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Gametime: Patriots at Cowboys

The game of the year so far in the NFL has arrived. The 5-0 Pats take on the 5-0 Cowboys in Irving, Texas. The game has been billed as a Super Bowl preview and has captured the attention of national media.

The Pats will be trying to garner their signature win of the season. Victories over San Diego and Cincinnati were impressive, but Dallas seems to be the class of the NFC and a victory over them would prove that the Patriots are second to none. The Cowboys – coming off a miraculous win over Buffalo – are coming off a short week of practice and need to prove they can play with the big boys in the NFL, not simply overpower the much weaker NFC.

3 Keys to the Game:

  1. FORCE ROMO MISTAKES: Cowboys QB Tony Romo threw five picks and fumbled once last week against Buffalo and yet still managed to lead the team to victory. He has a strong confidence about him yet making the same mistakes against the Pats would be much more costly this week. The Patriots thrive off turnovers and if Romo gives Tom Brady and company a short field, the Cowboys will pay dearly. Stacking the box and forcing Romo into hurried throws will be the key on defense.
  2. RECEIVERS BELOW MOSS MUST SHOW UP: Everyone knows how great Randy Moss has started and so the Cowboys will look to neutralize him with double coverage. Like last week, guys like Wes Welker, Donte Stallworth and Ben Watson should have opportunities to make a lot of catches and they need to be on top of their game. Watson had a career game last week and even though the Cowboys have DeMarcus Ware, the offensive line should be able to handle him as they did Shawne Merriman in Week 2.
  3. ESTABLISH THE RUN WITH OR WITHOUT MARONEY: The Boston Herald reported last night that a source was saying Laurence Maroney would be out for the third straight week with a groin injury. The Globe has not confirmed the report and Mike Reiss has blogged that Maroney is testing out the groin on the field as we speak (or blog). Whether he plays or not, the Pats need to establish the run with Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris to keep the Cowboys linebackers honest. If they can drop LBs into coverage because the Pats can’t run the ball, Tom Brady will have less options open underneath.

Prediction:
I really feel the Patriots are just too good. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was a close game, but I’d be less surprised if the Patriots won by a few touchdowns. Brady, Moss and co. are just too good on offense and with Rodney Harrison back for his second week, the defense will be able to contain Terrell Owens (almost made it through without mentioning him) and Marion Barber III. The defensive line anchored by Vince Wilfork should be able to contain the running game and allow Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel to drop back a little in coverage and make life tough for Romo. I see at least another three picks for Carrie Underwood’s former lover.

Patriots 38, Cowboys 20

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