Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys' next opponent. This week, that opponent is the Baltimore Ravens.
The Opponent: Hopefully the Cowboys had a successful week of work during their bye, because the schedule isn't doing them any favors this week. A road date against the 4-1 Ravens is the start of a five game stretch that will go a long way toward defining their season. The Ravens haven't quite taken the league by storm, but they're winning games with the kind of balanced approach that usually bodes well for the long haul.
Record: 4-1 with the one loss coming at the Eagles in Week Two.
The Line: Ravens by 3.5.
Last Game: The 9-6 win over the Chiefs was not a good one for quarterback Joe Flacco, but the run game and defense were enough to keep the Ravens from losing a game to a team that played as if they were unaware that it was legal to throw forward passes. It looked more like a game from the old days of Tony Banks, Trent Dilfer and Kyle Boller than one played by the kind of team the Ravens would like to be, but a win is a win is a win.
The Coach: John Harbaugh has the fifth-best winning percentage of any coach with at least 50 games under his belt, but he's probably not even considered the best coach in his family thanks to Jim Harbaugh's great success with the 49ers over the last two years. The biggest criticism you can come up with for the Ravens coach at this point is that he hasn't found an offensive coordinator more able to take advantage of the talent on hand than Cam Cameron.
The Offense: The big news out of Baltimore this summer was about a new up-tempo offense with Flacco at the controls. It seemed like a perfect spot for Flacco, who is trying to earn a new contract, but the results have been mixed to this point. There's plenty of talent, including Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith and Ray Rice, but the team's only going to take the next step if Flacco's able to be more consistent over the rest of the season.
The Defense: Losing Terrell Suggs is the kind of thing that would kill many defenses, but the Ravens haven't had much of a problem adjusting to his absence. It's not the shutdown unit that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed presided over in the past, but it is plenty capable of handling an offense's best weapons well enough to give the team a shot to win every week.
Key Matchup: Tony Romo vs. Ravens Secondary - The Cowboys need to turn the ball over less if they are going to win some games and that's not an easy task to pull off against the Ravens. Reed may be the greatest ballhawk in NFL history and cornerbacks Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams are both capable of turning errant passes into six points. Romo can't try to force things this weekend or the Ravens will make him pay.