lynch will score two touchdowns and Michael Bennett will recover a Tony Romo fumble and take it to the house. The Seahawks will win this game to get to 4-1 and we will get ready for a huge test next week, our first division rivalry game of the season against St. Louis.
Seahawks 27, Cowboys 13
Check back late Sunday night for my review of this game. Go Hawks!