I almost don’t even want to say it in fear of being let down, but doesn’t this seem like the type of game the Cowboys will dominate? Coming off of an embarrassing loss that has many questioning the Cowboys’ character, the Week 3 home tilt with Tampa Bay is the ‘Boys’ first opportunity to prove they’re the team we saw in East Rutherford, not the one at CenturyLink Field. If they want to do that, they’ll need to win these three key matchups. . .
Dez Bryant vs Aqib Talib
Talib won’t be matched up on Bryant throughout the entire game, but the pair will face off on plenty of snaps on Sunday. Talib was the primary cornerback on Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks during his 10-catch, 199-yard outburst in Week 2.
I chose the Bryant-Talib matchup over Miles Austin and Tampa Bay’s other cornerback, Eric Wright, because I think it’s imperative for the Cowboys to get Bryant going. Bryant gave up on some plays against Seattle, and that can’t happen. I’m afraid that another poor showing could affect Bryant’s mentality permanently moving forward.
Plus, Tony Romo has a 142.9 passer rating when throwing to Austin this year—the highest rating of any quarterback to any receiver—so I think option 1A in the passing game will be just fine.
Interior Line vs Gerald McCoy
McCoy has rushed the passer on 86 occasions thus far in 2012, pressuring him on 10.5 percent of snaps. That’s the third-highest
mark in the NFL. Meanwhile, center Ryan Cook and right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau struggled last week in Seattle. Let’s just hope the Bucs place McCoy over left guard Nate Livings the majority of the time. Livings has been perhaps the top player on offense in this short season, allowing just a single pressure and no sacks.
Anthony Spencer vs Demar Dotson
We know DeMarcus Ware is going to handle Bucs left tackle Donald Penn. Tampa Bay knows that too, so you can bet you’ll see tight end Dallas Clark line up on the left side of the formation quite a bit on Sunday to help chip Ware.
That will leave Spencer singled up on Dotson, and I like that matchup for Dallas. Spencer stepped up last week with two sacks, and he’s been even more efficient than most realize. The Cowboys love to drop Spencer into coverage, and they’re doing it at an unprecedented rate in 2012.
Get this: Spencer has rushed the passer on just over half of his pass snaps in 2012—as a comparison, Ware has rushed the passer on around nine out of 10 of his pass snaps. Thus, with limited pass rush snaps, Spencer actually has the highest pressure rate in the entire NFL—ahead of Ware, ahead of Clay Matthews, ahead of everyone. Look for him to rush the passer a bit more frequently this week.
Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.
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