The Baltimore Ravens have an extremely versatile team without many weaknesses. They possess a few advantages over the Cowboys that we know Dallas probably won’t be able to overcome; the interior line won’t be able to stop Haloti Ngata and it will be difficult for anyone to get open on Ladarius Webb. Thus, just as the presidential candidates need to win the states that could go either way in this year’s election, the Cowboys need to win the "swing" matchups in this week’s game in Baltimore.
WR Dez Bryant vs CB Cary Williams
Ladarius Webb is one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, allowing only 4.04 yards-per-attempt
. I think he’ll cover Miles Austin on the majority of the Cowboys’ offensive snaps, particularly in three-receiver sets when Austin moves into the slot.
That means Dez Bryant will be matched up with Cary Williams quite a bit, and he needs to win that individual battle. Williams has allowed a 70.3 percent completion rate and 10.46 YPA this season, but he’ll try to use his length to press Bryant. If Bryant can’t consistently get off of the line on Sunday, it will be a long day for the Cowboys’ passing game.
RT Doug Free vs OLB Paul Kruger
Believe it or not, Kruger has been the Ravens’ premiere pass-rusher in 2012. His pressure rate of 8.3 percent is pretty good, so his sack total of 1.5 is misleading. Based on league-wide sack rates, Kruger’s pressure total is good for between two and three sacks, meaning he has simply gotten unlucky bringing down the quarterback this year.
Kruger lines up on the left side of Baltimore’s defense about twice as much as he’s on the right side, so he’ll see plenty of Doug Free. I actually think this is a matchup that suits Free’s skill set, and the Cowboys certainly need him to win it.
LB Bruce Carter vs RB Ray Rice
Ray Rice will get his yards on the ground, but it’s crucial for the ‘Boys to limit Rice’s production through the air. There’s nothing worse than having perfect coverage in the secondary, only to have Joe Flacco dump the ball off to Rice for what turns into a 15-yard gain. Carter has been outstanding in coverage in 2012, allowing 5.85 YPA, and I think Rob Ryan will give him the primary responsibility of covering Rice out of the backfield. If Rice posts over a few dozen yards receiving, the Cowboys will be in trouble.
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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