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Cowboys vs Ravens: What to Watch for Dallas

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    As the Cowboys reach a crossroads in their 2012 season, heading to Baltimore to take on the Ravens probably isn’t the best place to be. The Ravens boast a solid (but not spectacular) defense and one of the most underrated offenses in the NFL. For the Cowboys to pull this one out, I think they’ll need to pass the football effectively (surprise) and limit big plays from Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith.

    Will Rob Ryan blitz Joe Flacco consistently?
    It will be interesting to see how Rob Ryan attacks Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco because I don’t think there’s a single “right” way to do it. You’d love to get pressure on Flacco with some regularity since that will of course help out the secondary in a major way. The problem is that Flacco has always been able to beat the blitz; in 2012, he has registered an incredible 109.2 passer rating when teams send five or more rushers.
    The other issue with blitzing is that, if you miss, you become quite vulnerable in the secondary. That’s a problem with Torrey Smith running deep. An incredible 54.8 percent of Smith’s targets have come at least 20 yards downfield—the highest mark in the NFL by far. He has more deep targets than every Cowboys wide receiver combined.
    Thus, I think you’ll see Ryan dial back the blitzes, at least early in the game. You might also see some zone blitzes that could allow the Cowboys to give the appearance of a blitz, but still remain in a safe coverage.
    Will the Cowboys attack Ladarius Webb?
    I think the Cowboys should pretty much avoid throwing at Webb in most situations. He’s really one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL, allowing 4.04 yards-per-attempt in 2012. Meanwhile, fellow starting cornerback Cary Williams isn’t nearly as talented. He’s allowed 10.46 YPA and a 70.3 percent completion rate this season.
    If the Cowboys want to throw to Miles Austin, they’ll probably need to limit their “11” personnel (one running back, one tight end, and three receivers). With three receivers on the field, the Cowboys generally move Austin into the slot. The problem is that Webb will follow him in there, and he’s allowed a ridiculous 3.7 passer rating while playing inside this year. Thus, passing from run-oriented personnel packages on early downs may be the Cowboys’ most effective way of attacking Baltimore through the air. 

    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.