Jason Garrett vs. Denver: Garrett, the Cowboys’ head coach since 2010, is 0-1 against the Broncos. Denver defeated the Cowboys 51-48 in 2013 on a field goal as time expired. The loss ruined a 506-yard, five-touchdown performance by Tony Romo.
KEY MATCHUP: Cornerback Orlando Scandrick is expected to miss the game after having surgery to repair a broken bone in his left hand, though owner Jerry Jones has said it will be a game-time decision. If Scandrick can’t play, second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie will probably start the first game of his NFL career.
Awuzie did a solid job in 38 snaps in a 19-3 win against the New York Giants after Scandrick left the game.
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The Broncos will provide two different types of tests because 6-3, 229-pound Demaryius Thomas and 5-11, 180-pound Emmanuel Sanders will each spend about the same amount of time lined up on the left side of the formation.
Thomas, who caught six passes for 67 yards in the opener, plays with more strength and power, while Sanders relies more on speed. He caught three passes for 26 yards in the opener.
The key for Awuzie is to avoid giving up big plays, something he did a good job of against the Giants. Eli Manning completed each of his four passes against Awuzie for 28 yards.
The Cowboys would take a similar performance on Sunday.
X-FACTOR: Jason Garrett is downplaying the impact of Denver’s altitude on his players as he should. After all, it’s not like they could’ve done much to prepare for it in seven days.
Equipment manager Mike McCord said the club isn’t taking any extra oxygen tanks to the game. Brice Butler played two seasons in Oakland and made two trips to Denver said the altitude literally affects each player differently, making it nearly impossible, to prepare for it.
“You just have to experience it,” he said. “The one thing I have noticed for me is that it was a lot worse when it was cold - and that shouldn’t be a problem this week.”
KEY STAT: You can say what you want about the altitude, but in the last five years NFC teams, who make the trip to Denver every eight years, are 1-9 in the Mile High City. They’ve been outscored by an average of 33-18, and six times they’ve lost by at least 19 points.
You can give the credit to Peyton Manning, who orchestrated most of those wins. Or you can say the NFC teams were bad. Bottom line: Not many NFC teams have had success in Denver for whatever reason.
COWBOYS’ GAMEPLAN: The running game will be even more important than usual this week because if they have to play from behind or become one-dimensional, then linebacker Von Miller will take over the game.
He’s among the game’s premier pass-rushers and the best way to limit his effectiveness is to have success on the ground, setting up manageable situations on second and third down.
Don’t be surprised if the Cowboys try to wear him down by running the ball at him and forcing him to engage their 300-pound guards on a regular basis. When they pass, the Cowboys will use their tight ends and running back Ezekiel Elliott to help tackle La’El Collins against Miller.
TAYLOR’S TAKE: Denver is 34-7 at home the past five years and their crowd can impact on the game with the noise factor, when it gets emotionally-involved in the game. We’re about to find out about the Cowboys’ pass rush and its secondary.
Denver 23, Dallas 20