The Cowboys are about to face their toughest test of the season in what is likely the National Football League’s best-built roster playing in the most hostile environment.
Dallas does have a few things working in their favor, though, and they have a decent chance to do something not many teams have been able to do during the last few seasons — beat the Seahawks in Seattle.
1. Super Bowl XLVIII
One of the main point-of-emphasis penalties for the 2014 season has been the Illegal Contact penalty, much to the chagrin of many devoted National Football League fans. Broncos fans are probably fine with the rule change, though they probably wish it happened in January.
Seattle’s defenders apparently took note, because they haven’t been penalized for tight coverage as much as many other teams. It has affected their play, though, as the cushions they give receivers are larger and they appear noticeably slower to the ball this year.
Opposing team’s aren’t accumulating a lot of passing yards against them this year, but they are alarmingly efficient with a quarterback rating of 113.3 (second worst in the league).
2. Romo's Elusiveness
Seattle’s defensive is designed to show a quarterback tight initial coverage while their front seven mixes blitzes and coverages. The teams who’ve had success against this formula have quarterbacks who can create more time in the pocket and savvy receivers who can create separation.
The Cowboys’ receivers run routes well and gain decent separation, but quarterback Tony Romo is the key in this game. Still one of the most elusive quarterbacks within the pocket, Romo can usually create a few extra seconds to allow his receivers to separate.
Romo also has the experience to recognize Seattle's coverages and check the offense into the best position to gain large chunks of yards.
3. Rolando McClain
Rolando McClain has been a godsend for the Cowboys linebacking corps after losing Sean Lee. His physical presence at inside linebacker has been missed by this defense for a few seasons.
While Dallas’ run defense is relatively porous, they will see improvement when McClain — their best run defender — returns from injury Sunday. McClain will have to be at his best to keep Seattle rushers like Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin from reaching Dallas’ secondary.
Because Seattle’s rushing offense is so creative, McClain and the rest of Dallas’ defensive front MUST maintain gap discipline. Option plays in particular will net big yardage if any Cowboys players overpursue.
This game is probably the most likely loss on the Cowboys' schedule, but there are a few glimmers of hope that should give fans hope that their team can pull off an upset and take control in the NFC East.