Ravens (9-5) @ Cowboys (9-5)
Good news and bad news. Which would you like first?
I’ll just assume you said “good.”
Ok, here’s the good news. We can finally move on from last week’s gut-wrenching crap show.
Yup, that’s about it.
Now the bad news.
The Ravens, and us fans, get to move on to a game against another 9-5 team, the Dallas Cowboys. A team that is fighting for their playoff lives every bit as much as we are. A team that sports weapons in the passing game the likes of which we haven’t seen all year. A team that boasts yet another top-10 defense. Oh, and we get to do it amidst a celebration of what will probably be the FINAL game ever played in their historic home.
Don’t accuse us of jumping off the purple bandwagon just yet…but looking at this game is doing nothing to help push that knot out of our stomach’s that has been there since Sunday at around 7:30.
A week ago, this game was looking a lot more appetizing. The Ravens were about to smash Pittsburgh to go into a tie for the division lead, and Dallas was in the midst of another Terrell Owens blow-up, which, when coupled with a loss at the hands of the New York Giants, was about to send them into a complete tailspin.
Well, we know how those worked out. No need to rehash things on our end, but as for the ‘Boys…they only spanked the defending champs 20-8, and put all talk of locker room mutiny, and new T.O. backstabbings, aside.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has been nursing a sore back all week, but is expected to play. He looked hurt last week, but still completed 20-of-30 passes for 244 yards and 2 scores. His main targets, Owens and Jason Witten, pose match up problems for the Ravens’ defense. You know, kinda like the Colts. Ugh. Fabian Washington, injured with a sore hamstring, is expected to play – and he’d better, if the Ravens are to stand any chance. Please don’t show us Frank “Spitgate” Walker and Corey Ivy trying to cover these receivers. Along with Roy Williams, Owens and Witten could have a field day if Romo has time to throw. Like baby ben’s bitch a$$, Romo is at his best when a play breaks down and he can improvise, so the Ravens need to wrap him up and get him to the ground when they have the chance.
Running back Marion Barber is at less than 100%, which is a plus. However, rookie Tashard Choice has played very well filling in, and the Ravens will have to work a bit to force the Cowboys to become 1-dimensional. Look for Romo to operate from the shotgun spread early, as Dallas tries to use quick, short routes to set up their running attack.
Things don’t get any easier for the Ravens’ offense this week either. The question around town is “Has Flacco hit the rookie wall?” Well, this week there is a proverbial “wall” in front of Flacco, and his name is DeMarcus Ware. Ware, who leads the NFL with 19 sacks, will demand double-teams on nearly every play. The Ravens will again be forced to keep Todd Heap in to block, losing a valuable option in the passing game. Flacco and the offense as a whole will have to play much better than they did last week – 9 points, which should have been enough to beat Pittsburgh, will not be nearly enough to beat Dallas.
If there is one area where the Cowboys are vulnerable, it is on the ground. Although they allow an average of only 93 ypg, according to one Dallas area sportwriter this week, they have trouble with big, bruising backs. The Rams’ Stephen Jackson and the Giants’ Brandon Jacobs (in their first meeting) each went over 100 yards in victories over Dallas. Le’Ron McClain, who was well on his way to sealing the win for the 2nd straight week before landing on his head after a Troy Polamalu tackle, will have to pace the B’More attack all night. Another positive note is the potential return of Ray “first down” Rice, who practiced Wednesday, and who was sorely missed on 3rd downs last week. Willis McGahee, until further notice, is an afterthought and completely worthless at this point.
The Ravens’ best chance in this one will be for Haloti Ngata to fall on Romo’s back, full-weight, on Dallas’ first series. Short of that, unless you see T.O. sneaking up on Romo “Freddie Krueger” style, don’t be surprised if this one is never really close.
The Ravens control their own playoff destinies at this point – wins in the final 2 games and they are in. Otherwise, they will need help from those teams playing against the AFC East Wild Card contenders.
Go Kansas City!
Cowboys 23 Ravens 13