Earlier this week on Blue Star, Richie Whitt noted that of the 24 times the Cowboys have started 2-0, they’ve made the playoffs on 21 occasions. There’s certainly a big difference between starting with two wins versus 1-1, but this game against a team that was 2-14 in 2012 is going to be surprisingly difficult. For starters, Vegas has the Cowboys as three-point underdogs. There’s no one who understands the NFL better than those guys, and the fact that they think the Cowboys are underdogs by a field goal really says something.
If the Cowboys are going to come out of Kansas City as 2-0, they need to win a few key matchups. These three are the most important.
RT Doug Free vs OLB Justin Houston
Spoiler alert: Free isn’t going to win this matchup. Houston is a dominant 24-year old pass-rusher who had three sacks last week. He’s got 34.5-inch arms that will be able to get into the chest of Free and eat him alive. But Free can potentially contain Houston if he’s got help from a tight end. Look for the Cowboys to use multiple tight end looks to help their right tackle.
Interior Line vs NT Dontari Poe
The Chiefs run a 3-4 and Poe is their big nose tackle in the middle. He played 64 snaps last week, so he’s not going to come off of the field very much. He’s a force against the run and should be able to handle any one of the Cowboys’ interior lineman in isolation. But together, Travis Frederick & Co. need to work to move Poe when they want to run inside. The ‘Boys should be trying to get to the perimeter in most situations, running directly at Houston and Tamba Hali, but they’ll need to contain Poe when they want to get inside, particularly in short-yardage situations. Dallas averaged 3.55 YPC on their 11 runs between the tackles last week.
CB Brandon Carr vs WR Dwayne Bowe
Who on the Chiefs’ offense can repeatedly beat the Cowboys? It isn’t going to be Donnie Avery or Anthony Fasano, and Dexter McCluster shouldn’t scare you unless they start giving points for catches behind the line-of-scrimmage and yards run horizontally across the field. The two Chiefs who can beat Dallas are running back Jamaal Charles and wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
Luckily, I don’t think the Cowboys need to bring an extra safety into the box to stop Charles; he thrives on long runs, so you actually want to keep defenders back. That could help Carr and Morris Claiborne in the event that they can’t handle Bowe alone. Either way, Carr on Bowe is a matchup I’m excited to watch.
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.