Friday, October 12, 2007

What to Watch for When New England Plays Dallas

The showdown this Sunday between the 5-0 New England Patriots and the 5-0 Dallas Cowboys has an excellent chance of living up to all of the pre-game hype. These are the two teams that I picked to go to the Super Bowl, a prediction that is looking better with each passing week (with the exception of some shaky moments in Dallas' win over Buffalo but even the greatest teams have one bad game in a season). Here are some things to watch for during this game:

1) New England has been especially dominant in the first quarter this year, while Dallas is coming off of its worst game of the season. Nevertheless, look for the Cowboys to start quickly at home, possibly even scoring a touchdown on their first offensive series.

2) Jason Witten has been Tony Romo's favorite target this year. Look for Bill Belichick's defense to force Romo to go elsewhere with the ball. As Bill Parcells mentioned on ESPN, Belichick specializes in identifying what a team wants to do and then taking that away.

3) Romo's turnover-fest last week was an aberration and he will not cough up the ball six times this week. However, Belichick will look at film of that game, find out what coverages Romo was having trouble reading and give him a steady dose of them. Romo will exercise better judgment in terms of ball security but that does not mean that he will read those coverages well enough to sustain drives.

4) Dallas' passing defense ranked 24th in the NFL in 2006 but has improved to 12th this season--but Tom Brady is on course to rewrite many single-season passing records now that his entire receiving corps has been dramatically upgraded. The game may still be close by halftime but at some point New England will gain some separation by picking up big chunks of yardage by passing.

5) Terrell Owens will bounce back from his subpar game last week to put up good numbers this week, including at least one touchdown.

6) New England will win, 31-21.

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